Elizabeth Elliot’s widowhood taught her the importance of appreciation.
Her first husband died on the mission field in Ecuador only three years after their marriage—she was 30 years old. Twenty years later, she wrote letters to her daughter Valerie and compiled them into the book titled Let Me Be a Woman. Elliot’s familiarity with suffering shines through the wisdom she shared about what it was like to lose her husband.
Speaking about appreciation, she wrote:
“How often I have sat in a roomful of people and heard a wife contradict, criticize, belittle, or sneer at her husband before the rest of the company and I have with great difficulty restrained myself from leaping from my chair, going over and shaking that woman by the shoulders and saying, “Do you realize what you’ve got?” She doesn’t. She hasn’t my perspective, of course.” (pg 91).
Elliot’s point reaches beyond husband and wife. In the midst of hurt and hardship, it is easy to neglect our blessings. We are discouraged from saying things like, “at least it’s not as bad as it could be!” But Elliot argues that this very perspective makes us more appreciative of the things we do have in life.
Complaining reflects a heart of ungratefulness towards God and entitlement for a good, happy life. It is easy to dwell on the things that disappoint. It is much harder to look at our life with appreciation. Elliot’s wisdom encourages a posture of gratefulness. She shares the following story to further emphasize this point, which demands our consideration:
“Some years ago there was a series of letters to columnist Ann Landers on the subject of men who snore. Wives wrote in complaining of the countless hours of lost sleep and the irritation of that awful noise beside them in the bed. Others wrote offering solutions, but the discussion came to an end with one letter, “Snoring is the sweetest music in the world. Ask any widow.” (pg 90)
Elliot’s testimony affects how we strive to “plead the cause of the widow” (Isaiah 1:16-18). Pursuing this cause does not end with sympathy or support. Rather, it also includes a deeper call to heed the wise advice and perspective that comes from a soul acquainted with deep loss—a soul such as Elizabeth Elliot’s. What might it look like to apply her perspective and apply her principles to our families? I suspect we would argue less with our mothers and have more loving exchanges. Instead of complaining about extravagant meals we cannot afford, we would eat with joy and appreciation of God’s blessings. In our relationships, we might find fewer things to be annoyed about with our significant other and more ways to love them. It would do us well to ask God for a heart of appreciation for the things we take for granted. They might, in fact, be “the sweetest music in the world.” Just ask any widow.