Elizabeth Elliot, 74, shares her story of God’s healing from an emotional breakdown.
I was born in Southsea in Portsmouth, Hampshire in May 1949. We moved to London when I was ten with my two younger brothers. My parents were Christian, but I had a very strict upbringing, and it wasn’t until later in my life that I realised I needed healing from all I experienced. I went to a grammar school, but I didn’t do well, probably connected to the problems at home.
Once in Purley, we went to a church that had a really good youth group. For the first time in my life, at 17, I saw young people who had Christian faith and they talked about it. That greatly influenced me. They were good fun to be with and there were lots of really nice boys!
The church used to go away for the Easter weekend, and I think during one of those trips was when I said yes to Jesus in my head. But to be honest, I didn’t feel it made any difference to my life. I always felt a bit guilty about that.
I had married my husband, Robert in 1970 when I was a very immature 21-year-old. We had met working in the pathology laboratories in the Mayday Hospital in Croydon. I got my first job from leaving school there and I loved it.
Robert was already well established at the hospital, as he was quite far on in his training. He wouldn’t leave me alone! He wasn’t a Christian at that point, but became one a few years later when I took him to a Tent Crusade where a church puts up a tent in a park and has evangelistic meetings.
At the end of the crusade the speaker said: “If you want to invite Jesus into your life come to the front.” Robert did, much to my surprise.
Somebody led him in a rather hesitant prayer, and the next day, he was changed. His swearing stopped and his language changed, I think he was filled with the Spirit then, but of course, we didn’t really know much about that back then. That was 1968.
Experiencing the love of God
When I was 32, some young people from our church went to do mission work with Operation Mobilisation. They came back and talked about being baptised in the Holy Spirit. We were told that wasn’t allowed in our church, we were led to believe it was the work of the enemy!
It was all very confusing, but we were taken to another church and I saw these people worshipping God. They were dancing, I mean, really dancing, not just bouncing up and down. It was beautiful. I remember asking: “Lord is this alright?”
I went home and I begged God for what they had, because it was beautiful. I said to the him: “I don’t care what you call it. I don’t care what my church says about the enemy. I want what they’ve got.” It felt like a huge risk, like I was jumping off a cliff into an unknown.
I went to sleep, but I was woken up at 3am, with a deep knowing that the Lord was in the house. It was an incredible experience. I had an amazing sense of the reality of his presence. I was wide awake, but didn’t see anything, I just felt inordinately loved and precious in a way that I had never, ever felt before, even from my husband. It was wonderful. The words ‘born again’ came into my head, and I remember thinking: “Oh, that’s what it means to be born again. I’ve just been born again.”
Early trauma resurfaces
We never had children, although we have a large extended family with over thirty nieces and nephews. Perhaps one of the reasons we didn’t have children is that pain from my childhood surfaced early in our marriage. It was very difficult to walk through, although we were very happy together.
When I was born again at 32, the Lord gave me seven years in which he built me up. I had some really good faith teaching, and I loved the Lord with all my heart. Just before I turned 40, Robert and I went to a Colin Urquhart conference, and the worship was wonderful. During the worship time I prayed: “Lord, would you heal my emotions?” I did not know the full extent of what I was saying, but a week later everything came to the surface.
I had nightmares and life became unbearable at times. I had to give up work, as I couldn’t even get up in the morning. Getting dressed and washed and ready for the day was about all I could manage. When I spent my time with my Heavenly Father my pain eased as I learned to rest in His sweet presence.
My husband was brilliant. The Lord gave him a gift of faith for the future, telling him: “You will need this gift of faith.” He has the ability to be really calm having experienced much childhood illness. He’s not fazed by it. He just cared for me. He was, I suppose, a nurse to me, he did practical things and really prayed with me and for me. It was only later that he told me how anxious he had felt at times.
It wasn’t until I had four years of professional therapy that I began to understand that I had quite severe anxiety and depression. I lost a lot of weight and had suicidal thoughts at times. I didn’t want to die, but living life was very hard. My GP put a careful watch on me, and initially I was given tranquillisers to calm the anxiety. When I came off them everything resurfaced, and I knew the Lord was dealing with it, so I didn’t want any medication that dampened down the symptoms.
Alongside the counselling I also had insightful prayer ministry, because I think, as Christians, we must have both. We need the Holy Spirit and when we’re praying, we need to know what we’re praying into, and what it’s related to.
I went through a prolonged recovery session, probably about 15 years before the last of the physical symptoms which I now recognised and understood completely faded away. I have been miraculously made whole and re –made!
During my recovery, God gave me promises. I think probably the most precious one was in Psalm 32. He said: ‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go” (v8).
I discovered Ignatian spirituality, which is very picture orientated as you imagine yourself in the scriptures. I saw myself as Jairus’ daughter for a long time, being raised from the dead. The Lord spoke to me and moved in my heart through that story – and he still uses it today.
Finding and outworking my purpose
I felt like I had been brought back from the dead. I was alive in a very new way. My Heavenly Father was answering the cries of my heart and rebuilding my soul. I knew he was restoring the Elizabeth that he had created at my conception. I knew God had made me unique; it wasn’t a pride thing I just knew I had been made for a purpose, and I didn’t know it properly yet. The word ‘vocation’ burned a hole in my brain. I thought: “I’ve got to find out what this is, as this is what I do next.”
I listened to Premier Christian Radio and heard all these women who were doing exciting things for God. They all had their particular niche, which captured my attention. I went on a course that, again, somebody advertised on Premier, where I learned what my life mission statement was: “Piloting people through voyages of discovery.”
I went into secondary school work for a while as a teaching assistant, and then a learning mentor. That was when I was in my 50s. And then I discovered life coaching, which I soon realised was what I had been doing naturally without realising. So I did some training and coaching ticked all the boxes. It was like it was tailor made for me.
I started to coach women approaching midlife, The work was slow and steady but I loved what I did.
My husband and I are now working with a coach trainer together to finally ask the question: ‘What does God want us to do with the rest of our lives? We are and will be involved in teaching workshops, interactive talks and one-to-one coaching called ‘Treasure of Darkness’ (as from Isaiah 45). Our aim is to enable others to stretch, flourish and grow, daring to be different and courageous as Caleb was.
Listening prayer has been transformative in my life. I have learned that you don’t tell God how to heal you. Let him do it his way, because his way is much better.
I have also learned that God is very slow, but my testimony is that he is 110 per cent thorough in what he does. What he’s done in my life has lasted, and, of course, that will continue.
Find out more Elizabeth’s work at treasuresofdarkness.co.uk