Although also quoted elsewhere, many people know the phrase below from the movie, The Sound of Music:
When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.
With a good team of script-writers, a self-aware hero or heroine in a movie (or theater production) can be nearly certain that things will look bad around the second act, but in the end, the finale will find them victorious and vindicated.
To be clear, this catch-phrase is probably too much of an over-simplified message about how God works (not unlike my over-generalized summary of every movie…ever). It’s not actually quoted from the Bible. However, the message that it contains can be a good reminder of how God leads us on a superior path, and He sometimes accomplishes that by preventing us from going in another direction (one that may look comfortable, but whose destination isn’t as great as what God has in mind for us).
When reading a passage in Colossians, I encountered this verse:
praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned;
Colossians 4:3 NASB
Here, the apostle Paul was actually looking for God to open a door – a pathway by which he and other followers of Jesus could tell this good news to others. He didn’t ask that people who needed to hear the message would hear it from someone else. (Although that’s great when it happens, this doesn’t exclude us from fulfilling our own role in sharing the message of Jesus.) Paul didn’t ask God to grant him a pass, so that things would go better for him. He also didn’t suggest that he should go around randomly talking about Jesus, without being offered a specific opportunity and listening ears.
Instead, Paul sought a door. He had learned the truth, and was prepared to share it. Now, he needed a chance – an opportunity – to sow the seed of truth into hearts that were ready to hear it (see Mark 4:1-9). The message wasn’t something kept bottled up inside him – “on hold” until he was no longer imprisoned. Wherever there were people who needed to hear a message of truth and hope, God could open a door.
This is a simple – but game-changing – prayer that we could pray, as well. By simply asking God for opportunities to share a message about Him, we could find ourselves placed in all manner of situations. Perhaps a close friend has been searching for answers that only God can provide. Maybe a total stranger needs to hear how Jesus can change her life for the better. Or, you might just be called upon to lovingly serve someone you know, passing along the grace that you have been shown, while also testifying to why you are able to do so, and why you serve others in Jesus’ name.
This “door”, though, is critical. There are many who have chosen to close themselves off to the idea of a God who holds them accountable, or who fear accountability so much that they don’t believe that God would hear them. There are others who are consumed with pain and suffering, and may first need a friend that they can trust, to get them through some immediate challenges, to a place where they are ready to learn why their friend has peace (and why they can have peace, as well).
At the right time and place, there are moments when those around us need to hear the truth. They may need to hear about how perfect God is, and our inability to live up to God’s standards. Even better, they might be ready to learn about how God reached out and closed the gap, by paying the price for our shortcomings, so that we can enjoy life (here on earth and with God eternally).
These opportunities don’t all look the same. It is rare for someone to walk up and ask you a question about the nature of God, or how they might find freedom from the bondage of bad choices (whether their own, or of those around them). However, many other questions can best be answered with God’s Word, and there are often cases where a casual conversation takes a serious turn, where only the deeper truths of reality will actually address the questions that are being asked (or being implied).
The best thing we can do (other than asking for God’s help, and being prepared – see 1 Peter 3:14-16) is to remain aware of the nudge of the Holy Spirit. There are times when we – once we have accepted Jesus and received the Holy Spirit’s guidance for our path – just “know” that the time for a spiritual reply has been presented to us.
Keep an eye out for open doors, and listening for holy prompts. Remember, an open door for the Word of God is not a guarantee that someone else will hear and respond to the truth. You must speak the word – in grace and truth – and wait to see how another soul responds to it. However, when God opens a door, seize the opportunity that He has provided.
Don’t just stand there with the door open, letting the wind blow in. Step through!