Tom Elliff
Oklahoma City, OK

After pastoring for forty-two years, Tom Elliff served the International Mission Board, first as Senior Vice President for Spiritual Nurture and Church Relations from 2005-2009, then as President from 2011-2014. Tom served pastorates in Arkansas, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma and as an IMB missionary in Zimbabwe. Tom also served as president of the SBC Pastor's Conference and two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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The Unwanted Gift

By on July 18, 2016

Only one year ago, my world as I had known it for almost forty-nine years took a sudden and dramatic turn. Only hours earlier, Jeannie had looked up at me from her pillow and whispered the last six words she would speak in this life, “Love you! Love you! Love you! I had gathered her in my arms and said, “Jeannie! Run to Jesus!” Now, she had done just that!

God gave me grace to describe Jeannie’s departure as follows in The Unwanted Gift, (to be released by CLC Publications, October 10, all rights reserved):

Just as we had done so many times before in our forty-eight years and eleven months of marriage, Jeannie and I were lying together, side-by-side, holding hands, alone in our darkened bedroom. Jeannie’s labored breathing had now become settled and quiet.

I began quoting Scripture, a practice that we’d especially leaned upon during these past few months when full hearts and restless thoughts made falling to sleep difficult for us both. But this time, I was speaking the words alone, first from a familiar Psalm, then from Ephesians, and finally the comforting words of Christ spoken just hours before His own death.

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”

At those last words the presence of the Divine Bridegroom filled the room.

Leaning near, He whispered, “It’s time! Now, come away my love!”

Jeannie took one slow, final breath of earth’s stale air, released my hand, and raced into the arms of her Savior. Marveling at the Light and fresh Presence now filling her heart, she entered this, her new home!

Moments later, I stood alone beside our bed, now occupied only by Jeannie’s beautiful but vacated earthly temple, and said a tearful farewell to the love of my life, rejoicing that she was now in the arms of the One Who loved her most.

With these past twelve months now history, I can only marvel at the goodness and grace of God. Not one single time has He failed me when I have cried out for His sustaining grace.  And He has tenderly shepherded me so that I would not “grieve as others who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13).  To be honest, God has given me an eager anticipation for His return to a degree I only preached about in the past. Within Jeannie’s unwanted passing there has been a gift of inestimable value…for us both!

Our life together, Jeannie’s and mine, was one glorious Gospel adventure. But even though my course is now set forward, I felt this anniversary was worthy of remembering, reflecting, and rejoicing in the following reality: Soon…”the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:16-17).

Believe it…beloved! And, as Paul urges, “comfort one another with these words.”

Yes! Rejoice evermore!
Tom Elliff
2 Tim 1:12

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  • Gaius lynn Blackburn

    Tom I just read about the loss of your beautiful wife. William and I thank you for telling your journey together as she departed this earth into the arms of her Savior, It is a wonderful story of a peaceful journey to her new home: so glad you two were together as she left earth for heaven!

  • Janet and David

    Thank you Tom for sharing this sweet transition from this life to be with Christ Jesus! We so appreciate your updates and are so thankful for the future HOPE we have all because of Christ’s great love for us, his children!

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  • Deb Harrell

    What a beautiful story! And such sweet truth and comfort to know that the arms that greeted your wife were still long enough to reach down to embrace and comfort you in your grief. Releasing a loved one to the the Love of their [Eternal] life is a perfect example of JOY. This unwanted gift of release to her Savior is the most precious gift you could give her. And the peace and comfort of confidence in her destination is one of the sweetest and most comforting gifts God can give those who remain for yet a while on this Earth. The world grieves the loss of their happiness…while the Child of God rejoices in the midst of such great grief. May you continue to experience the joy, comfort and peace of the God of Peace which passes all understanding. BLESSINGS!
    -deb brantley harrell

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