Shadow of the Almighty has a different focus than Through Gates of Splendor. While there is necessarily some overlap between the two books, Shadow of the Almighty is written not so much about Jim's life events, but rather about what made him who he was. The book draws largely from Jim's own writings - letters and journals - to reveal the heart of a devoted servant of God.
Three major emphases stand out to me. The first is that Jim's life was entirely in God's hands. Jim did not die at the hand of the Aucas because God was not able to protect, but rather because it was the means for accomplishing God's purposes. God could have spared Jim's life, and He did so on multiple occasions when Jim was mere inches or seconds from death. Narrow escapes include the bullet through his hair, the train that demolished his car, flood waters that swept the clinic building over a cliff, and a prolonged raging fever. Jim died when and only when it was God's time for him.
The second emphasis is Jim's submission to "the Will" (as he called it). Jim was absolutely committed to following God's plan for his life; he was sensitive to God's timing and made deliberate choices based on his understanding of that will. Jim's personal preferences and desires were secondary to what he believed would best accomplish God's work through him. This firm passion to follow the will led to decisions about attending college, extra-curricular activities while in college, being a wrestler, spending time with his family, learning life skills, involvement in ministry opportunities, devotion to the Word, dedication to language study, postponing marriage, and much more. If something would help him to accomplish God's work, he would do it; if something would hinder him, he would refrain.
The third emphasis is that Jim was passionate but not perfect. He clearly had a heart that pursued God, and his writings reflect that intense heart desire. Through Bible study, prayer, Christian fellowship, and so on, Jim attempted to protect and increase his devotion to God. His spiritual life was not, however, one of unbroken excitement and intensity. He faced times of discouragement and emptiness, when his spirit seemed dull and when nothing seemed to be happening. He battled through seasons when his Bible study and ministries seemed unproductive and profitless. Through these times, this man with a heart for God persevered and pushed through. He continued faithfully due to his conviction that walking with God really worked and really was worthwhile.
Jim Elliot was used greatly by God through his life and his death. Such effective ministers of God do not happen by accident. They happen when there is an individual who above all loves God, who deliberately pursues a relationship with Him, and who gives himself unreservedly to God's work. Oh, that more men and women today would live that way! Wherever in the world those people exist, that is where God is doing a great work.
Some readers will prefer the easier narrative style of Through Gates of Splendor, but a Christian who wants to be challenged in his walk with God would profit from Shadow of the Almighty.
Here is a list of other books about the five martyrs and the ongoing work among the Aucas. I knew about several of these, but found a more complete list on a blog by Natasha Metzler. Her post provides brief descriptions of the various books as well as some other related resources.
· The Journals of Jim Elliot· Jungle Pilot: The Story of Nate Saint, Martyred Missionary to Ecuador
· Peter Fleming: A Man of Faith
· The Savage, My Kinsman
· The Dayuma Story: Life Under Auca Spears
· A Saint Among the Savages
· Unfolding Destinies: The Ongoing Story of the Auca Mission
· End of the Spear
· Gentle Savage Still Seeking the End of the Spear
· Unstilled Voices: A Look Back at the Auca Massacre and the Lives It Touched and Changed
"He is no fool who gives that which he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose." (Jim Elliot)