When the Door Closes (Or Gets Slammed in Your Face)

September 4, 2019

Acts 16:6-10 (NIV)

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.


Recently a young friend of mine started college. This kid ticked all the boxes: smart, attractive, talented, athletic, winsome—and I could go on. He also lived life with a deep faith in Jesus Christ. He thought it would be a good idea to go through Rush and join a fraternity. It would be a good chance to make friends and be a witness for Christ in the Greek community. He put everything in order. He knew a lot of people. His references were stellar. Everything was set. Everyone back home encouraged and prayed for him fervently.

One big problem. He was rejected by every fraternity. No one could understand it, and he was understandably crushed. It’s a pretty hard way to start college.

After getting past the shock of it all and counseling with his family and friends they gained clarity on what might be happening. Here’s how they reasoned together. He trusted God with the decision to go through rush. He sought the counsel and prayers of people around him. He did everything he knew to do within his responsibility and control. It did not work out. For whatever reason, God must not have wanted him in a fraternity. The Holy Spirit kept him from being admitted into the Greek system.

The life hid with Christ in God—the way of following Jesus—must be constantly interpreted. Direction must continually be discerned. I’m convinced this is the way it was with Paul and his companions. Did the Holy Spirit audibly declare out of nowhere, “Paul! You can’t preach the gospel in Asia now, and I don’t want you to go to Bithynia.” It’s possible, but I doubt it. If Luke tells us about the vision of the man from Macedonia, surely he would have shared this.

More often than not, the Holy Spirit guides us through engineering our circumstances. One of the Trappist brothers at the Abbey of Gethsemane once said something to me I have never forgotten:

“God gets us where he wants us, no matter the machinations.”

The machinations of a vision of a man from Macedonia saying come over here? Yes. The machinations of a fraternity/sorority system that turns the best and the brightest away? Yes.

We seek. We listen. We discern. We pray. We move. And we see what happens. We can trust God in the closing of doors as well as in the opening of them. As we do all we know to do to seek after Jesus and his Kingdom, he will do the rest to get us where he wants us. We can trust that.




How has the Lord blocked your way in a disappointing fashion that wound up leading to a breakthrough somewhere else?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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