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When God Closes a Door, He Opens Another

Luisa Collopy

Contributing Writer
Updated May 15, 2024
When God Closes a Door, He Opens Another

Paul was set apart for this work by God, and he allowed God to write the plan, whether he be a free man or in captivity.

Heidi posted, “I am excited to share that I’m entering…a new chapter in life.” But how often are these new, exciting chapters welcomed after a season of hardship? I am thinking of a friend’s new chapter of caring for her husband who has lymphoma. Another friend will soon have a new chapter involving retirement come fall and becoming a full-time caregiver to her sister with Down Syndrome. 

When Our Best-Laid Plans Go Wrong

We have been conditioned by the world to believe that it's important to have a mission statement (a vision) for our lives. Along with that, we scribble a one-, five-, or ten-year personal and professional plan. All these, of course, are meant to help positively shape our course with clarity and direction. Yay for every item in the plan we get to accomplish!

But no one writes a divorce, a health crisis, or a job layoff in a plan. There is no way something devastating can motivate any of us to a sense of purpose and fulfillment. These are not tasks that we want to tick off on our lists. In fact, they cause our best-laid plans to go wrong!

I remember the time I was working in a five-star deluxe hotel abroad. Armed with my five-year professional plan, I was already head of the catering department before I hit the age of 30. Then, I was picked to do a “technology transfer” program, shadowing the Food and Beverage director to learn the ropes for my next career level. It so happened that my marriage turned sour at that time. The last thing on my mind was to climb the corporate ladder. I had two young children to care for, and working long hours to achieve another promotion didn’t seem as enticing to me as it was in the past. I had to navigate the big change to single parenting, eventually leaving the hotel industry.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps,” says Proverbs 16:9. Were your best-laid plans God’s personal revelations to you, so you wrote them down as your goals? Or did you formulate the plans yourself, then commit them to the Lord to subject them to His ultimate will and purpose? Often, asking for God’s thoughts on our best-laid plans is an afterthought, leaving room for His guidance only when things are not going well anymore. 

The Apostle Paul, then called Saul, had his own personal and professional plans laid out. He was set to kill the followers of Jesus Christ. Goal #1 was successful when he approved the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:55-60). Goal #2 was to “ravage the church, and enter house after house, to drag off men and women and commit them to prison” (Acts 8:1,3). Goal #3 was to go to the high priest to obtain “letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:2).

On his way to Damascus, Paul had an unexpected encounter with the Lord. “And for three days he was without sight…” (v.9). God had shut the door!

Step Back and Make Room for God’s New Plans

So…what? We all fail at some point! We may have a script perfectly written out, but God says, “Rubbish! I don’t need your help in writing your life script!” Do you know how scary it is to hear such words? When I was sitting at my immigration lawyer’s office, he said, “How wonderful to read your resume! But we won’t need your job experience. Your college degree is enough.” Then, he put my resume through the shredder.

We like to build a long list of our stellar accomplishments—and it’s really meant to impress others, to make them see our worth. But God already says to us, His children, “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4). Why wouldn’t He do something special for us when He says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7)? Maybe because we like to ask Him when we need to be bailed out. We want to seek Him only when we have no one else to rely on. And we think of knocking only when we can’t open the door ourselves.

My late friend used to say, “God will make sure to put us on our backs if we don’t stop spinning.” This happened to Saul, who was led to Damascus. “He was without sight and neither ate nor drank” for three days (Acts 9:9). Ananias, a disciple, was given a vision by God and instructed to go to Saul. God said to Ananias, “Go, for [Saul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel…. So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight” (vv.15, 17-18). 

Jesus blinded Saul, stopping him in his tracks to redirect him! “For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ And all who heard him were amazed and said, ‘Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?’ But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ” (vv.18-22).

Paul was given a foretaste of what was to come. His preparation for the work took some years before his first overseas mission.

When our best-laid plans go wrong, we need to step back and make room for God’s new plans! Perhaps He wants us to take some time off between now and our next goal, career, or mission for self-discovery and recovery. When we are caught up with busyness and emotions, we don’t have enough headspace to pursue anything. Heidi went to pottery and baking classes after her divorce and layoff from her job of 17 years. She has discovered how time has healed her from the events in the last two years of her life. Christine, a friend, is enjoying her painting classes now that she is retired. And what beautiful art she has been producing on canvas!  

When God Opens a Door, Walk Through It

Are we starting to feel some excitement for our new chapter? Can we feel the butterflies in our stomachs as the plan takes shape? Or are we still looking through dark glasses, making everything look obscure and hidden from our view?

Paul wrote of himself, saying, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…” (Romans 1:1). From persecuting Christians to delivering the gospel of Christ, Paul embraced his new chapter. He preached the message of salvation, righteous living, and the marks of a true Christian all over the Mediterranean. 

Even when Paul was before the Roman tribune and the chief priests and the governor, he talked of his conversion, his testimony. Eventually setting sail for and arriving in Rome, he lived his life with the soldier who guarded him. But he “welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30). He wrote most of his letters to the churches during this time.

Paul’s mission statement (his vision) was to be the best representative of the gospel of Christ. His goals were exclusive to the proclamation of the Kingdom of God and to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ. His audience was everyone available to listen. He was successful, a notable name even to this day. Why? Because Paul was set apart for this work by God and he allowed God to write the plan, whether he be a free man or in captivity.

So, are you still planning for your dream job or to launch a successful startup? Or are you looking forward to pursuing a field of interest or taking that sabbatical you have been longing for? Whatever it is you have in mind, make sure to include God in your decision-making. For when God closes a door, He will open another! 

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Jared Murray

Luisa Collopy is an author, speaker and a women’s Bible study teacher. She also produces Mula sa Puso (From the Heart) in Tagalog (her heart language), released on FEBC Philippines stations. Luisa loves spending time with her family over meals and karaoke!