Do It Afraid
by Sheila Walsh
I had the privilege some years ago of interviewing Elisabeth Elliot, widow of Jim Elliot. If you’re unfamiliar with their story, here’s a little background: Jim and four of his missionary friends had a passion to witness to an unreached people group, the Auca Indians of Ecuador, with the gospel of Christ. They knew that the Auca were a dangerous tribe with a reputation for mass killings and believed the only way to stop that was if they came to faith in Christ. Using their Mission Aviation Fellowship plane, they had spent some time lowering supplies to the tribe during various flyovers and felt it was finally time to meet face-to-face. One morning in 1956, each of the five men from their group was lowered onto the beach. They waited to see what might happen, but nothing could have prepared them for what they saw next. A group of Auca warriors emerged from the trees with their spears raised, ready to throw. Jim had a gun in his pocket, but even as he reached for it he knew he couldn’t use it. These five men had promised they would never kill an Auca who didn’t know Christ just to save themselves. All five men died that day.
When Jim was killed, Elisabeth was left to raise their ten-month-old daughter, Valerie, by herself in a foreign country. Can you imagine the what-ifs that must have gone through her mind?
What if the men hadn’t gone there that day?
What if they’d spent more time lowering gifts and messages?
What if he’d waited until our daughter was older?
When I try to put myself in her shoes, I imagine my first thought would be to get my daughter and myself on the first plane out of there. That’s not what Elisabeth did. She believed that God had sent them there as a family and the job wasn’t finished. She told me, however, that her life was completely controlled by fear. Every time she wanted to step out in faith, fear stopped her. The what-ifs were overwhelming. Then a friend told her something that changed her life. Her friend said, “Why don’t you do it afraid?”
Together with Rachel Saint, the sister of Nate Saint (one of the murdered missionaries), they went on to finish the job their loved ones died for—reaching the Indian tribes of Ecuador, including the very people who had murdered their loved ones. When her daughter was just three years old, Elisabeth and Valerie moved in and lived with the tribe for two years, seeing many come to faith in Christ. The name Auca was a disparaging name given to the tribe by other tribes. It means “naked savages.” Their real name is Waodani, which means “true people.” Each one of the warriors who had killed the missionaries came to faith in Christ and became His true people.
That is clearly a very extreme story. Few of us will be called to make that kind of sacrifice. But Elisabeth, who died a few years ago, has helped us with a step along our path.
Do it afraid.
The what-ifs that so often hold us back usually have their roots in a flawed belief system. We believe that if we’re going to take a step out, we have to be sure that whatever we’re attempting will be successful. I don’t think that’s what we’re asked to do. I believe we’re asked to step out in faith and leave the results to God.
The what-ifs will always be there. We’re human. And even when we push past them and take a step of faith, things might not always work out in a way that makes sense to us. But this I know for rock-solid sure:
You don’t have to be perfect, just present.
You can pour out your what-ifs to the Lord.
When you take that step and things seem to go wrong, God is working, God is faithful, and God is a God of grace.
What are the what-ifs holding you back? Are you willing to take a step and see what God might do? Just know this: when you’ve come to the end of yourself and you don’t get it, take a nap, have a good meal, and lean in for the gentle whisper of God. For every what-if that crosses your mind—and trust me, they still cross mine—allow the truth of God’s Word to be louder than the clamor of fear.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Ps. 139:14 ESV)
For nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1:37 ESV)
Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matt. 19:26)
Sheila Walsh, It’s Okay Not to Be Okay, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2018. Used by permission.
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