If you met someone new, how would you describe yourself?
I might say I’m a mother of three, a working mom, a pastor’s wife, a blogger. Those are titles that describe my different roles and responsibilities, but do they really describe who I am?
If I tried to describe my personality, I might say I’m a silly optimist who loves color-coded spreadsheets and likes to relax by escaping into the lives of my fictional friends on Netflix, Prime, and Disney Plus.
Or if I pulled my past in, I might say I’m a California transplant living in the Pacific Northwest, daughter of an engineer and a teacher, and younger sister to a brother who’s also one of my best friends.
But that doesn’t fully capture me, either.
When it comes down to it, all of us are incredibly complex. I think that’s why Psalm 139 uses the picture of God knitting us together. We’re intricate. We took time. He had an intentional design for us. And he’s not done with us yet. He’s using everything up to this moment to prepare us for what’s just around the corner.
Turning to Elijah
Last year I did Priscilla Shirer’s Elijah study with some women at my church. I did it because I felt like I didn’t know much about Elijah and I wanted to learn more, but through the study, God used Priscilla’s insights into this prophet to shift my perspective and understanding of God’s preparation in my life, too.
Although Elijah is known for a big, flashy display of God’s power on Mount Carmel, that’s not where his story starts. And that’s not where Priscilla started.
She started by looking at Elijah’s backstory. Who was he? Where did he come from? What was his life like growing up?
To quickly summarize, Elijah grew up in Gilead: where Jacob and his family fled, where the Ishmaelites Joseph’s brothers sold him to were from, and part of the promised land.
Gilead wasn’t a big city like the one King Ahab (the king at the time) lived in. It was a hard, rough, obscure place. But it was the right place to prepare Elijah for what God was planning.
That time in Gilead is where God formed Elijah’s heart. He started learning to rely on and trust in God. As Priscilla explained on page 37 of her Elijah Bible study book:
In Gilead is where his own set of personal trials and difficulties became the start of a process of living and thinking and navigating his journey through faith.
God prepared Elijah to meet King Ahab, protected Elijah from King Ahab, and slowly got Elijah ready for what He was going to do next.
God knew where we’d be
God’s doing the same thing in our lives. I find that really reassuring. He’s using my backstory–my life growing up and the things I learned there–along with the day-to-day of my life now to prepare me for the moment I’m in now. And then for the moment coming after that. And then the moment after that.
I find that so reassuring. There’s so much uncertainty in life, especially as a parent. Sometimes I wonder:
- Am I protecting my kids enough?
- Am I preparing my kids enough?
- Am I explaining things to them well enough?
- Am I teaching them what they need to know in a way they can understand?
- Am I modeling a life of discipleship well enough?
It’s a lot you can feel pressured about! But it helps me to remember that God created each of our kids for us to raise, and He loves them more than we do. We won’t be perfect parents, but we can trust that He’ll use our mistakes to prepare them for things in their lives, too.
God’s timing with big changes
I feel like the timing of this Elijah study ended up being perfect, too. Looking back at it now, I can see that internalizing God as the author of my backstory and my identity has prepared me for a couple of big changes over the past few months: both my husband and I took on new jobs.
He shares the load
While my job is a promotion in the same field (and even same organization), there are still moments when I feel like I don’t have the skills and abilities for it. I know my feelings aren’t reliable, and the new role has been going well, but there are still times I wonder if I’m going to mess up something big and everything’s going to blow up in my face. It’s a lot more responsibility, and I feel the weight of it sometimes.
But usually in those moments God has different ways of reminding myself to lift that weight up to Him. He reminds me that He put me in this job. He’s right there by my side. Yes, I have a lot more responsibility than I used to, but I don’t need to let it weigh me down. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He’s lifting the load alongside me (and even carrying more than His share of the weight).
He prepares us
And my husband didn’t just take on a new job: he took on a new career–in ministry. I’m so proud of him and excited he’s in this role, but it’s a big change for our whole family.
Still, this is another area where I can see ways that God used numerous experiences in our past to prepare both of us for his role as lead pastor. And I’m confident that we’ll continue to see ways God’s prepared us for this position.
God created us for this. And He’s using this to continue to prepare us for what’s coming.
Just like God prepared Elijah.
Prep takes time
One of the things I really took away from Priscilla’s study is that this kind of preparation is a long process. It takes years of hard work. We may think of Elijah and the huge, flashy display of God’s power, but if we look closely at his life before and after that moment, we can see that God prepared him with years of day-to-day discipline.
What do you want and who do you want to be?
Priscilla nailed it for me.
- Faith, courage, boldness.
- A prayer life that pushes back the darkness.
- Character that possesses and unflinching backbone.
- A holy conviction that doesn’t bow to popular opinion.
We want to be:
- Brimming over with the fullness of God’s Spirit and power.
- Brave enough to speak truth to authority with love and grace.
- Singularly focused, inspiring others’ allegiance to the one true God.
- People who leave behind a lasting impact on future generations.
What do you focus on?
Priscilla also honed in on biblical examples of where we should place our focus:
- Refocus away from comfort and toward calling: Hebrews 11 calls out faith heroes who didn’t make comfort their primary life ambition.
- Be less concerned with public perception: 1 Corinthians 2 shows us a man is unmotivated by cultural acceptance, indifferent to the approval of his peers, uninterested in impressing others with his own ability.
- Learn to endure opposition: Luke 21 is where Jesus’ disciples are challenged to be prepared to face persecution and be testimonies of God’s glory in the middle of it.
- Develop a deeper purity and fervency in prayer: Matthew 6 shows us crowds of religious people being instructed by Jesus to dismantle the veneer of pious tradition, exchanging it for authentic, fervent relationship with him.
How to prepare
How did Elijah prepare for what God had in store for him? According to James 5:17, he prayed. A lot.
Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.
Not only did Elijah pray for weeks (and maybe even years), but he prayed that God’s will would be done above everything else–even his own comfort. As Priscilla points out on page 40, a drought in the land meant he would experience a drought, too.
God factors in our humanness
It’s also helpful to remember that everyone in the Bible is human. That’s one reason I appreciate their flaws being included. Elijah was human, just like us.
But I love how Priscilla explained this on pages 19-20:
Biblical heroes like Elijah are examples to us of what happens when an ordinary life intersects with an extraordinary God…God knew about all these tendencies in Elijah (insecurity, irritability, discouragement, loss of perspective), and He factored them in. He worked with them.
Just like He factored them in with Elijah, He’s factoring them in with me, too. He knows about my tendencies, and while I should continue to work on them, my nature isn’t going to mess up God’s plan.
My identity is in God
Ultimately, who we are and why we’re here lies with God. I’m a daughter of the King, and I’m here to serve Him.
What does that look like for me? Sometimes it’s writing in my blog or doing my job to the best of my ability. Other times it’s cooking dinner for my family or shifting plans last-minute to support my husband. Most of the time it’s the day-to-day discipline of turning my focus back to Him, working on praying more consistently, and making time to learn more and more about His truth.
As Priscilla wrote (page 43):
Your identity as a believer is something you wear today. Right now. Here is where you stand.
As 1 Peter 2:9-10 says, you are:
- Chosen: you are a “chosen people.”
- Royal: you are “a royal priesthood.”
- Holy: you are “a holy nation.”
- Child of God: you are God’s own “people.”
- Proclaimer: you are made to proclaim or declare His “praises.”
- Called: you’ve been called “out of darkness.”
- Light: you are called into His marvelous, wonderful “light.”