Friday August 14, 2009

I have grown the habit of typing up particular portions of good books I am reading, saving them in document form (for easier future perusing), and even sharing some of them here with you all. I haven’t done this in many months. So here are the notes from my most recent read, A Path Through Suffering, by Elisabeth Elliot. I hope you find this edifying and encouraging. Please do take time to read through this. It’s the equivalent of six pages, so it’s long. But less long than reading the book. 🙂 And if you find great snippets here, just think how much you would glean from reading the book yourself!
Blessings and peace.

Notes from Elisabeth Elliot’s book
A Path Through Suffering

The words which have illuminated for me the deepest understanding of suffering are Jesus’ own, “In truth, in very truth I tell you, a grain of what remains a solitary grain unless it falls into the ground and died; but if it dies, it bears a rich harvest.” This, He told His disciples, was the key. There is a necessary link between suffering and glory. (p 14)

Grace enables us to do what we can’t do. (p 30)

Amy Carmichael wrote, “A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred.” (p 33)

When a man or woman belongs to God (when the branch dwells in the Vine) it is the hand of God at work when the pruning comes, regardless of the second causes. A life’s work—what to us is a perfectly good branch, perhaps the only “important” branch—may be cut off. The loss seems a terrible thing, a useless waste. But whose work was it?… Was it not work given by God in the first place, then given back to Him day by day? Jesus said God is the Gardener, the One who takes care of the vines. The hand of the Gardener holds the knife. If is His glory that is at stake when the best grapes are produced, so we need not think He has something personal against us, or has left us wholly to the mercy of His enemy Satan. He is always and forever for us. (p 38)

The death of wintertime is the necessary prelude to the resurrection of springtime. (p 41)

He wants to transform every form of human suffering into something glorious. He can redeem it. He can bring life out of death… When our souls lie barren in a winter which seems hopeless and endless, God has not abandoned us. His work goes on. He asks our acceptance of the painful process and our trust that He will indeed give resurrection life. (p 43)

When in pain it is hard to think of anything but pain. Amy Carmichael wrote of being so weak she could not think or pray, but she took comfort from the psalm, “Let the lifting up of my hands be as the evening sacrifice” (Ps 141:2, AV). She was able simply to lift them to the Lord—a gesture of acceptance, of adoration, of faith. We have our Father’s promise, linking the pain to an unimaginable glory: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (2 Tm 2:12). (p 45)

When we surrender ourselves to the Lord, learning day by day to treat all that comes to us with peace of soul and firm conviction that His will governs all, He will see to our growth in grace. He will so govern the events in our lives, down the smallest detail, as to provide for us the conditions which may make us fruitful. It is not for our sake but for the sake of others. The beauty of the flower is not for itself. It offers itself to God’s sunshine and rain, gives its fragrance to any who pass by, but it must wither and die before the fruit can be produced. (p 59)

Those who speak most deeply to our hearts in times of trouble are invariably those who have suffered. They have much to give. We recognize its authenticity and willingly receive it. (p 66)

Open hands should characterize the soul’s attitude toward God—open to receive what He wants to give, open to give back what He wants to take. (p 69)

It is a merciful Father who strips us when we need to be stripped, as the tree needs to be stripped of its blossoms. He is not finished with us yet, whatever the loss we suffer, for as we loose our hold on visible things, the invisible become more precious—where our treasure is, there will our hearts be. (p 74)

[Lilias trotter says] “You are right to be glad in His April days while He gives them. Every stage of the heavenly growth in us is lovely to Him; He is the God of the daisies and the lambs and mercy child hearts!” (p 75)

Suffering creates the possibility of growth in holiness, but only to those who, by letting all else go, are open to the training—not by arguing with the Lord about what they did or did not do to deserve punishment, but by praying, “Lord, show me what You have for me in this.” (p 79)

There is a fellowship among those who suffer, for they live in a world separated from the rest of us. (p 81)

There is a much deeper fellowship into which the Christian who suffers may enter. It is the fellowship of Christ’s suffering. Christ’s cup of suffering overflows and we suffer with Him. (p 82)

God’s ultimate purpose in all suffering is joy. (p 89)

Who can enjoy the fire who has never been cold, or cold water who has never been thirsty? (p 90)

The maturing process in the Christian, as in the dandelion, is for one purpose: the giving of life. It gives and gives until it has nothing left—for itself. But it has given life—to new dandelions. So we in whom Christ dwells are the bearers both of His death and of His life. We are transmitters of life to the world. (p 98)

[Pascal’s] prayer gets at the heart of the solution: “You are the Sovereign Master. Do whatever pleases You. Give me or take away from me.” Acceptance and relinquishment are the keys to our peace. (p 108)

The seed must break in order to let go the shoot, the leafbud must break to let go the leaf, the flowerbud must break to let go the flower, the petals drop off to let the fruit form. So in the wondrous cyclical plan of the Creator, the purpose of each is fulfilled. (p 112)

Death was followed by resurrection, as for the flower stalk and the child of God it always is—in His time. (p 114)

When at times sorrow is heaped upon sorrow we cannot help wondering if this time God has forgotten us. We think of His promise that He will never allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to bear, and it seems that He has forgotten that promise, forgotten to be gracious. (p 117)

[T]hanksgiving, in the midst of darkness, clears a way for grace. (p 121)

The deepest lessons come out of the deepest waters and hottest fires. One of God’s great gifts, parenthood, always includes the gift of suffering, that we may be humbled and our faith refined as gold in the fire. Again we are not given explanations but, to hearts open to receive it, a more precious revelation of the heart of our loving Lord. (p 127)

The resurrection happened. We believe it. We bank all our hopes on it. Jesus is alive. And yet… and yet we sorrow. There is no incongruity between the human tears and the pure joy of the presence of Christ—He wept human tears too. Nor is there sin in grieving… Those who are left must grieve, yet not as those without hope. Resurrection is a fact. (p 129)

Nothing is more real and practical than the Word of God. This world is not more real than the other world. It won’t last nearly as long. The objection implies that God who made both worlds forgets that we’re suck in the here and now. He never forgets. He knows our downsitting and our uprising. He understands our thoughts before we think them. He traces all our paths, keeps close guard before and behind us, spreads His hand over us, knows us through and through. There is not a word on our tongues with which he is not thoroughly familiar. He forgets nothing (except our confessed sins). It is because He is so well acquainted with what it means to live in the here and now, understands so thoroughly the hidden places of our hearts and walked this lonesome valley Himself, that He shows us the pathway through our suffering, the only pathway that leads to glory. (p 139)

“If by the Spirit you put to death all the base pursuits of the body, then you will live” (Rom 8:13). There it is in one verse: by the Spirit you—the work of the Holy Spirit and my will, in combination. Grace working on nature. (p 140)

How to deal with suffering of any kind: 1. recognize it. 2. accept it. 3. offer it to God as a sacrifice. 4. offer yourself with it. (p 141)

SING about His mercies and greatness. The enemy would like to destroy your family and your joy—all your have invested and all your hopes for the future. Second Chronicles 20:1-30 tells a wonderful story. Their families were about to be destroyed. Read it carefully and you will see how:
            a. They were afraid (v. 3)
            b. They sought the Lord (v. 3)
            c. They did not need to fight. God said He would do it for them (v. 17)
            d. They were not to fear or be dismayed (a choice, a decision) (v. 17)
            e. Singers were appointed to go ahead of the warriors in the most vulnerable positions (v. 21)
            f. They were to sing of the mercies of God. Why mercies? Because they weren’t any better than the enemy and they were saying, “We don’t deserve to live but we are children of the most High God. We are totally dependent on His mercies and love.” (v. 21)
            g. When they sang the Lord sent ambushments. Victory came (v. 22). Sing when you are vacuuming, cooking, walking, driving, trying to go to sleep, showering—decide to sing. Declare to those in the heavenlies that your God is able to deliver. Satan will fear. His minions will fear. (p 146-147)

…[W]e are seldom shown in advance God’s intention in a particular trial, nor the long-term effect our obedience may have on others. (p 149)

All influences, circumstances, and conditions (yes, all of them) are designed with the glory of infinite life in mind—in the Mind that knows it all from beginning to end. (p 156)

…I know that the best fruit will be what is produced by the best-pruned branch. The strongest steel will be that which went through the hottest fire and the coldest water. The deepest knowledge of God’s presence will have been acquired in the deepest river or dungeon or lion’s den. The greatest joy will have come forth out of the greatest sorrow. (p 157)

If we truly believe that God wants to bring us to our full glory, we will long increasingly to unite our wills with His. It is in exact proportion as we do this that we will find happiness here on earth. If His will is done on earth, it becomes like heaven, where His will is always done. (p 161)

We make our lives insupportably complex by disobeying Jesus’ command to take no thought for tomorrow. Planning for tomorrow, when planning is necessary and possible, belongs properly to today. Worrying about tomorrow belongs nowhere. The Lord gives us daily, not weekly, bread. He gives strength according to our days, not our years. The work, the suffering, the joy are given according to His careful measure. (p 162)

The Father knows the frame and remembers that it is mere dust. His compassions never fail. His arms hold us when we are too weak to cling. His Spirit prays in us and for us in those groanings which never find words. His salvific work goes on when we feel like stragglers making not an inch of progress. (p 162)

If we are ever called to great suffering, how shall we bear it if we have not learned to share willingly with Christ our small ones? (p 181)

The resurrection, however, is the anchor of our hope. We know that 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. (p 188)

Long before John wrote the Book of Revelation, the prophets had written of wonderful exchanges—Isaiah wrote of pine trees and myrtles replacing camel thorns and briars; of God’s giving garlands instead of ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourners’ tears, a garment of splendor for a heavy heart (Isaiah 61:3). Nehemiah wrote of blessings where there had been cursing; he psalmist of dancing and joy where there had been laments and of pasture instead of wilderness. Were these mere visions of unreality? Jesus spoke of transformations. The poor, the sorrowful, the hungry and thirsty, the persecuted would be happy, would inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, find consolation, be satisfied, have rich rewards. Was He offering only a carrot on a stick? The apostle Paul was carried away with the prospects—the perishable to become imperishable, weakness to be turned into power, humiliation to glory, mortality to immortality, poverty to riches, vile bodies to resplendent ones, the curse of the law replaced by the blessing of Abraham. Was it truth or poetry?… There is a golden harvest ahead. And Jesus, for the joy that was set before Him, accepted, embraced, and endured the cross. (p 192-193)

We bow in gratitude for His willingness to take the cup the Father gave Him, a cup so immensely more bitter than the one He gives us. Shall we refuse it, or shall we grasp it with both hands, as it were, realizing it holds just what is most needful for our spiritual wholeness? Ours has been sweetened, as Rutherford put it, “at the lip of sweet Jesus.” We drink it—by trustful acceptance—and God transforms it for His glory. Thus our very suffering may become the substance of sacrifice—a love-offering to God and a sacrifice of praise, and our ambition may be changed as radically as Paul’s… (p 196)



We may group some of God’s reasons [for suffering] into four categories. The list of references is by no means exhaustive.

First, we suffer for our own sake:

that we may learn who God is—Ps 46:1; Dn 4:24-37; the book of Job
that we may learn to trust—2 Cor 1:8-9
that we may learn to obey—Ps 119:67, 71
discipline is proof of the Father’s love and the validity of our sonship—Heb 12:5-11
it is the condition of discipleship—Acts 14:22; Lk 14:26-27, 33
it is required of soldiers—2 Tm 2:4
we are being “pruned” that we may bear fruit—Jn 15:2
that we may be shaped to the image of Christ—Rom 8:29
to qualify us to be fellow-heirs with Christ—Rom 8:17
to qualify us for the kingdom of God—2 Thess 1:4-5
to qualify us to reign with Christ—2 Tim 2:12
that our faith may be strengthened—Jas 1:3; 2 Thess 1:4-5; Acts 14:22
that faith may be tested and refined—Is 43:2; Dn 11:35; Mal 3:2; 1 Cor 3:13; 1 Pt 1:7
that we may reach spiritual maturity—Jas 1:4
power comes to its full strength in weakness—2 Cor 12:9
to produce in us endurance, character, hope—Rom 5:3-4
to produce in us joy and generosity—2 Cor 8:2


Second, we suffer for the sake of God’s people:

            that they may obtain salvation—2 Tm 2:10
            to give them courage—Phil 1:14
            that because of death working in us, life may work in them—2 Cor 4:12; Gal 4:13; 1 Jn 3:16
            that grace may extend to more—2 Cor 4:15
            that our generosity may bless others—2 Cor 8:2


Third, we suffer for the world’s sake:

            that it may be shown what love and obedience mean—the Book of Job; Jn 14:31; Mt 27:40-43
            that the life of Jesus may be visible in ordinary human flesh—2 Cor 4:10

Fourth, we suffer for Christ’s sake:

            that we may be identified with Him in His crucifixion—Gal 2:20
            suffering is the corollary of faith—Ps 44:22; Acts 9:16 and 14:22; 2 Tm 3:12; Jn 15:18-21; 1 Thess 1:6 and 3:4
            that we may share His suffering—1 Pt 4:12-13; Phil 1:29, 2:17 and 3:8, 10; Col 1:24; 2 Tm 1:8; Heb 13:13
            that we may share His glory—Rom 8:17-18; Heb 2:9-10; 2 Cor 4:17

(p 197-199)

2 Replies to “Friday August 14, 2009”

  1. Mrs. Elliot’s books are AMAZINGLY good! They always encourage me, lift me up and show me something new. It’s the simplicity of her writing that is beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. I didn’t take the time to read through all of that but have to agree with what you said about E.E.’s books and this one especially because Iistened to the audio book ( and read along some) this past January and it encouraged me a lot through a rough patch of life.


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