The Gift of Closed Doors

Way back in 1959, I set foot on the campus of Dallas Theological Seminary as a first-year student, and Cynthia found a job as an assistant to a CPA—a family man who loved spending time with his wife and their two small sons. They often entertained friends in their home.

On one occasion, he and his wife had invited guests over for dinner the very evening he was returning home on a flight from Florida to Dallas. Those were the days before electronic ticketing, so having a paper ticket in hand didn’t necessarily guarantee you a seat. In rare instances, a person with a ticket and even a seat assignment could be bumped if somebody had purchased a ticket for the same seat just minutes before them.

That’s what happened to our friend. In fact, he was already settled on the plane when the flight attendant informed him that he had to surrender his seat. Another passenger’s ticket had higher priority. The hardest part was having to phone his wife and tell her he’d been bumped and wouldn’t make it in time for their dinner.

There he sat, waiting for the next flight to Dallas while his wife had to put the kids to bed, finish preparing the meal, and entertain their guests all on her own.

Later that evening, the original plane he had hoped to take from Florida to Texas crashed in the Gulf of Mexico. There were no survivors.

That closed door saved his life.

A lot of life’s letdowns have a greater purpose in God’s detailed orchestration of events designed to lead us, protect us, and provide for us.

That five-minute delay looking for your misplaced car key? Maybe the Lord kept you out of a deadly accident on your commute.

That part-time job you didn’t get when you were in college? Maybe the Lord steered you away from a wrong career path.

That date who stood you up and made you feel so small all those years ago? Maybe it was God’s way of keeping you available for the person He had in mind for you to meet and later marry.

Life is full of these so-called God moments, when we realize He has been conducting every detail in ways we could never have imagined.

In fact, I’ve come to believe that rather than being great disappointments, closed doors can often be magnificent gifts from our sovereign God. Instead of resenting them, I’ve learned to accept them.

Our God is full of surprises. It’s impossible for us to guess ahead of time what He’s doing in our lives, where He’s leading us, and what His ultimate plan includes. Our response to Him should be one of simple, childlike trust and obedience—acceptance without resistance.

I’m convinced that you and I spend too much of our lives staring at closed doors. We’re dejected, disappointed, maybe even offended that God wouldn’t let us through. We make our plans, plot our courses, and push off with enthusiasm—only to be waylaid by some insurmountable obstacle that sends us back to square one.

All these closed doors make me think about the words of cartoonist Walt Kelly in his old Pogo comic strip: “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.” What a great, paradoxical turn of phrase: insurmountable opportunities! The truth is, God closes doors to the logical, easy path in order to open routes to opportunities that we have viewed as insurmountable.

I think about the Israelites fleeing Egypt and heading for the Promised Land, the Egyptian army behind them to the west, a long shoreline of the Red Sea stretching north and south. They stood at the edge of that massive sea, about to be overcome by the enemy. What an insurmountable opportunity for God to step in and do the impossible! You know how the story turned out. Take courage from it and trust God to guide your own steps.

Consider these four principles you can use whenever you face obstacles or disappointments.

  1. Because God is sovereign, He’s in full control of all the doors in your life. I find great comfort in knowing God is God and I am not. The longer I’ve lived, the less put off I am when God slams doors shut and moves me in another direction. Yes, early on in life and ministry it irritated me. I’d sometimes pout, maybe even grumble. But I finally discovered He always opens new doors of opportunity I could never have imagined. I’m not at all offended when a good, all-wise, sovereign God steers me in a better direction. In fact, I’m grateful. And you should be too.
  2. God takes full responsibility for the doors He closes to you and those He opens. It’s not your responsibility. It’s His. So, stop pounding on those closed doors and trying to pry them open. Leave them with God. He can—and will—deal with what’s behind them in His own way. You don’t need to worry about them. The door God closes to you may be opened for somebody else. That’s His business. Move along, knowing that the Lord will guide you where He needs you.
  3. When a door closes to something good, it will often lead you to an open door of something better. When God closes a door, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your plan was bad. It doesn’t always mean that He’s keeping you from evil or from danger. It may very well be that He’s steering you away from something that would have been good. But where He leads you instead is much better. Remember the meandering route taken by Paul, Silas, and Timothy? Ministry in Asia and Bithynia would have been good, no doubt. But passing through the gateway to continental Europe pushed the church farther out much faster than anybody could have expected. We know other missionaries and apostles covered the areas of Asia and Bithynia. It’s not that God didn’t want the gospel to go there. It’s that God had bigger, better plans for Paul at the time. So, when God closes the door on something you know would be good, brace yourself. He may have something even better in mind.
  4. Not until you walk through the door God opens will you realize the necessity for closing the others. Paul couldn’t have imagined exactly what he was walking into when he set foot in Troas. But as soon as he boarded that ship for Macedonia and put the pieces together, he undoubtedly recognized God’s fingerprints all over their adventure. Perfect timing. Perfect planning. Even if he had strategized for months, Paul couldn’t have worked out that itinerary of divine appointments and history-changing opportunities. Looking back, what seemed like a meandering path turned out to be a logical, dot-to-dot route to God’s perfect will. Someday you may be able to look back on your own life and trace a similar pattern of His design.

So, when doors slam shut in your path, don’t be discouraged. Instead, like Paul and Silas, wait expectantly for a better opportunity. When it comes, step through the door God opens for you and accept it with gratitude.

Adapted from Clinging to Hope: What Scripture Says about Weathering Times of Trouble, Chaos, and Calamity by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright ©2022. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.  All rights reserved.