Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review: Quest for Love by Elisabeth Elliot

When I read Elliot’s Passion and Purity back in 2008, I was lukewarm on it, appreciating some aspects of it but really not caring for others. When I read A Chance to Die in 2010 I loved pretty much everything about it. So, when a friend recommended this to me recently I figured it couldn’t hurt. And I’m so glad I read it, because it was so incredibly helpful for me, I can’t even tell you. In a way, this is a follow-up to Passion and Purity. I guess after she wrote P&P letters poured in from readers sharing their relationship stories and asking questions about all the ups and downs, frustrations and fears, emotions and trials. She uses many of these letters in the book, and interweaves her responses to the letters, general advice, and personal stories that illustrate her points. It’s wise Biblical counsel- much needed in world where confusion and unhealthy and destructive habits abound in the dating realm. 

There is a huge range of counsel on topics such as waiting on the Lord for a spouse, submitting our emotions and feelings and desires to the Lord, emotional and sexual purity before marriage, trusting God with our love life, and maintaining Biblical roles for men and women. It’s great. I had borrowed this book from a friend, so I took notes on it in my journal, and I filled many pages with quotes such as “A life lived in God is not lived on the plane of the feelings, but of the will”; “Trusting God with your love life is a rigorous daily exercise of faith”; “You marry her because you love her. Then from the wedding day forward, you learn to love her because you married her”. I loved reading the letters, because I could identify with so many of the scenarios described, as if it were in fact me who had written to Elliot at various stages of my life. I was encouraged to know that others face the same struggles and have the same questions, and I was thankful for her answers. For instance, one reader asked if it is possible to trust God so much that she wouldn’t be lonely in her singleness. To which Elliot responded, “Probably not.” She believes that (at least for most of us) the loneliness is there to sanctify us and teach us, to try our faith and force us to depend more on God. As I have a tendency in many areas of my life to be incredibly self-critical, these kinds of responses were so helpful. I don’t need to beat myself up over X or Y, because I am by and large heading in the right direction, submitting my will to God (be that for my love life, or something else), and desiring to walk in obedience to him. 

I will finish with a Hannah Whitall Smith quote that Elliot uses to explain how when we submit our will to God, often our “wants” don’t always immediately change, and so we still have emotional ups and downs… and that’s ok. “Do not be troubled by it. It is only in your emotions, and it not worth a moment’s thought. Only see to it that your will is in God’s hands, that your inward self is abandoned to his working, that your choice, your decision, is on His side, and there leave it. Your surging emotions, like a tossing vessel at anchor, which by degrees yields to the steady pull of the cable, finding themselves attached to the mighty power of God by the choice of your will, must inevitably come into captivity and give their allegiance to Him.” Amen! 

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