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A spirit of calm contentment always accompanies true godliness. The deep peace that comes from deep trust in God’s lovingkindness is not destroyed even by the worst of circumstances, for those Everlasting Arms are still cradling us, we are always “under the Mercy.” Corrie ten Boom was “born to trouble” like the rest of us, but in a German concentration camp she jumped to her feet every morning and exuberantly sang “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus!” She thanked the Lord for the little parade of ants that marched through her cell, bringing her company. When Paul and Silas were in prison, they prayed and sang. It isn’t troubles that make saints, but their response to troubles

Everything about which we are tempted to complain may be the very instrument whereby the Potter intends to shape His clay into the image of His Son–a headache, an insult, a long line at the check-out, someone’s rudeness or failure to say thank you, misunderstanding, disappointment, interruption. As Amy Carmichael said, “See in it a chance to die,” meaning a chance to leave self behind and say YES to the will of God, to be “conformable unto His death.” Not a morbid martyr-complex but a peaceful and happy contentment in the assurance that goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives. 

~Elisabeth Elliot in Keep a Quiet Heart

Photo: OBMonkey

Quality Quiet Time

Do you ever feel like you just don’t get much out of your time spent reading God’s Word? I know I have. It’s very easy to sit down with your Bible, flip to a random passage, read for a few minutes, and then go about your day only to realize later that you can’t recall a single fact about what you read. If you want to put a little quality in your quiet time, the answer may be as simple as having a plan.

In her devotional Keep a Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot shares some helpful instruction on how to get the most from your Bible reading… 

Having a quite time with the Lord every day is absolutely essential if you expect to grow spiritually. But you have to plan it. It won’t “just happen.” We’re all much too busy. Early morning is best, and there are plenty of scriptural precedents for that (Jesus rose “a great while before day”; the psalmist said, “In the morning shalt Thou hear my voice”). If you meet the Lord before you meet anybody else, you’ll be “pointed in the right direction” for whatever comes. God knows how difficult it is for some to do this, and if you have a reason you can offer Him why early morning won’t work, I’m sure He’ll help you to find another time. Sometimes the children’s afternoon nap time can be quiet time for a mother. At any rate, plan the time. Make up your mind to stick with it. Make it short to begin with—fifteen minutes or so, perhaps. You’ll be surprised at how soon you’ll be wanting more.

Take a single book of the Bible. If you’re new at this, start with the Gospel of Mark. Pray, first, for the Holy Spirit’s teaching. Read a few verses, a paragraph, or a chapter. Then ask, What does this passage teach me about:

  1. God
  2. Jesus Christ
  3. The Holy Spirit
  4. Myself
  5. Sins to confess or avoid
  6. Commands to obey
  7. What Christian love is?

Keep a notebook. Write down some of your special prayer requests with the date. Record the answer when it comes. Note, also, some of the answers you’ve found to the above questions, or anything else you’ve learned. Tell your children, your spouse, your friends some of these things. That will help you to remember them. You’ll be amazed at what a difference a quiet time will make in your life.

[Keep a Quiet Heart, p. 130]

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Stillness. Perfect stillness. It is a very great gift, not always available to those who would most appreciate it and would find joy in it, and often not appreciated by those who have it but are uncomfortable with it. External noise is inescapable in many places–traffic on land and in the air, sirens, horns, chain saws, loud voices and, perhaps worst of all, screaming rock music with thundering amplification which makes the very ground shudder.

I think it is possible to learn stillness–but only if it is seriously sought. God tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NIV). “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15, KJV).

The stillness in which we find God is not superficial, a mere absence of fidgeting or talking. It is a deliberate and quiet attentiveness–receptive, alert, ready. I think of what Jim Elliot wrote in his journal: “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

…Silence is one form of worship. When the seventh seal was opened (in St. John’s Revelation), there was silence in heaven for the space of half an hour. What would happen in our homes if we should try to prepare ourselves for those heavenly silences by having just one half-hour when there is no door slamming, no TV, no stereo or video, and a minimum of talk, in quiet voice? Wouldn’t it also be a calming thing just to practice the stillness which is the absence of motion? My father used to have us try this every now and then. Why not try a Quiet Day or even a Quiet Week without the usual noises? It might open vistas of the spiritual life hitherto closed, a depth of communion with the Lord impossible where there is nothing but noise.

~Elisabeth Elliot in Keep a Quiet Heart

Photo: OBMonkey

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Have you ever put heart and soul into something, prayed over it, worked at it with a good heart because you believed it to be what God wanted, and finally seen it “run aground”?

The story of Paul’s voyage as a prisoner across the Adriatic Sea tells how an angel stood beside him and told him not to be afraid (in spite of winds of hurricane force), for God would spare his life and the lives of all with him on board ship. Paul cheered his guards and fellow passengers with that word, but added, “Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island” (Acts 27:26 NIV).

It would seem that the God who promises to spare all hands might have “done the job right,” saved the ship as well, and spared them the ignominy of having to make it to land on the flotsam and jetsam that was left. The fact is He did not, nor does He always spare us.

Heaven is not here, it’s There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom, where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for.

“Running aground,” then, is not the end of the world. But it helps to make the world a bit less appealing. It may even be God’s answer to “Lead us not into temptation”–the temptation complacently to settle for visible things.

~Elisabeth Elliot in Keep a Quiet Heart

Photo: OBMonkey

Make Yourself Miserable in Minutes

In case you don’t already know how, Elisabeth Elliot offers a few suggestions… 

Several Ways to Make Yourself Miserable
  1. Count your troubles, name them one by one–at the breakfast table, if anybody will listen, or as soon as possible thereafter.
  2. Worry every day about something. Don’t let yourself get out of practice. It won’t add a cubit to your stature but it might burn a few calories.
  3. Pity yourself. If you do enough of this, nobody else will have to do it for you.
  4. Devise clever but decent ways to serve God and mammon. After all, a man’s gotta live.
  5. Make it your business to find out what the Joneses are buying this year and where they’re going. Try to do them at least one better even if you have to take out another loan to do it.
  6. Stay away from absolutes. It’s what’s right for you that matters. Be your own person and don’t allow yourself to get hung up on what others expect of you.
  7. Make sure you get your rights. Never mind other people’s. You have your life to live, they have theirs.
  8. Don’t fall into any compassion traps–the sort of situation where people can walk all over you. If you get too involved in other people’s troubles, you may neglect your own.
  9. Don’t let Bible reading and prayer get in the way of what’s really relevant–things like TV and newspapers. Invisible things are eternal. You want to stick with the visible ones–they’re where it’s at now.

[Keep a Quiet Heart, p. 93]

Photo: Steve Ford Elliott

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Sitting one still and sunny afternoon in a tiny chapel on an island in the South, I thought I heard someone enter. A young woman was weeping quietly. After a little time I asked if I could help. She confided her fears for the future–what if her husband should die? Or one of her children? What if money ran out?

All our fears represent in some form, I believe, the fear of death, common to all of us. But is it our business to pry into what may happen tomorrow? It is a difficult and painful exercise which saps the strength and uses up the time given us today. Once we give ourselves up to God, shall we attempt to get hold of what can never belong to us–tomorrow? Our lives are His, our times in His hand, He is Lord over what will happen, never mind what may happen. When we prayed “Thy will be done,” did we suppose He did not hear us? He heard indeed, and daily makes our business His and partakes of our lives. If my life is once surrendered, all is well. Let me not grab it back, as though it were in peril in His hand but would be safer in mine!

Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now.

“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”–and the work thereof. The evil is not a part of the yoke Jesus asks us to take. Our work is, and He takes that yoke with us. I will overextend myself if I assume anything more.

~Elisabeth Elliot in Keep a Quiet Heart

Photo: OBMonkey

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Waiting requires patience–a willingness calmly to accept what we have or have not, where we are or where we wish we were, whomever we live or work with.

To want what we don’t have is impatience, for one thing, and it is to mistrust God. Is He not in complete control of all circumstances, events, and conditions? If some are beyond His control, He is not God.

A spirit of resistance cannot wait on God. I believe it is this spirit which is the reason for some of our greatest sufferings. Opposing the workings of the Lord in and through our “problems” only exacerbates them. It is here and now that we must win our victories or suffer defeats. Spiritual victories are won in the quiet acceptance of ordinary events, which are God’s “bright servants,” standing all around us.

Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands. “Peace I leave with you; I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27, NEB). What sort of peace has He to give us? A peace which was constant in the midst of ceaseless work (with few visible results), frequent interruptions, impatient demands, few physical comforts; a peace which was not destroyed by the arguments, the faithlessness, and hatred of the people. Jesus had perfect confidence in His Father, whose will He had come to accomplish. Nothing touched Him without His Father’s permission. Nothing touches me without my Father’s permission. Can I not then wait patiently? He will show the way.

~Elisabeth Elliot in Keep a Quiet Heart

Photo: OBMonkey

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A single woman missionary writes, “I’ve never dated anyone. Is it realistic for a woman to desire confirmation of her femininity at one point in her life? Do I have cause to feel sorry for myself? To be mad at God for leaving me in such dire social straits? I already know the answer, of course!…”

To the first question I would answer yes, it’s realistic, it’s natural, it’s not wrong. A real woman’s desire is to be a real woman, and a man’s love helps to confirm that. But human desire is to be brought under the lordship of Christ for fulfillment according to His wisdom and choosing. (See Psalm 10:17; 37:4; 38:9; 145:19.)

“He gives the very best to those who leave the choice with Him.”

To the second and third questions I would say no, as my correspondent guessed. We are never warranted in feeling sorry for ourselves or being “mad” at God–He loves us with an Everlasting Love; He died for us; His will is always love and, when we accept it in loving trust, it is our peace.

Another letter came just a couple of weeks after the above, also from a single woman missionary. “I appreciate very much the honesty and openness with which you talk about missionary life, and the importance you place on obedience and leaving the results in God’s hands. That has helped me to know the cost, and to know and give credit to the One who makes any success here possible… Being obedient to Him is good! Obedience gives an incredible peace, and every now and then I think God allows us a glimpse of how He’s working out His plan here, and it’s awesome! You’re right–obedience is worth the cost!”

~Elisabeth Elliot in Keep a Quiet Heart

Photo: OBMonkey

Seeing Childlessness in Calvary’s Light

“To them I will give…a name better than that
of sons and daughters.”

Isaiah 56:5

“Where are your boys?” The unexpected question came from my 4-year old nephew as he and his 2-year old cousin bounced on the couch beside me yesterday afternoon.

“I don’t have any boys,” I responded matter-of-factly.

He stared at me as though my words weren’t quite sinking in. “You don’t have any boys?”

“No. Joseph is the only boy I have,” I smiled and patted my husband’s knee, making my nephew smile.

I’m not sure what prompted the question. Maybe because people had been talking about Mother’s Day, and the thought occurred to the little guy that his grandmother had boys, his mom had boys, and his other aunt had boys, so it would only make sense that I should have children too.

And there it was–in a child’s innocent question, the sudden reminder that on this day I remained different from most of the women around me. A fleeting moment of sadness accompanied the thought.  

Perhaps your Mother’s Day contained similar reminders. Judging from the number of times my post “Mother’s Day for the Childless” was shared this weekend, it seems clear that many women are searching for comfort in the midst of unfulfilled longings for children. If you’re one of those women, I hope the following thoughts from Elisabeth Elliot will strengthen your heart as you learn to see your childlessness in Calvary’s light…  

Children, God tells us, are a heritage from Him. Is the man or woman to whom he gives no children therefore disinherited? Surely not. The Lord gave portions of land to each tribe of Israel except one. “The tribe of Levi… received no holding; the Lord God of Israel is their portion, as he promised them” (Joshua 13:14, NEB). Withholding what He granted to the rest, He gave to Levi a higher privilege. May we not see childlessness in the same light? I believe there is a special gift for those to whom God does not give the gift of physical fatherhood or motherhood…

A woman of about fifty wrote, “Each Mother’s Day became a little harder for me as I realized another year had gone by and after many years of marriage I am still childless–the only woman in my Sunday School class who is not a mother. The morning service started… I could not see the pastor for the tears in my eyes. Almost at the end of the message he said, ‘I know there are some of you women here this morning who would like to be mothers, but for some reason God has chosen differently. Don’t question Him. He has a reason.'”

Childlessness, for those who deeply desire children, is real suffering. Seen in the light of Calvary and accepted in the name of Christ, it becomes a chance to share in His sufferings. Acceptance of the will of the Father took Him to the Cross. We find our peace as we identify with Him in His death and resurrection…

My correspondent says God has given her “several kids adopted in my heart to pray for, whose mothers say they haven’t time to pray.” Another girl asked her to be grandmother to her new baby. “Well, what a blessing and how this has changed my life!” she says. “If I had sat around and felt sorry for myself, look at the above blessings I would have missed. What a thrill on Mother’s Day this year to get a Grandmother card!”

And what of the young childless woman? Is she merely to mark time, hoping against hope that someday she will be given a child? There are always younger people who need a boost, some encouragement in their struggles against the pull of the world, a listening ear when they face hard decisions, someone who will simply take time out to pray with them, to walk with them the way of the cross with its tremendous demand–the difficult and powerful life of glad surrender and acceptance. As the branches of the wine pour out their sweetness, so young women may see their opportunity, as branches of the True Vine, to pour out their lives for the world.

[Keep a Quiet Heart, pp. 172-174]

Photo: Isaac Joo

He Works in the Wait

“But for you, O LORD, do I wait;
   it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.”

Psalm 38:15

Isn’t waiting the worst? Whether the issue is something big, like marriage, or something small, like getting through a line to reach the checkout, the experience of a desire delayed certainly tests one’s character. On several occasions of late, the Lord has employed slow-moving traffic to reveal that my heart and holiness are not quite such close companions as I might prefer to believe. Trapped behind drivers apparently free of both deadlines and desirable destinations recently, I began fantasizing about having a huge ramp on the road ahead, which when crossed at high speed would send me skyrocketing through the air over the motorized obstacles blocking my pathway. It was then I detected a bit of sin that needed to be addressed.

Perhaps you don’t struggle with my inclination for road rage, but you probably do know what it’s like to dream of a ramp that could launch you right past the unpleasantries of waiting and into the life for which you’ve been longing. In her book, Keep a Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot addresses the universal temptation to spiral downward into impatience, bitterness, or despair when an object of desire remains out of reach. She describes two letters she received–one from a single woman desperate for marriage and one from a couple longing for a child. Mrs. Elliot says:

Will the young woman find a mate? Will the couple have a child? Maybe this year will be the year of desire fulfilled. Perhaps, on the other hand, it will be the year of desire radically transformed, the year of finding, as we have perhaps not yet truly found, Christ to be the All-Sufficient One, Christ the “deep, sweet well of Love.”

Why won’t God let someone into my life? I feel left out, abandoned. When will it be my turn?” The petulant letter [from the single woman] goes on. “I feel deprived! Will He deny me the one small desire of my heart? Is it too big a treasure to ask? I sit in torture and dismay.”

Life is likely to continue to hold many forms of torture and dismay for that unhappy person and for all who refuse to receive with thanksgiving instead of complaint the place in life God has chosen for them. The torture is self-inflicted, for God has not rejected their prayers. He knows better than any of us do what furthers our salvation. Our true happiness is to be realized precisely through his refusals, which are always mercies. His choice is flawlessly contrived to give the deepest kind of joy as soon as it is embraced…

Here is the opportunity offered. Be patient. Wait on the lord for whatever He appoints, wait quietly, wait trustingly. He holds every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year in His hands. Thank Him in advance for what the future holds, for He is already there.

(pp. 49-51)

Although our waiting is never easy, it is a comfort to know that with God it will always be worthwhile.

Photo: miamiamia