Why God Closes Doors On Good Plans In The World

Paul's time at Troas reveals why God's plans forward begin with closed doors.

Sometimes our path to next level includes what seem like setbacks. But they aren’t. God simply uses these tensions to propel us forward. Like an arrow pulled back against the bow. Paul’s time at Troas proved it true. 

A paved road at Troas

(Photo: A paved road at Troas. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Paul’s second missionary journey began, it seemed with two steps back. He and Silas passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, because the Holy Spirit forbid them to share the Word in Asia. Then the Lord didn’t permit them to share in Bithynia either (Acts 16:6-7). 

Strange, isn’t it? God kept them from sharing God’s Word in places that needed it. 

But why? 

A Closed Door Leads to an Open One

When Paul arrived at Troas, he had a vision that clarified God’s reasoning for the closed doors. The Lord opened wide the door of opportunity in Macedonia (vv. 9-10). 

The closed doors remind us that occasionally God sidelines us to remind us our participation is a privilege, and we can glorify Him just as much by our waiting on Him as by our serving Him in some other way that feels more fulfilling to us. God takes delight in using us, but He doesn’t need us. He got along just fine in eternity past as Father, Son, and Spirit. His plan worked well long before we stepped on the scene, and it won’t skip a beat after we’re gone.

Our limitations only frustrate us when we forget that in weakness we glorify God.

Bathhouse remains at Troas

(Photo: Bathhouse remains at Troas. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Our Weakness Magnifies God’s Strength

It seems a contradiction in terms, but it isn’t. We glorify God’s strength in our weakness. The path forward in our lives includes weakness.

For example, a husband or wife will surrender massive amounts of time to marriage and parenting, understanding that God is in no way limited by this limitation. Other desires are limited, for sure, but that may be precisely why God wanted us to get married and have kids. How else would we face our selfishness unless we had to?

Consider the untimely deaths of these famous Christians:

  • Blaise Pascal
  • David Brainerd
  • Jonathan Edwards
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Keith Green

They all died in their prime, and yet, their short lives offered the kingdom of God much more than many whole lives lived unsurrendered.

Just as God can take the life of someone with so much potential— and use their brief life span for His glory— so He can use the limited time offered by a husband or wife who understands marriage and family as a primary way to glorify God (see 1 Cor. 7: 32–35).

Our Limitations in No Way Limit God

God experiences no limitation by our limitations.

  • He needs no sleep.
  • He has to earn no living.
  • He has no shortage of time or space.

We, on the other hand, have all of these confines—including our battle with our sinful nature. Even on our best days, we offer God only scraps to work with—only fish and loaves that He somehow multiplies to make adequate.

Waiting on God reminds us of those facts. Waiting keeps us humble. Waiting shows us over the passing of time that it’s all about God and none of it is about us—except to the degree that we glorify Him.

In our waiting, God weans us from the pride of having to control everything or understand matters “too difficult for” us (Ps. 131: 1). God chooses how we glorify Him. He alone selects which of his servants will produce what levels of output— and yet, He also rewards faithfulness on any level with equal commendation (see Matt. 25:14–23).

Why the Path Forward Leads Backward

Those seasons where it seems we’re moving in reverse may actually be God working in our lives toward several purposes:

  • To strengthen our character in spite of our weakness
  • To develop our peace of mind by trusting Him in chaos
  • To teach us that we can glorify Him just as much by waiting on Him as we can by serving Him

When we choose to find our fulfillment in God’s glory, then we can wait on Him to open the doors to the path forward in His time. That’s really His business entirely.

Our business is to live faithfully wherever He puts us now.

Tell me what you think: How has God moved you forward by first moving you backward? To leave a comment, just click here.

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