Self-Discipline: A Matter of Grit and Grace

Elisabeth Elliot

Welcome to the first of four LEgacy Link-ups for the summer of 2019! We are so excited! With Mother’s Day coming up, We would like this link-up to be All About Women who have or are Leaving a Legacy for us to follow. I started us out writing about Susie Spurgeon and Susanna Wesley. Now read what guest writer, Michele Morin from Living Our Days wants to share with us. Then write and share your own legacy story at the bottom.


Self-Discipline: A Matter of Grit and Grace

With an empty house, a clean kitchen, laundry on the line (and even a sleeping dog!), it was a perfect afternoon to study or write. Deadlines were looming; however . . . the sun was shining, bath towels flapped and danced on the clothesline outside, and suddenly, while there was plenty that needed doing, the will to do it was lacking.

“Maybe I’ll call a friend,” I mused. “Or this would be a great day to wash windows!”

An Example to Live by

When I’m pondering the possibility of veering off course in some small way, I remember the faithful example of Elisabeth Elliot, who readily admitted that she was also subject to all the usual distractions and reluctance when it was time to sit down and write. She spoke of “taking herself by the scruff of the neck” and sitting herself down before the task at hand.

SHaping of a Christian Family
TSOACH, Updated in 2005

Raised by attentive parents who set high standards for her behavior, Elisabeth inherited a “habit of order” (TSOACH, 73) and a love for uncluttered efficiency that I have had to live my way into as an adult. Then, in the Ecuadorian jungles, Elisabeth witnessed the patient diligence of tribal people whose very lives depended upon their hard work through mud, thorns, snakes, steep climbing, and deep forests. Measuring her own small inconveniences against the lot of women who regularly carried hundred-pound packs on their backs, she was startled into an awareness of her tendency to complain about small inconveniences.

A Cracked Pot

Elisabeth had no illusions about her own status as a sinner, “a cracked pot” whose supreme privilege it was to reveal in her own life “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) By grace, however, she was able to speak truth with grit, even on topics that are usually off limits. For example, with wry humor, she noted that no one is actually qualified to address self-discipline around eating habits because if you don’t struggle with your weight, you don’t know how hard it is, and if you do struggle, you’ve got no room to talk!

"..if you don’t struggle with your weight, you don’t know how hard it is, and if you do struggle, you’ve got no room to talk!" #Elisabeth Elliot #LegacyLinkUp Share on X

Naturally slender, Elisabeth found to her surprise that as she aged, she could pick up a few extra pounds when she traveled. To avoid gaining weight unawares, she weighed herself daily, reasoning that (1) it’s better to keep weight off than to shed pounds once they have been gained; (2) it’s easier to lose five pounds immediately than fifteen pounds later.

Who Left a Legacy for Elisabeth?

A Lamp For My Feet

Mentored by the writing of Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth endeavored to apply the counsel that shaped Amy’s perspective in doing things that were not to her liking:  “See in it a chance to die.” (ALFMF, 30) The small offerings, tiny deaths to self that we make every day are a way of cooperating with God, and this is a theme that ran through Elisabeth’s writing and speaking ministries—because it also runs through Scripture. She described it as the “interworking of the will of God and the will of man.” (ALFMF, 21) Responding in self-discipline is an opportunity to participate in God’s work here on earth as surely as those who filled the water pots in Cana or distributed the loaves and fish on a grassy Galilean hillside.

So, I’ll do the next thing today, trusting God to put words on the page and grateful for the example of a mentor from afar. Elisabeth Elliot blended grit and grace so consistently that it is impossible to tell—and pointless to wonder—where one ends and the other begins.

-Michele Morin

Works Cited

{affiliate links}

A Lamp for My Feet, 1985 (ALFMF)

The Shaping of a Christian Home, 1992 (TSOACH)

It’s Legacy Link Up Time!

summer of legacy


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter
Join us at Mandy and Michele's Legacy Link-up Party all about Legacy! #MMLL #legacylinkup Share on X

About Michele Morin

Michele Morin reads, writes, gardens, and does life with her family on a country hill in Maine.   She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family.  She laments biblical illiteracy, advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes,” and finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles.

View all posts by Michele Morin

37 Comments on “Self-Discipline: A Matter of Grit and Grace”

  1. Wow. This was soooo what I needed to read. Thank you Michele. I consider Elisabeth to be one of my mentors as well. She speaks such profound wisdom. What a remarkable woman of faith. I like how you say she blended grit and grace well. Also, the scruff of the neck idea is how I feel most of the time. It fascinates me that Amy Carmichael was her mentor. Thank you, thank you. This has touched me more than you’ll realize.

  2. It’s fun to find you over here, Abby.
    And there’s a reason why that “scruff of the neck” wisdom from EE has taken hold of me. My following life depends on the decision to “do the next thing,” and often that requires effort.
    I discovered Amy Carmichael (and a number of other writers) through Elisabeth’s quotations. Those older authors are sometimes more challenging to read, but well worth it.

  3. I love Elizabeth’s comment about weight and self discipline. I feel like that in so many parts of my life. None of us are really qualified, maybe just a step ahead. But yet, when we offer empathy, grace, and a coming along side the person, than we can help one another. Also love her point about dying a little each day. Tiny deaths to self as cooperating with God. What a great word picture. We often think we need to make big sacrifices, but it is the little ones that often hurt the most and the ones we are most resistant on.

  4. We do set our walls high and our boundaries safe, even though we claim allegiance to a Savior who poured out his all. We follow him in this, one drop at a time.

  5. Elisabeth has been my mentor from afar from college days to the present. I love that she laid out what she learned from God’s Word without pulling any punches or submerging it in floweriness. She wasn’t unkind. but she was clear and direct.

  6. I always enjoy swapping EE quotes with you, Barbara. Sure wish I’d discovered her in my college days!
    And I want to grow into that “clear and direct” handling of truth. It’s easy to shoot from the hip, and it’s also easy to withdraw and skirt around the truth out of fear.
    We have a powerful message to share, and I loved Elisabeth’s integrity.

  7. We all owe so much, spiritually, to those faithful women who are now with the Lord, but whose influence continues through their writing and their legacy passed on into the lives of others.

  8. I used to listen to EE on Moody Radio, one day she was talking about having a confrontation with her teenage daughter—I, too, had a teenage daughter at that time—EE prayed, “Lord, show me her heart…” I began to pray the same, and our relationship improved significantly.

    Another day I heard EE in this interview, and “Do The Next Thing” was knitted into my thinking and advice to others…As Elisabeth Elliot said in this interview, “You can imagine how tempted I was to just plunk myself down and say, ‘There is no way I can do this.’ I wanted to sink into despair and helplessness, then I remembered this old Saxon legend, ‘Do the next thing.’ I remembered a verse that God had given to me before I went to Ecuador in Isaiah 50:7: ‘The Lord God will help me; therefore, shall I not be confounded. Therefore, have I set my face like a flint and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”

    Instead of allowing the burdens to stack until they completely blocked out the sun, she dealt with them one at a time. She said you should not sit down and think of all the things you have to do because it can be overwhelming. Instead, just pick the next thing and do it, then move on to the one after that. She said while pushing through them, you’re likely to find that many of the problems will work themselves out.

    The essence of her servant leadership is found in the poem, “Do The Next Thing,” from which Elisabeth Elliot’s maxim originates:
    Do The Next Thing
    From an old English parsonage, down by the sea
    There came in the twilight a message to me;
    Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
    Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
    And on through the hours the quiet words ring
    Like a low inspiration—”DO THE NEXT THING.”
    Many a question, many of fear,
    Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
    Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
    Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
    Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
    Trust them with Jesus, “DO THE NEXT THING.”
    Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
    Do it reliantly, casting all care;
    Do it with reverence, tracing His Hand,
    Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
    Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
    Leave all resultings, “DO THE NEXT THING.”
    Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
    (Working or suffering) be thy demeanor,
    In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
    The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
    Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing,
    Then, as He beckons thee, “DO THE NEXT THING.”

  9. Michele, man, did you peg me today. I had an appointment that got canceled at the last minute, and I thought, “Oh, now I have time to do _____.” And I decided that I could do my quiet time after that activity. Then I got a call from the school that a child needed to be picked up, and there went my day. If I had it to do over again, I would have stayed focused on having a good quiet time instead of the quick one I ended up with. Sigh. The first book of Elisabeth’s that I read was Passion and Purity. In my early twenties it spoke to me and confirmed the desire to stay pure until marriage. I needed that book. 🙂

  10. First things first, right?
    I’ve tripped over that wire myself with my servitude to the all-powerful do list.
    Thanks for sharing your lesson learned.

  11. Oh, thanks for sharing the text to that wonderful poem.
    With that phrase coming back into awareness, I’m picturing DTNT as the new LOL!

  12. Guilty!! It’s ironic that I am generally a pretty self-disciplined person. Few in my circle would call me “spontaneous” and yet the description/story you tell at the outset is one that I identify with so well. Yikes!

    Elisabeth Elliot does set the “gold standard”, doesn’t she?

  13. What is it about having to sit down and concentrate, and maybe apply a bit of mental elbow grease, that sets our minds toward stripping beds and folding laundry?
    And yes, the “gold standard.” I love that. She’s my go-to girl for wisdom AND a no nonsense approach to daily life.

  14. I’m still working on the killing stuff I don’t like to do thing ;). As I age, I do find that self-discipline gets easier. Maybe because I have fewer distractions running around the house!

  15. Yes, I think we gain perspective as we mature. Sometimes I “trick” myself into getting started on those sticky tasks by telling myself I only have to do it for an hour. Then, once I get going, I get carried along by the momentum of finishing the job.

  16. Thank you Mandy and Michele for offering this great series, and well, Michele M. you know how much I love both Elisabeth Elliot and Amy Carmichael. “In Acceptance Lieth Peace” is another great phrase from a beautiful poem that Elisabeth quoted, that has stuck with me through the years. So many of her words and books have shaped my heart for the Lord. I am so glad they the publishers are re-issuing some of her works! Blessings to all of you today!

  17. Yes, it’s wonderful that Elisabeth’s words are being made available once again. This makes me wonder if there’s any hope that Amy’s poetry will experience a surge in interest as well? Some of her expressions are quite archaic and even quite specific to England/Scotland, but, oh–the truth!
    The woman whose story I shared in Mandy and Michele’s Legacy Link up actually set some of Amy’s words to music, and so they sing their way through my memory still.

  18. Love your words, Michele! And Elisabeth Elliot has such wisdom in her words. Thank you for always pointing us toward the Father.

  19. Elisabeth had such a grasp of the sovereignty of God, and she trusted him. I think with all she suffered at various points in her life that she learned obedience and set her course by her deep knowledge of God’s Word.

  20. Oh, it’s been such a treat to revisit her books in preparation for this post and then to share some of my favorite aspects of her character. I continue to learn from her, and I expect that even though she is with the Lord, her influence will continue through her writing.

  21. Well now that I’ve napped, prepped dinner, tried to read a novel, and worked out … I guess I can no longer put off the writing for this day! I always thought Chambers first said, Trust God and do the next thing. Either is my legacy and I’m grateful for their lives, and your.s.

  22. Hi, Sue,
    I see you’ve mastered all the best avoidance tactics, but I do know that once you sit yourself down to write (even if it means taking yourself “by the scruff of the neck”), the result is a real blessing to your readers.
    By the way, I’m welcoming the world to my house over the next several days: Mother’s Day with all the crew, and then on Monday the Ladies Missionary Fellowship is landing here en masse for a turkey dinner and our last meeting before summer break. Really looking forward to opening my door.
    Thanks for all the inspiration you provide in that regard.

  23. I loved this post about Elizabeth Elliot. I never realized she talk about weight… That is so interesting. Also your blog is really popular. So cool. 🙂

  24. When I heard Elisabeth make this particular observation, it was in the context of a Q&A. Someone had asked about self-discipline and healthy weight, and Elisabeth actually thanked the questioner for asking the question and then said the quote I shared about how no one is really qualified to talk about that topic.
    She had an uncanny ability to get straight to heart of an issue, and I have learned so much from her wisdom. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

  25. Thanks for sharing—what a wonderful inspiration Elisabeth is for us today! Such wisdom. And I can totally relate with the distractions in my own writing time! Stopping by from #letshavecoffee

  26. I’ve heard some authors say their house is never cleaner than when they’re facing a writing deadline! 🙂
    So glad you’ve been enriched by Elisabeth’s words!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.