When the Holy Spirit Blocks The Way



Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 16:6–10 

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.


A few years back 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.

Only 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. It was a kind of modern-day Bithynia story. 

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 hidden 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. As it often happens, we will find ourselves at the border of entering Bithynia only to be inexplicably blocked from entering. We will often want to blame Satan, but what if it is the Spirit? One of the Trappist brothers at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky 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. And here’s one of the amazing things about the Holy Spirit. He can take the very machinations of Satan and turn them into the miracle of God’s will (see also Gen. 50:20).

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.

If you listen in on the podcast recording of the Wake-Up Call today, I’ll tell one of my own Bithynia stories. It’s a good one. 


Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly dove, 
with all Thy quickening powers.
Come shed abroad a Savior’s love,
and that will kindle ours. 

—Isaac Watts, “Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove”


How has the Lord blocked your way in a disappointing fashion that wound up leading to a breakthrough somewhere else? Were you inclined to blame Satan for blocking you? How did you tell the difference? 


Today we will sing “Trust and Obey” (hymn 334) from our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. Get your copy here. New shipments arriving now. Use Code: WAKEUPCALL for free shipping through the end of May (does not apply to bulk orders). 

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

Subscribe to get this in your inbox daily and please share this link with friends.

Share today's Wake-Up Call!


WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. Yes, I can definitely testify to the varsity of the claims made in this post. I had been active in a local UMC congregation for at least 8+ years, leading their adult SS class, but never placing official membership. Having been brought up in a conservative Christian tradition, and having been a member of another tradition that had struggled with the same issues that eventually splintered the UMC, I held off, waiting to see how it would play out here. When the creation of the GMC came about, I was anticipating becoming an official member of that new denomination. I promoted the GMC during the discernment stage for this local congregation. They did vote to disaffiliate, and join the GMC, and I was all set to join it right after it became official on November 1, 2022. Then two weeks prior to that date, for reasons I won’t go into, the pastor who had been helping to facilitate this transition, was suddenly moved for what I felt was unjust cause’s, so I left. In the meantime, no longer responsible for leading that class, I began spending Sunday mornings at the local nursing home where I’d facilitated a weekly Tuesday morning Bible study for the previous eight years. A resident there, who’d served as an elder at a local church of Christ congregation, and who I knew through our participation together at their Wednesday night mens Bible study, had begun a Sunday morning Church gathering for the residents who were in mandatory lockdown mode due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The lockdowns were now over for awhile, so I was able to join with them on Sunday mornings. This lasted for about a month until he suddenly was taken home one night to be with the Lord. The Lord opened a door for me to continue this ministry, and I walked through it. Shortly after I assumed responsibility for continuing that Sunday morning ministry, I attended the Christmas Eve service back at the now, GMC congregation. After that service, a few of the regular members of that SS class came up to me, and pleaded with me to return. I told them that I would pray about it. I was given a solution: I could return to be a part of the adult SS class, but then I’d have to leave in time to make it to the nursing home, about 10 minutes away. Eventually, I was asked to once again, to facilitate the SS class, so that’s been the routine now for over year now. We’ve used some books from Seedbed, as well as following some of the daily Wake-up Call posts as our SS material. God has grown and richly blessed both of these ministries that I’m involved in. Yes, God can take a bad situation and bring something good out of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *