He’ll Show You the Way: The Adventure of Learning to Follow God with Elizabeth Bristol
Click here to listen to Elizabeth’s full interview!
In this episode, you’ll also hear:
- How Elizabeth found adventure beyond her wildest dreams through learning to follow God
- The importance of being vulnerable about your pain and struggles so you can help others with the same experiences
- Tips for making time to listen to God’s voice and follow His lead
- How to reach out to your audience in a way that’s authentic, personal, and effective
- Elizabeth’s advice for the author who wants to follow God, but fears they won’t have what it takes to write and publish a book and get it into the hands of those who need to hear it
Be sure to read all the way to the end for important information and links!
Do you ever feel like you are under pressure to be perfect? Vulnerability is scary – it means opening up our imperfect lives to other people and being at risk for criticism, judgment, and sometimes even rejection. So then, why should we bother being vulnerable? What benefits does it have for us and our readers?
The truth is, vulnerability is actually one of the keys to success. Why? Because through vulnerability, God often works in us and through us. Consider this: the reason you think you are unqualified could very well be the reason that God keeps nudging you to move forward.
Author and speaker Elizabeth Bristol has an amazing story of adventure – about how she came to know and follow God – and now she’s on a mission to draw others to Christ. Through being vulnerable about her own past, she is able to give voice to the struggles that other women like her are facing, and to offer them the same type of freedom God has given her.
May Elizabeth’s words encourage and inspire you to step out, to be brave, and to follow God where He leads.
Healing for the Past, Help in the Present, Hope for the Future
Elizabeth identifies her mission as “helping women who need healing for their past, help in their present, and hope for the future, so that they can grow in relationship with God to reach their destiny.”
However, Elizabeth’s story didn’t start with her looking for God. Instead, she was looking for fun, and she thought Christianity would be boring. But when she found herself crewing on a boat in the Caribbean on dangerous 30-foot seas, terrified for her life, she cried out to God – and God answered. “I prayed that universal prayer,” she recalls. “You know the one: ‘God if you’re real, and you help me, I will do what you want.’ Turns out, God’s real. And he’s there for us when we ask him for help.”
That was the beginning of Elizabeth’s relationship with God, which she describes as having actual conversations – some of which led to her book, Mary Me: One Woman’s Incredible Adventure with God. However, when Elizabeth first started writing, there were certain stories she had no intention of telling. Stories about pain she had suffered on her journey. She didn’t know that she still needed to be healed of that pain – but God did.
Even after writing those stories in detail, Elizabeth still didn’t want to share them. Instead, she buried them in a drawer and tried to ignore God’s prompting. But it didn’t work. God kept prodding, telling her there were other women out there just like her – women who also needed healing. Hearing those stories would help them heal, too.
Elizabeth says it took about ten minutes for God to talk her into it after that. Instead of fear, she felt excitement, because now she knew that God could take the terrible things that had happened to her and work them for good.
So as Elizabeth wrote that book – and shared those stories she wasn’t going to tell – she realized it was not only for her own healing, but so she could help others in the same way. She learned that God has an adventure for each of us: “As a Christian, you are an atmosphere changer with a destiny. And what you’ve got in you – or I should say, Who you’ve got in you – you can’t help but make a difference. As you follow God, you cannot help but influence the world around you.”
Having experienced the profound satisfaction of partnering with God to reach her destiny and doing what He asks of her, Elizabeth is on a mission to help other women discover their own adventure with God. That adventure comes complete with healing for the past – which they might not even realize they need yet – help in the present, and hope for the future. But not just hope: Elizabeth wants other women to experience excitement in finding out what they were created to do. To “have a blast with God!”
Following God Even When You Don’t Want To
As Elizabeth wrote her book, she prayed that every person who read it would be able to see their own story through it – not only the bad, painful parts that God has turned for good, but also the opportunity to walk through life with God, step by step, and to hear directly from Him.
Thinking back over some of her recent chats with God, she realizes that a common thread in her relationship with Him is that God will ask her to do something, and she will (initially) say “No.” And yet, once she does say “yes,” she finds that it’s always the best action she could have taken.
For example, not long after beginning her relationship with God, Elizabeth started attending a large church. While Elizabeth wanted God to send her into foreign missions, she instead heard Him prompting her to apply for a job working at the church. Even though she outright told the interviewer that she didn’t want the job and was only applying because God made her do it, she ended up working there after all. And, six years later, when God prompted her to leave the position and pursue a counseling degree, she had fallen in love with the job and didn’t want to leave.
Elizabeth isn’t alone in having this kind of experience. Often, when God calls us to do something, our first reaction is to say, “No, that can’t be it!” We have different thoughts and ideas about what would be best. But God’s thoughts are different from our thoughts, and He knows which path we need to go on. Sometimes it just takes us a little bit of time to catch up.
In a similar way, Elizabeth knew for a very long time that she was going to write, but what she didn’t know was what kind of message it would be. A few of her friends felt the same, so they decided to set aside time each week to meet together and start writing, just to see what would happen.
Now, about a week before this, Elizabeth felt God prompting her to fast while writing. But again, at first she brushed it aside. But as she prepared to write that day, she borrowed a friend’s Bible. As she paged through it, her eyes fell on the top of the page, where the heading said, “Write.” The passage was about Moses being with God for 40 days and 40 nights – without eating bread or drinking water. Point taken: Elizabeth decided to fast after all.
As she kept turning pages, Jeremiah 30:2 caught her attention: “Write in a book all of the words that I have spoken to you.” After years of wondering what she was supposed to write, suddenly Elizabeth knew she needed to put her story in a book. All it took was her being obedient and sitting down to start, and God gave her exactly what she needed to write.
Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?
When it comes to struggles she faced while writing, Elizabeth says she’s her own worst enemy. Not only did she wrestle with sharing her vulnerabilities, but she also resisted telling the story in her own authentic voice – which included some profanity. Swayed by her editor, who said the book would reach a much wider audience if she cleaned up the language, Elizabeth removed the profanity.
But once the book was up on Amazon, Elizabeth felt convicted: “I did a faceplant after that. I just felt like I was in trouble. Here, I’m writing a book on following God, and I’m not following God.”
Elizabeth realized that, while her book as it was originally written might not reach the same number of people, it was more important for it to reach the people God wanted her to reach: people who also swear sometimes. People who need to know that God still comes through, even when we slip up. Elizabeth ended up paying $400 to re-edit her book with the profanity included, to clear her conscience and follow God’s leading.
The Fruit of Obedience
As Elizabeth practiced obedience, she found door after door opening up in front of her. Instead of listening to what others said was the “right” way to go about marketing her book, she made a habit of asking God what He wanted her to do. She calls the process an incredible adventure deserving of its own book.
One door that God opened was for Elizabeth to borrow a beach house (for free!) for eight years. Another was the writer group that God led her to join, in which she met both her biggest cheerleader and her greatest critiquer – and neither were the people she would have expected to fill those roles. But Elizabeth is confident she needed both of those people to help her become the writer she is today.
Next, Elizabeth had the opportunity to intern and volunteer with the #1 Christian literary agent in the country. While the agent was not meant to become Elizabeth’s agent, the many things he taught her during that time were enough for her to know it was the right step for her to take.
From there, the agent connected Elizabeth with a book doctor, who gave her extremely discouraging feedback. “ I was tempted to faceplant,” she recalls. “And the Lord said, ‘Save that; write that down somewhere. Because when your book comes out, that’s going to be a testimony.” Though the feedback hurt, the book doctor taught Elizabeth many things she needed to know. And then, God led her to the next person – the next point in her journey.
That journey has been a process of learning to ask what God would have her do, and then obeying what He tells her. For example, Elizabeth specifically asked God what He wanted for Christmas, and the response she got was that she needed to record an audiobook for her book that had just come out. While she didn’t know how to do that, she followed God’s lead to Nashville, and had a blast giving God the gift He’d asked for.
As Elizabeth has learned, being obedient to God isn’t always simple, but it is important. And when we do obey, God is able to bring people and opportunities into our lives that we could never have imagined.
Be Still & Listen to God’s Voice
Throughout her journey, Elizabeth says the biggest challenge is always whatever she’s working on at that moment. Every step of the way has its own challenge, but Elizabeth is quick to add that it’s wildly fun, and she can’t imagine doing anything else.
One particular challenge Elizabeth recalls was finding time to spend with God while balancing all her other thoughts and responsibilities. So she started journaling. When she felt too overwhelmed to write, she would sit down with a journal and pour her heart out to God until she had nothing left to say.
Of course, God already knew her thoughts, but the process of getting all those thoughts out of her head and onto the page helped her listen to God’s voice more attentively: “He would just lift that pressure off me. So by the time I finished spending time with God, I was in the right frame of mind where I could work.”
Like all writers, sometimes Elizabeth found herself getting stuck and not knowing how to progress. When that happens – both while writing and when she encounters problems in her daily life – Elizabeth adds the problem to what she calls her “thinking list.” Instead of wasting time trying to force an answer, she gives those problems over to God and waits for Him to provide her with a solution.
That’s a powerful way to deal with problems, isn’t it? Sometimes we have to stop trying to come up with an answer on our own and get into a space where we can truly hear God’s voice. Because often, God is speaking, but we simply cannot hear.
Elizabeth’s story is an important reminder that whatever your platform is built on, you will be tested on. While encouraging others to follow God, Elizabeth has had to learn how to follow Him more closely herself.
The C.A.N. Podcast Tour: Making New Connections
Following God is also what led Elizabeth to join our Christian Authors Network podcast tour. For her, some of the biggest takeaways from being involved in the community have been connections – both for support in marketing and publishing, and also for friendship and encouragement to work toward a common goal.
When Elizabeth appeared on author Janet Huxley’s podcast, her first observation was that the two of them could easily chat for hours. But she also realized that God had her speaking on Janet’s podcast for the benefit of the people who would be listening.
As the two sought God’s guidance on how they could best help their listeners, they came to understand that they shared a common passion to help other women – and especially Christian women who have had an abortion and haven’t understood the healing that is available for them and that God wants them to have.
The conversation opened up more ideas for how these two women could potentially partner together for this common cause in the future. While Elizabeth hesitates to call talking about such painful topics as abortion “fun,” she can’t deny the exhilaration that comes from watching God take something terrible from her past and turn it into something good.
Show Up for Your Audience
Part of the podcast tour preparations involved setting up a video series that Elizabeth could offer visitors to her website who want to delve deeper into the healing she speaks about. Originally, Elizabeth had written the information out instead – after all, it’s much easier to send out a PDF than to get on camera. But Elizabeth really wanted to interact more directly with the people who are interested in this type of healing.
In the video series, she shares her own experiences and some of the lies she once believed. “What God kept revealing to me in these painful places is that we act on what we think,” she says. “So if we believe a lie, we’re going to go off course from what he wants us to do. But in just a moment, he can reveal things to us, whether it’s by hugging us, or giving us a one liner, or just blessing us in whatever way God wants to. And it takes us from the place of following a lie to acting on his truth.”
By creating videos to walk her audience through this journey, Elizabeth is able to have a much more personal connection with each person. And not only that, it removes some of the barriers that might prevent some people from reaching out.
As amazing as PDFs are, they do put more onus on the receiver to read them on their own and put them into practice. On the other hand, it’s much easier to simply open an email, click “play” on a video, and listen as Elizabeth speaks life into you. When your goal is to help as many people as you can, it’s useful to make it as easy as possible for people to receive that help.
Many people are afraid to film videos like these, because they don’t want to come across as fake or corny. But, as Elizabeth has learned, the important thing is to be clear with your message and to let the unique personality God has given you shine. The more people feel as though they’re hearing from a friend – someone who has been through the same types of experiences they have and who really cares about their struggles – the more you’ll be able to help them.
Just Follow God – He’ll Show You the Way
Writing a book and getting it out into the world is a journey. It’s not always as simple as we would like it to be. But the good news is that God is with us.
As Elizabeth is well aware, many of us fear that we might not have what it takes to succeed as an author. If that’s you, Elizabeth wants you to know that God knows what you’re capable of. As a Christian, you have a unique superpower in your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Following God isn’t always easy, but there are a lot of people out there like Elizabeth who are cheering you on. “I promise if you follow God,” Elizabeth says, “you will have your own incredible adventure with God.”
She invites you to picture yourself standing in heaven, about to receive your rewards for what you did on earth. Imagine God calling forward people who read your book – people you never knew, who came to know Jesus because of your obedience. “You will never know until you get to heaven how many people begin their adventure with God because of your story,” Elizabeth adds. But as long as you follow God, He’ll show you the way.
Elizabeth Bristol is a passionate author, speaker, and educator. She has spent her life learning how to overcome the pain of emotional abuse and neglect through Christ-centered care. Writing about her experiences as a people-pleaser, victim of abuse, and struggles with self-esteem, Elizabeth shares her journey into a relationship with God who helped her break free from the lies that were running rampant in her head–lies like “It’s all your fault.” God met Elizabeth where she was and began to show her how He loves her unconditionally—no matter what she’s done. Now she’s on a mission to help others believe that God loves them unconditionally too.
Connect with Fellow Authors and Learn about the Podcast Tour: http://christianauthors.net/fbgroup