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A Path Through Suffering

Lisa Barry: Have you ever wondered if the principles Elisabeth Elliot offers about suffering really work? Well, today you'll find out as she reads letters from listeners who have read her book A Path Through Suffering and lived to tell about it. Let's discover what they've learned so maybe you can apply it to your own life. Gateway To Joy is next. Here's Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, reading some more letters that I've received from radio listeners. And how grateful I am for the privilege of receiving your letters. I just wish that I could answer every single one of them personally, but you know I can't do that.

This lady, whose name is Esther, says, "I just finished reading your book A Path Through Suffering. Thank you for freeing me from the five steps of grief. I was widowed last September when my husband was killed in a hit-and-run accident on his way to work. We had been joyfully and passionately married for 18 years and 18 days. We're gifted with four beautiful children. His death was a divine appointment which God had graciously allowed him knowledge of, and for which he faithfully prepared."

It's unusual, isn't it, that God would allow knowledge of his death in such a way that he was prepared. Well, of course, all of us should be prepared to meet our God.

She says, "Others have probably thought of that as just part of my denial, but you will understand I know. I've read several of your other books, starting with Passion and Purity, which my oldest daughter and I read together as part of her courtship study. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would need to use those principles in my love life again. Although I maintain that those principles and those in Quest For Love are true to much more than just our love lives."

And Quest For Love, for listeners who may not know what they're talking about, is one of my more recent books which is a collection of wonderful stories of the ways in which God brings men and women together without dating. You know, I think the dating game is for the birds. We need to just forget about it because it's leading to all sorts of sorrows and confusion and everything else.

So she says, "Following that we began to read more and more of your books, including the full story of your mission with Jim Elliot to the Aucas and his subsequent death. I have for a long time held as a motto Jim's 'He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.'

"Your test was an inspiration before. Now it is a great example for me also. A Path Through Suffering spoke to me right where I am and have been since the day of my husband's death. I've tried many times to put those thoughts into words for others who comment on my strength, but seem to fail. Or do they simply not understand?

"I have a deep desire to let Michael go gracefully and even joyfully. Not miserably holding onto the shreds of what God has taken to Himself, but offering him up and going on--as they would both want since this is God's deliberate design for our good.

"In my greeting I thanked you for freeing me from the five stages of grief. I'd like to explain why. I have known about those stages and thought of them shortly after the news came to me of my husband's death. I began praying early that I would not hurt anyone by any anger toward God or the person responsible or anyone or anything else for that matter. I have prayed that I would not get depressed to the point of letting down my children in their care and education and upbringing. So far, although it seems the little daily frustrations are more intensely felt and expressed and I do have the occasional days when I cannot stop crying, I believe God has answered that prayer.

"But maybe I never needed to worry about it anyway. 'Things can be different for those who go gently with the Shepherd through the valley of the shadow.' Thank you for saying that, for it releases me from worry about the children's grief journey too. One of my pet frustrations right now though is people who ask, 'Have you gotten angry yet?' and some who even add, 'You've got to go through that anger now, don't suppress it.' I certainly don't begrudge those who need to be angry. I have been angry at the Lord before and know that although it was wrong, He turned it to good and strengthened my faith through it. I just dislike being watched and told that I have to go through it.

"There are some lies that Satan has tried to insert into my thinking--one is, I'm now a woman alone trying to raise four children. You know the answer to that one of course. I'm not alone! For God promised to never leave me or forsake me. Another lie the enemy tried was suggesting that because the head of our house was gone I didn't have authority to back up my decisions in raising my children. On the contrary, I am now under the direct authority of heaven. As long as my decisions are based on Scripture and prayer, I have all the authority of heaven behind me.

"So many things the devil has tried and God has given me weapons--either directly or through others. One time I was grieving over what was happening to his body there under the ground. A good friend said she'd had trouble with the same thing when her brother died. Her godly husband had said, 'It's all taken care of.' What a simple, true answer! Of course it's all taken care of and won't matter a bit in the end.

"All that to say thank you for allowing God to use you in these ways to encourage us. Now I'm working on being content with God's gift of singleness and learning to lean on Him as my husband and the father of my children. I have so much to learn--business, finances, how to home-school four children and keep a house clean and feed us all nutritiously without an earthly helpmeet. But I'm learning to seek His help in every little detail. What a gift; He has given me this."

Thank you, Esther, for that beautiful letter. May I recommend for any of you who have just recently lost someone you love a little book that I wrote some years ago called Facing the Death of Someone You Love. It gives six steps, which the Lord taught me when my second husband died. Six things that kept me from, well, self-pity for one thing.

First I tried to be still and to know that he was God. That advice comes from Psalm 46, which begins by describing the sort of trouble from which God is our refuge: the earth changing or giving way--as the Jerusalem Bible puts it, the mountains shaking, the waters roaring and foaming, nations raging, kingdoms tottering, the earth melting. None of these cataclysms seemed an exaggeration of what happens when someone you love dies. The things that seemed most dependable have given way all together. The whole world has a different look and you find it hard to get your bearings. Shadows can be very confusing.

Well that's just a little sampling of the little booklet called Facing the Death of Someone You Love. You can get that through Gateway To Joy if you're interested.

Another letter from a listener. She says, "I've written to you before, but this time the tone of heart and circumstances are different. Your book A Path Through Suffering taught me how to view suffering in my journey through this life. I'm married to an unbeliever named 'Jack.' That's not his real name. We have three young sons and I stay at home with them. Jack has a history of verbal abuse and severe outburst of anger.

"For the first six years of our marriage I lived in absolute torment. Even with the arrival of all three boys, my husband was a tyrant. My conversion to Christianity from Judaism soon after our marriage sent things spiraling out of control. I was an isolated new believer with no discipling or support. My family would not speak to me for one whole year, and soon after we began communicating my oldest sister committed suicide.

"So lots of pain, lots of confusion, lots of agony. Jack would not permit me to attend church, because I attended a charismatic church without his consent. I was not a discerning believer and knew no other Christians other than you on the radio and John McArthur's radio ministry. You two people discipled me via radio. You gave me your wisdom pertaining to family life and being a woman of God. Praise God for radio!

"Well, as time went on and I began to put God's commands into action, not perfectly of course, I noticed that God was making changes in my husband's heart. The changes did not come soon. In fact, it took about two years before Jack stopped calling me horrendous swear words and such. But time after time God instructed me gently through His precious Spirit. When I wanted to lash back, God gently reminded me that He did not retaliate. When I felt the crushing oppression of torment, I was reminded that Jesus Himself was tormented. How absolutely wonderful to share in Christ's suffering, and to understand suffering, and to offering that suffering to Him. He cares and loves me so.

"Now I see clearer than ever before why I'm in this marriage and how God wishes to work His good work in me through the suffering--not exempt from the suffering. He is working in me," she says.

"How painful it was, how utterly agonizing it was to be in the midst of the abuse and torment. But oh the joy of now seeing now He wishes to work in me. Why? I have no clue. Why God Almighty wishes to work in me is a great mystery, but I am eternally grateful. Jack has ceased to abuse me and the children. His outbursts are God changing his heart. He's not as hostile toward my Christian life. I attend a church and teach first grade Sunday school. He encourages my boys to come with me. He will not attend with me, but he will go to see the boys in the Christmas program and whatever else they're in.

"There's peace in our home at last. But I still want salvation to come to this house once again, as it did for me in 1992. May God do a wonderful work in Jack. I know you'll pray with me for Jack's salvation. God wants it more than I do. Elisabeth, who are we to enjoy fellowship with the Almighty? And if this earth is but a breath, what will the glory be like?"

Lisa Barry: How wonderful it is to hear how Gateway To Joy has been impacting so many people over the years. And one book that's a collection of the best of this program is Gateway To Joy: Reflections That Draw Us Nearer to God. While it's true that Christian books will inspire you and motivate you for a time, our best teacher is that which we've committed to memory. The cost of the book is $15.00, and you can send that along with your request to:

Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska 68501. That's Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska 68501. We also have this week of talks available for you to purchase when you ask for "Testify to Love." Our toll-free number is 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Or dial up our Web site at gatewaytojoy.org. You can e-mail a transcript of this program to a friend, find daily devotions and much more. That address again, gatewaytojoy.org.

Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible and is supported by the generous gifts of people like you. Tomorrow Elisabeth hears from listeners who have been helped by the phrase "do the next thing." Hear the stories next time on Gateway To Joy.

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