By Peyton Garland, Crosswalk.com
While it's crucial to know when God is opening a door, allowing us to step into a new family role, church leadership position, or untapped adventure, it's just as important to know when God is closing a door. I'm no therapist or pastor, but in my Christian walk, I have had many women ask me how to know when God is saying "no" to something. Often, I wondered the same thing. Just as I long to sprint through the doors He holds open on my behalf, I long to know which doors I'm yanking on, begging them to open, that God has closed for me.
He closes doors, just as He opens them, for our well-being. To keep us safe from evil. To prod us into a deeper walk with Him. To protect our healthy relationships and shield us from harmful ones. To thwart discontentment and set us on a path of peace. He closes doors for our good, but we still need to recognize when He has bolted the padlock on a particular season, opportunity, or choice.
This is gray territory, as there is not a single commandment or red block of New Testament scripture that spells out blatant signs God is closing a door. Yet, in my own life, as I've watched God close doors on dreams I swore would offer all I could ever want, I have discovered a few signs that He is pulling the door shut, locking it up, and throwing away the key on my behalf.
Let's check out five ways God might be shutting a door in your life:
1. Unbiblical Pursuits
Let's cut to the chase—if you are pursuing a relationship, business endeavor, or any other venture that defies God's ways, you best bet God will close that door.
I can attest to this from personal experience. In college, I met a marine who instantly stole my heart. He was everything I wanted, but, in short, he wasn't what I needed. And God knew that full well. He wasn't deceived by my boyfriend's smooth words and good looks. While I turned a willing blind eye to this man's lies and hypocritical lifestyle, God never chose rose-colored lenses to hide what He didn't want to see. God's honest, protective nature wouldn't let me continue in a relationship where He wasn't the priority.
Of course, I spent three years yanking on that closed door, taking a jackhammer to the hinges, and doing everything I could to force it open, but the marine would never fully commit. I would get hurt over and over, discover lie after lie, until I realized this door was never worth my time, never worth my heart breaking over and over again. Finally, I dropped my tools and walked away, and a few months later, I met my now husband, who allows Jesus to lead our household.
Friend, if you are chasing anything that centers on misplaced priorities, lies, and deceptive character, God is likely slamming that door shut... for your own good.
2. Against Christian Counsel
Your pastor, Christian mentor, and other trusted, godly friends aren't all-knowing, of course. Yet, when they each offer the same wisdom and each explains that it's time to walk away from a certain pursuit, perhaps that's God's way of whispering to you, over and over again, "This one isn't for you. I have something better. Leave that door alone."
It's always fun to hear what we want to hear, but that's not why we adopt healthy, god-fearing friendships. We allow iron to sharpen iron (Proverbs 27:17), which means we enter relationships that challenge us and encourage our walk with God. We trust that these friends and mentors, while funny, adventurous, and caring, are there to offer wise counsel and point us to God, especially when we are so immersed in a particular relationship or opportunity that we have no outside perception.
Odds are, if all of your godly friends and counsel are shaking their heads no, God is using their discernment to let you know this door is shut. And there's a better one down the road.
3. Gnawing Feelings
Sometimes, there are good adventures in front of us. Stepping into them is as simple as saying yes to the engagement ring, signing on the contract's dotted line, or agreeing to pack up your bags and hop on the next Greyhound bus. They are good opportunities that offer everything you want. But you simply can't say yes; the word doesn't feel right rolling off your tongue. You want to sign on the dotted line and gain that extra promotion, but your hands are a little too shaky. Your bags are packed, but you can't seem to find a bus with open seats for weeks on end.
Simply put, the door won't open. You're standing in front of it. There are no red flags waving; you can't even find subtle yellowing lights flickering a warning. Everything looks morally right and promising, but there's this nagging feeling that what's good isn't what's best. As Job 30:17 says, "... my gnawing pains take no rest."
Many times, friend, this is the Holy Spirit tugging at your heartstrings. He's not shaming you for the decision you want to make. He doesn't think you're a fool for believing this could be a great opportunity for your life. He's simply holding you back because if you step into what's good, you could easily miss what's best. And while God does, indeed, have good things in store for our lives, He is far more concerned with us pursuing His best blessings. Sure, God's best won't always be easy and smooth sailing, but His plans will always offer contentment we wouldn't find if we settled for mediocre living.
Don't ignore that gnawing feeling in your gut, heart, and spirit. Take time to pray and consider God's voice before jumping into a "good" situation.
4. Lack of Sleep
Throughout the Bible, we witness many heroes of the faith, most notably King David, struggle with sleep when they are concerned about godly matters, typically struggling with unrepentant sin or debating surrender to God. Similarly, when we are trying to force doors open that won't budge, our bodies will be tired, but our souls will be wide awake, quickened by the Spirit to lean into what is right.
Let's be honest, conviction is no fun. It's the Holy Spirit reminding us that we aren't in the right situation or making the wisest decision, and we must not only repent of our stubbornness but walk toward the door God has opened for us instead.
We like to think we know what is best for us. After all, who knows us better than we know ourselves?
Well, we could stop there and say God knows us best, knitting us together in our mother's womb (Psalm 139:13). And we could further explore how little we know about the future, how everchanging we are in our likes and dislikes, how often we have been wrong about ourselves in the past.
If this nagging notion that you don't always know what is best for you is keeping you up at night, if conviction is stealing your sleep, perhaps it's time to surrender to God's will and leave the door shut, declaring that you know God has bigger, better doors in store for you.
5. Recalling God's Character
Jesus took water and turned it into rich wine (John 2:1-11). He took a few fish and pieces of bread and fed thousands of people (Matthew 14:13-21). God takes good things and makes them fantastic. He blows our definition of good out of the water. He becomes the God of miracles, the One to defy the impossible.
If you ever stop and consider, "I think God has better for me," realize that your spirit is affirming God's character. It's confirming that God's nature is rich with blessings we could never curate on our own.
Friend, if you have a good opportunity, one that makes sense and seems noble, but something in you keeps whispering, "But God has more in store," I encourage you to listen to that voice.
After all, it might not be your voice. It could be the still, small voice of God reminding you that some doors are meant to be shut so He can bust better ones wide open (1 Kings 19:11-13).
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/lolostock
Peyton Garland is an author and coffee shop hopper who loves helping others find beauty from ashes despite OCD, burned bridges, and perfectionism. Follow her on Instagram @peytonmgarland and check out her latest book, Tired, Hungry, & Kinda Faithful, Where Exhaustion and Exile Meet God, to discover how your cup can overflow, even in dry seasons.