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I’ve heard the phrase “When God closes a door, he opens another one,” or “When God closes a door, he opens a window,” here and there for probably my entire life. People who use this phrase usually mean, “If that particular opportunity doesn’t work out, then God will provide something else, maybe something better, and it will happen soon, and everything will be awesome.” It’s a comforting thought, but I’m not sure it’s theologically accurate.
The reality is, as my youth ministry compatriot Tim Schmoyer said in a blog post last year, that sometimes God closes a door so that we have to sit in a dark room alone for a little while. Here are three Biblical examples of what I think he means by that.
- Abraham – After waiting 100 years to have a baby with Sarah, his wife, God provided him with one. And then God told Abraham to go find a mountain and sacrifice Isaac on it. I can only imagine Abraham thinking, “Um, God… Are you serious?” God never told Abraham it was just a test, or that He would bring Isaac back to life again afterwards. No. Abraham, in faith, walked with Isaac out to the mountain, built an altar, put Isaac on it, and raised his knife, fully believing that he was about to lose his son. (Genesis 22)
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – These three guys stood firm in their faith in the face of a very powerful king. They defied his edict to worship a weird-looking statue (90 ft. tall, but only 9 ft. wide), with full knowledge that doing so could result in their deaths. The king was, in fact, furious that they disobeyed his edict to worship the statue, and had them thrown into a huge furnace. It never says in scripture that God spoke to these three guys before they were thrown into the furnace, or told them that they wouldn’t burn up. They walked straight into that situation expecting death. (Daniel 3)
- Job – Holy cow, this guy had it bad… He was wealthy, had lots and lots of possessions, had a great family, and apparently was a pretty good guy, too. But God allowed him to be tested in a huge way. God allowed Satan to literally take everything away from Job except for his life. Job lost his family, his wealth, his livestock (in Job’s day sheep, camels, and goats were like BMWs, gold grills, and plasma TVs…), and his health. Then three of his friends came and spent most of the book of Job trying to convince him that it was all his fault, that there must be some sin in his life that he was being punished for. Job eventually cried out to God for justice, and God’s answer was more or less, “I’m God and you’re not, so stop complaining.” In the midst of all this loss and suffering, Job still remained faithful to God. (Job 1-42)
All these people went through very difficult situations with no recorded promise that they would be brought safely through some other “door” or “window”. Yes, they all did end up coming through their trials safely. God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, he saved the Three Amigos from the fire, and he restored Job in full. But in the midst of the trials, these people simply trusted their lives and souls to God and remained faithful to him. There is no indication to any of them that their situation would turn out to be anything other than a tragedy.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that God is faithful to the people he has called (Romans 8:28). But we can’t go into a difficult situation smugly, expecting blessing to come from it. That would be more akin to “putting the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:7). We have to enter into difficult life situations believing and trusting in God, but prepared for the possibility that the situation might last for a very long time and be very unpleasant. It’s not that comforting, I know, but I have yet to find that place in scripture where God promises that the life of a Believer will always be roses, rainbows, and puppy dogs.