When I first had the opportunity to review this book by Elisabeth Elliot, the widow of martyr Jim Elliot, I really was not sure what to expect. The sticker on the front “Never before published” was exciting to see, but I still had apprehension whose origin I cannot name. However, there are two things that I know of Elisabeth Elliot. First, she is a giant of the faith to Christians of my generation and those before me, and Lord willing, those after me as well. Having passed away in 2015, her life has touched many people across many generations.
The second thing that I am sure of is that Elisabeth Elliot knows suffering. Her first husband, Jim, died as a martyr trying to reach an unreached tribe in the jungles of South America. And what did Elisabeth do? The next thing. She continued the mission. She raised her child. She ended up evangelizing the very people, including the ones who killed her husband and others, and was instrumental in God’s word amongst those people. Her second husband passed away from cancer. Before she died, she eventually lost the ability to effectively communicate. Yet, in the words of the publisher, “And then I heard her voice in my head say, “The cross is the gateway to joy.” And was there any greater suffering than on the cross? I realized that the suffering I was observing was in no way inconsistent with the message she taught her entire life. She suffered much, and she always taught us through it. She finished well because she lived well.” (xiii).
This work, Suffering Is Never For Nothing, is based on a series of audio CD’s given to the publisher of sessions that Elisabeth Elliot gave on suffering, with the only edits being removing phrases such as “next session” and the like. Suffering Is Never For Nothing is an incredible look into the world of one of the Giants of the Faith in my life, Elisabeth Elliot.
Elisabeth Elliot gives a simple, yet all-encompassing definition to what suffering is: “Suffering is having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.” (p.9). This definition is intensely simple, yet thoroughly correct. Reading through this work, one sees that her faith was a genuine faith, tried and tested throughout her life, visible to all that knew her or had the opportunity to hear her speak or read her works.
Above, I mentioned that she did, “the next thing,” that she continued the work of being a missionary. She states that she was a missionary before she met Jim Elliot, and she continued to be one after he died. Praise the Lord! However, she sums it up in one sentence, regarding suffering and doing the next thing, “I had discovered that there is no consolation like obedience.” (p.87). She goes on to say, “And when I was trying to offer up my feelings to God in those wee small hours of the morning, I thanked God when it was time to get up because there were all kinds of just simple, ordinary, down-to-earth things to do. Do the next thing.” (p.87).
To me, on an extremely personal level, this book was incredibly encouraging and helpful, given past sufferings in my own life. Two of my older sisters have passed away. The first who died did so as a result of lingering effects from a traumatic brain injury she received five years prior, an incident that God used to bring me to salvation. After she died, I didn’t do the next thing, I ran from God in anger. However, years later, I eventually did do the next thing, and I could see God there. The consolation from God that I never received when she died finally came, born out of obedience to Him. Born out of worshipping Him.
In conclusion, this book is an incredible read, one that I think anyone familiar with the Elliot legacy should read, as well as anyone who is going through or has gone through suffering in their lives (which I would think would be most everyone). I read the first chapter the day I received the book in the mail, then, a few days later, I picked it back up again and finished the book. While it’s not incredibly long (just over 100 pages), it is incredibly meaningful and there will be times when you read a page or paragraph over and over and over. And then put a sticky note on the page so you can go back and read it again later!
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from B&H Publishing for the purposes of review.