Sometimes it seems God gets in the way of us doing the very things He’s commanded. The most frustrating part of these moments isn’t our lack of success. It’s our confusion. Why does God close the door on His will?
These roadblocks in God’s guiding us show up in various ways.
- A relationship that stays strained.
- A ministry effort that can’t start.
- A job search that lands nowhere.
- A person who refuses to change.
These closed doors can confuse our spiritual lives by seeming to contradict the will of God. Doesn’t the Lord want relationships to mend, people to change, ministry to occur, and provision for daily needs?
Thankfully, the Bible’s geography offers us some clarity.
Beginning with Closed Doors
The Apostle Paul began his second missionary journey with his traveling companion, Silas. When they came to Lystra (where the locals had stoned Paul on the first journey), Paul met Timothy, a young man who joined them on the journey.
As they planned their itinerary, the doors began to slam shut.
- They tried to speak God’s Word in Asia, but the Holy Spirit forbid them to do so—and slammed the door (Acts 16:6). But why? Wasn’t sharing the Word kind of the whole point? Didn’t Asia need the gospel?
- They moved on and tried to enter Bithynia. But again, “The Spirit of Jesus did not permit them” (v. 7). Slam! Sorry, Bithynia, you don’t get to hear God’s Word. But how come?
A European Doorknob Unlocks
When they came to the port city of Troas, Paul had a vision from the Lord of a Macedonian man asking for help. Suddenly, it was as if the team heard a door unlock and blow wide open.
They boarded a ship to Europe.
When Paul and his companions landed at Neapolis, God’s gospel of grace touched a new continent that would spread His Word across the world. In the major city of Philippi, doors kept opening:
- The Lord “opened [Lydia’s] heart” to hear the Word of God.
- He opened the prison doors of a jailer’s heart, as well his whole family.
In opening a door to Europe, God opened European hearts as well.
But What about Asia and Bithynia?
Geography offers us some insight into why God shut the doors to Asia and Bithynia. It all proved a matter of timing, for the doors would blow open in a few years. In fact, the very team the Lord had shut the door on—Paul, Silas, Timothy—would play a major role in God’s plan for Asia and Bithynia.
- Timothy would serve as pastor to Ephesus, a major city in Asia.
- Paul would travel to Asia on his 3rd Missionary Journey; he would even live in Ephesus for several years.
- From his house arrest in Rome, Paul would write to the churches of Asia in his epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians and in his letter to Laodecia.
- Silas would serve as Peter’s secretary in writing 1 Peter “to those chosen of God in … Asia and Bithynia” (1:1).
The reasons for the closed doors of the past became clear: God wanted the gospel in Asia and Bithynia, yes. But He wanted it in Europe first.
Closed Doors, Geography, and God’s Timing
The Lord reveals His will in our lives just as much by slamming doors as He does by opening them. Part of God showing us the direction to go includes revealing what direction(s) to avoid.
We read God’s story of our lives chapter by chapter. It’s a progressive revelation that includes all the drama of a great novel.
That means the godly passions we have for life will likely bump up against one closed door after another—whether it’s a passion for ministry, reconciliation, repentance, or employment—anything God has revealed in His Word as His will. It’s essential we remember God’s will includes God’s timing. The Lord has a reason for today’s closed door.
If the Lord closes the door on something that seems should be His will, we needn’t give up on those closed doors altogether. It could, in fact, be His will—but just not His timing. Keep praying and turning the doorknob from time to time. You may find it unlocked one day.
- A door closed now doesn’t mean a door closed forever. It could just be a matter of God’s timing.
- Locked doors don’t always equal personal defeat, wrong goals, or misplaced passions.
- Roadblocks don’t mean we’ll never find resolution to the tensions that trouble us.
Instead, closed doors teach us what we never would have learned otherwise about our dependence the wisdom of God’s timing and sovereignty.
We can learn from the geography of Asia and Bithynia that our seeming setbacks merely represent an essential part of God’s plan to move us forward.