In a culture of instant gratification, patience is a rare jewel, a scarce commodity, and even a lost virtue.
The prospect of waiting seems foreign and alien to this generation of Now. If we are honest, we seem almost allergic to waiting.
Jon Tyson was right when he said we don’t know how to live in the in-between spaces.
And yet, it is widely accepted that we tend to look back on our past with hindsight; our 20/20 vision gives us a view of certainty that if the dominoes fell another way, things would have been quite different.
With a fresh and keen perspective, we begin to see the overlooked blessings of our will not being done instantly.
But anyone can rejoice after the fact — after having gone through the trials of unanswered requests or hard stop no’s from God. What about in the moment itself — that Philippians 4:12-13 mindset Paul speaks of?
How do we, in the middle of the gut-wrenching process of not knowing what the answers are or how things will turn out or when God closes a door, find the comfort, peace, and joy that Jesus promises?
In his literary work The Soul of Prayer, P.T. Forsythe offers us a fresh perspective on our closed-door problem:
“We shall come one day to heaven where we shall gratefully know that God’s great refusals were sometimes the true answers to our truest prayers… And we find the complete answer to prayer is the Answerer.”
Forsythe has tapped into something of vital importance. He hints at the notion that God’s no’s are genuine answers for our spiritual welfare and that with every closed door, we are invited to trust the faithful character of God.
“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” [Isaiah 30:18].
Closed doors make us wait on God to lead and reveal what He has in store for us. We feel powerless; control is, ultimately, out of our hands. And therein lies the subtle test: will we trust the Lord’s wisdom, sovereignty, and timing?
In effect, closed doors reveal our true character. Does our faith contain the paradigm to accept God’s no’s?
For far too long, my faith had no substantive framework to take no for an honest answer.
In a corridor of closed doors, I have been guilty of proneness to frustration, fear, worry, anxiety, and even trying to seize control of my situations and work them out according to my limited knowledge and strength.
As human beings, we want clarity and direction — and we want it now. But so often, Jesus gives us that desired clarity by gradually closing doors and removing options from our purview.
In other words, clarity comes not from the plethora of open doors before us, but through the closed ones. When God says, “Not here, not this one,” He guides us to where He would have us go.
Of course, this is no painless process. The waiting, struggle and exasperation set in when God closes a door we want to be opened and wish to go through.
The test of faith comes in accepting that God may close [and bolt-lock shut] doors we desperately want open:
- The various job opportunities we really wanted
- A loved one’s disease cured
- The relationship with that guy/girl
- Starting a family
- The dream med/law school we applied to
- Reconciliation with a family member or friend
- Power and influence in our communities
- The return of a prodigal child
We find ourselves at the mercy of our Maker — and we shudder at the prospect that our self-created goals, hopes, and dreams may come crashing down when God closes a door.
Herein is the heart of the matter: if we are serious about pursuing Jesus and living life with Him, will we accept all that entails?
If following Jesus means foregoing a relationship or not going to a certain city for a great job, will we yield? Or will we bang on the closed door or try to manufacture a fake key in hopes of unlocking it?
When God says no, do we see that as cruel and unusual punishment or as an act of goodness, divine grace, and mercy?
These are tough questions that require honest answers.
You see, we all admire the fact that life is full of possibilities — except for the fact that God, not us, might actually be sovereign, in complete and total control of all of our steps and seasons of life.
I am not too ashamed to admit that I have fallen prey to the predicament of trying to kick down God’s closed doors. [Perhaps it was the growing pains of an angsty spiritual teen].
But looking back, I can honestly say there was more heartache in my refusal to accept the closed doors rather than God simply saying no.
And that’s where the rubber meets the road: there is no joy in the refusal to surrender and trust God.
That resilient and robust faith we find littered throughout the pages of Scripture is heavily rooted in sound doctrine, a right view and knowledge of who God is, and what He’s done [see the Apostle Paul’s life: Romans 8:26–39; 2 Corinthians 12:7–10; Philippians 3:1–16].
Those close to the heart of God often find [supernatural] comfort in closed doors because they know that desires denied are not from a place of callous indifference or malice, but from a place of love and goodness.
“The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD” [Lamentations 3:25–26].
If God is a good Father, we should expect, indeed rejoice, that He will not give us everything we want, but everything He wants for us — and all in His wise and perfect timing.
Do we instantly rejoice when God refuses our requests? Hardly.
Do we depress ourselves with worry that our deep wishes might never come true as we see fit? More often than not.
Do we sing hallelujah when life hurts like hell? I wish it were more commonplace.
But let us remember the wise words of John Ortberg: “Waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.”
God’s workmanship requires waiting. We don’t need to fear closed doors, for the God who closes them is the God who is with us and leading us into a life of conformity to Christ for our good and His glory.
Desires denied or delayed are not evidence of a God who is distant or disinterested. Quite the opposite.
Jesus, being the Savior that He is, reminds us that when God the Father closed the door on a request in Gethsemane, He brought about salvation through the Cross and Resurrection [see Matthew 26:36–46; Romans 5:1–11; Philippians 2:5–11; Hebrews 12:2–3].
To someone who desires instant gratification, closed doors and waiting feels putrid and problematic. But to the mature Christian soul, waiting is the potent process of progress and transformation [see Colossians 1:10–14].
Any Christian worth their salt and light will encounter God’s various no’s. The narrow path entails a plethora of closed doors to our wills and wishes.
So, then, will we trust and rejoice that He is good and in control in the waiting, or will we run to grab the sledgehammer to break down closed doors?