“Teach the believers darling…”
These words were written by Jim Elliot to his love Elisabeth Elliot during their courtship.
And when Valerie Shepard, the now adult daughter of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot read those words she could hardly fight back the tears as she realized the depth and truth of her parents’ love story.
Long forgotten in a dusty attic were hidden four years of love letters between her mom and dad, written during their courtship before Jim was tragically murdered on a mission into the jungle to bring the Gospel to unreached tribal peoples.
Now discovered, Valerie knew she had to share them with the world.
The story of Jim Elliot has been passed down for generations.
What would make a man, a husband and father of a young child put himself in danger at the risk of being killed?
His love for God.
If there is one thing that was evident in Jim Elliot’s life, it was his how deep his love for God really was.
It was this love that cost him even his own life, as he was speared to death bringing the Gospel to a remote tribe in South America.
And now as a young widow forced to raise a 10-month-old girl on her own, one would think Elisabeth would become angry and bitter at God for taking her husband, right?
Nothing could be further from the truth.
When Elisabeth Elliot found out her husband had been killed, she said in her book Through The Gates Of Splendor:
“The other wives and I talked together one night about the possibility of becoming widows. What would we do? God gave us peace of heart, and confidence that whatever might happen, His Word would hold. We knew that ‘when He Putteth forth His sheep, He goeth before them.’ God’s leading was unmistakable up to this point. Each of us knew when we married our husbands that there would never be any question about who came first — God and His work held first place in each life. It was the condition of true discipleship; it became devastatingly meaningful now.”
Wow. Talk about faith when it really counts.
But Elisabeth Elliot didn’t stop there. She actually took her 10-month-old daughter and went to continue on the work of her late husband by serving the very Ecuadorian tribe who slaughtered her husband.
One has to wonder how the love story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot ever came to be so unshakable even at the expense of sacrificing one another.
And now thanks to Valerie Shepard, the world has a chance to read the “heart behind it all” by soaking in and reading her parent’s personal love stories.
You can buy Valerie’s book Devotedly: The Personal Love Story And Letters of Jim And Elisabeth Elliot (and we recommend you do) here.
As Valerie read through her parents’ words of love for God, she was brought to tears at the timeless truths and wisdom they revealed.
The love letters point to the unshakable love both Jim and Elisabeth shared for God first, even above the love they had for one another. And it was the love they each had for God that emboldened Jim to die for his faith in Ecuador and Elisabeth to continue serving the very people who murdered her husband.
Jim and Elisabeth realized at a young age what many people never discover in a lifetime – it is God, who is love. And He must be our first love, above all else.
In fact, Jim actually never planned to get married because he was so devoted to serving God. But once he met Elisabeth and saw her love for God and desire to serve Him was just as great, he changed his tune and made her his bride.
Valerie points out the consecutive theme of her father’s letters which was “we live for God, and we live for God’s glory”.
Had the Elliot’s solely focused on one another, they might have not been as available to serve God and advance His kingdom.
Jim and Elisabeth Elliot are no longer walking the earth, but their legacy lives on not only through their daughter, but for the countless lives they have touched and inspired.
Jim’s willingness to put his life on the line and die is a testimony to his unwavering faith, even in the face of danger.
And instead of growing bitter and angry at God, Elisabeth knew Jim was simply fulfilling the plan God had for his life, and she went on to live and serve God, and teach other Christians how to suffer well.
We could all learn something from the love letters of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot.
The secret to their love story isn’t an “extra dose of romance” or an “enhanced physical attraction” towards one another. Instead, it is a laser-focused love for God, and being willing to do whatever He may ask.
And it is our hope as you read this timeless treasure, you will be encouraged to know that love does exist. With so many stories today of broken marriages and homes, it’s refreshing to read about a couple whose love still influences generations to come.
To the young men and women of the world, know that purity is still a virtue to be valued. And when courting or dating, make sure the person you are with loves God more than they love you, as loving God first and foremost is the secret to everlasting love.
If you’d like to read more about Elisabeth Elliot’s long-lasting legacy, check out the piece Christian Life Daily wrote about her here.
We’ve also published a list of inspirational quotes from Elisabeth Elliot’s long writing career, which you can read here.
What are your thoughts on the Jim and Elisabeth Elliot love story? Were you surprised to learn Valerie found and published their personal love letters? Do you plan to buy the book Devotedly and read them yourself?
Tell us your thoughts in the comments below and be sure to share the story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot!