Myth: God opens and closes doors

I’ve heard this phrase to the point where I think people actually believe this is somehow a biblical concept.

God has opened the door for me to ____.

I was pursuing something I really felt called to, but God closed the door.

That’s not in the Bible folks. It is a non-biblical, non-Christian philosophy called fatalism.

I believe this little phrase, God opens and closes doors, has lead to people falsely blaming God for missed opportunities. We put this philosophy of open and closed doors above biblical concepts like perseverance, patience, and long-suffering.

Instead, many have bought into a mentality that it’s meant to be, God will open doors. If it isn’t meant to be, God will close doors.

Again, that’s fatalism. That isn’t how God works. Nor is it how God’s people are asked to look at the world.

This is what God says about opening doors:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

  • Did David tell his friends, “Yeah, I was anointed as the next king, I don’t know though. Clearly, Saul doesn’t like me so I think God is closing that door?
  • I don’t think God cared too much about Jonah’s “closing the door” on going to Ninevah.
  • I don’t remember Jesus telling Paul the whole blinding thing was an open door to a life in ministry.
  • And a ship-wreck was clearly a “closed door” if I’ve ever seen one. But did that stop him?
  • Persecutions of the first apostles weren’t seen as God closing doors. The only door that ended their ministry typically involved lions.
  • Pharaoh refusing to release the Jews for the first 9 plagues wasn’t God closing a door.
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had an open door to a fiery furnace. But that didn’t stop them, did it?
  • Seems like the doors were closed around old Jericho, weren’t they? Did that stop God’s people from taking action?

On and on we see that Scripture is not fatalistic about vocation, doing good, doing right, or fulfilling our call!

But God does work in us and through us when we persevere, when we are patient in affliction, when we long-suffer for doing right.

God rewards the righteous. God smiles on those who seek justice. God hears and answers prayer. God wants us to seek wise-council. God’s calling is true. God can move literal and figurative mountains for the faithful.

God calls us and asks us to depend on Him and Him alone.

He could care less about our education. (Paul) He could care less about our abilities. (Moses) He could care less about our lack of faith. (Jonah) He could care less about our past failures. (David)

When God asks us to do something open and closed doors are meaningless.

If He is asking you to do something He will make a way.

Rather than worrying about if the door is open or closed we are asked to open the door. We may have to kick it in. And we may need to buy a sledge-hammer to make a way where there is no way.

But waiting for doors to open or doors to close is meaningly, dangerous, and destructive. The only door you should be closing is on fatalism. The only door you should be opening is to Jesus, “Here I am, use me how you want. I am yours. You are my Savior and Lord.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

34 thoughts on “Myth: God opens and closes doors

  1. I see where you’re doing with this…I’m just not sure I agree. I guess if we define the “open and closed door” in a very narrow manner it would fit. I use the term “door” in reference to “potential opportunities” and things that I’ve prayed for God to show me His will as to whether to do it or not. God doesn’t say yes to everything we ask Him. So if I say “God closed a door” it’s my way of saying “I asked God about this in prayer and I feel Him saying no.”

    Sure, some folks can use it as an excuse but as a metaphor it’s not necessarily wrong.

  2. Another good post. I hear you on the fatalism aspect of this phrase. All too often it is an excuse to give up. Very true – especially in the closed door stuff.

    And yet, I hear scripture saying that God does open doors. Three verse include:

    Revelation 3:8 “I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.

    Colossians 4:3-4 At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, 4so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should.

    Acts 14:27 When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.

    I believe God does open doors for us – and then we need to walk through them. Many times these are doors we might not have even thought of or were willing to go through.

    Just because God will open doors, does not mean we are to sit around and wait for them – it is not meant to be an excuse to do nothing until God acts, rather, we are to be alert and take intitative.

    Again, I hear where you are going with this, but I will still welcome God to open doors.

    1. Notice that only open doors are mentioned. Never closed doors. Could it be that people walk into the “wall” rather than closed doors? No, I think many people use closed doors as an excuse to indirectly blame God for “stopping” them in their pursuits or just plain fatalism. A case of que sera sera.

      Rather, there are only open doors. We just may not discern or like the doors (choices) open to us.

  3. Adam – great post. I am pretty sure I get where you are coming from when it comes to opened and closed doors in life and ministry. But I do want to offer one story for you to consider and ponder based the conclusions you have drawn. Acts 16:6-10, where the Holy Spirit prevents them from going into the province of Asia. Now it may be a matter of symantics, but I’ve always considered this a closed door and God clearly showing Paul He was closing the door in one direction but opening the door for ministry and calling in another direction. Just a thought. Again, I think what you’ve written here is solid and well thought through, but the story of Paul in Acts 16 came to mind and I was hoping to get your thoughts. Thanks bro!

    1. Interesting because I just had another look at this passage. It may be symantics but it just says that the Spirit would not allow them, not a closed door. I would say that Paul’s pioneering work here is unique and the Holy Spirit is in fact revealing and making clearer the original vision that God had for Paul and not a new decision-making process.

      Secondly to base one’s theology on an incident in Acts is like the old “All must speak in tongues” issue.

      So one has to leave the issue a bit open and not insist that this is an open-or-shut case (pardon the pun).

      Also Paul in 1 Cor 16:9 and Rom 1:10 only mentions open doors, never closed ones.

      1. No, the verse didn’t specifically say ‘closed door’ but the whole analogy of the closed door is a direction in which God DOES NOT want us to go, and he makes that direction UNAVAILABLE in order to show us where he DOES want us to go. For example, God showed Jonah where to go and he went his own way so God shut down his mission in order to guide him back to God’s will. The Bible says to ask God according to HIS WILL. Sometimes we may pursue things that are simply not his will so he will close the door to prevent it from happening.

  4. I agree with Jason mostly. Interesting perspective. How do you explain where earlier in chapter three of Revelation God’s Word says to the Church of Philadelphia:
    “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
    “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

    Sounds like some opening and shutting going on there to me.

    1. My study on this is that this is a poetic expression, because the following words are all about open doors (by God) and no examples are shown of God shutting any doors!

  5. Your assessment of this as “fatalism” implies that one has to adopt this as a doctrine for everyday life. I think the open and closed doors is a great way for an illustrative way to see how God is working in your life. If we continue to let the Spirit move us and guide us down one path or another, then we let him choose where we’ll be going…either through one door or another. To discount this is to discount what God is doing in your life.

    I will concede that this is no way to completely live your life, but as the previous comments have said, all throughout scripture, we see evidence of these things happening. God shut the door pretty hard on Moses entering the promise land. Joseph had a lot going for him before Potiphar’s wife, but God’s plan showed him that this avenue wasn’t where he was supposed to be, so he “shut the door and opened another one.” God threw the door wide open for all men to have the hope of eternal life through Jesus. You don’t have to adopt this as a sole philosophical doctrine to make it illustrative of how God works in our lives.

    And by the way…
    “When God asks us to do something, open and closed doors are meaningless. If he is asking you do to something he will make a way.” You basically just said, “If God is asking you to do something, he will open a door for you to see clearly and know where to go next.”

  6. You’re right that many Christians use the “God opened/closed the door” cliche, and, very often, they’re using it to set up boundaries for how God can use them. It seems to be an excuse for not doing what one doesn’t want to do and spiritualizing it, or choosing to do only what is easiest, most convenient, most ____ to do instead and claiming it as blessing (instead of calling it what it is).

    As I see it, Jesus opened one door and left it open to us to choose to go through it. That door is labeled “Love God like I do, Love People like I do.”

  7. I agree with Jason #1. I think when used as a metaphor for a time where we seek God’s guidance on a situation and He clearly leads us away from that situation, metaphorically it is a “closed door.”

    I understand your thinking along the fatalistic lines, and there are certainly those who adopt this pattern of thinking, but as those above me have said, there are distinct times in scripture where God “closed doors” and then he “opened others”!

    I don’t see your examples above matching the metaphor we are describing in the comments section. They seemed forced into the metaphors!

    Just my two cents!

  8. Yeah I agree with you about fatalism, although that is not part of anyone’s language today. No one thinks about fatalism. I think you should research the 3 or 4 scripture references already given in comments and rewrite this blog. I think you may have spoken from seeing people using life being difficult to not try. But I think God does open doors.

  9. Agree: today’s layman’s concept of open/closed doors promotes an unhealthy sense of Christian-version fatalism. Are life obstacles (“closed doors”) meant to deter us, or are they there for us to overcome?

    Disagree: You said it’s not in the Bible, but it actually is. Today’s usage of the phrase may be reflective of Paul’s language in 2 Cor 2:12…where he says “I went to Troas to preach the gospel….and found that the Lord had opened a door for me.” Although, in that passage Paul does not treat the “open door” as a sign from above pointing him to Troas. In fact, he does the opposite and leaves shortly after arriving.

    Recommended reading: Garry Friesen’s “Decision Making and the Will of God” (1980, and still relevant–and controversial).

  10. Adam, thanks for the great post! I think discernment is needed and it is usually a little more involved than just looking for open and closed doors. Since discernment is often hard work, we take the easy way out. And sometimes I think the whole open door/closed door thing is just another way of getting around what God wants us to do. It is another way to impose our will on God. It is our modern day “Corban”.

  11. I completely agree with this. Too many people blame God for what does and doesn’t happen in life. Life is life, and what happens happens. Matthew 5:45 says it clearly. Sometimes crap just happens, and you need to decide for yourself what you’re going to do about it. Don’t blame God, and expect him to hold your hand and make life all sweetness and light everytime you’re doing the “right” thing.

    1. I think you missed your Matthew verse a bit.
      Matthew 5:43-45 “43″You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

      Nothing in this verse says “it is what it is” or “life is life, and what happens happens.” It’s talking about how to treat your neighbor. When you love your neighbor and not your enemy, you’re showing preference. God doesn’t. So we are to love as God loves, for all men, not just our friends. It has very little if anything to do with this topic.

      1. But from verse 45, I take it that life happens to us all. Not just good stuff for good people and bad stuff to bad people. Alot of people seem to think that if you’re righteous, and get in enough points with God, then your life is going to go smooth as possible and God will open doors for you and etc.

        Boy are they shocked and angry at him when that doesn’t happen. So yes, God sends rain on the both the righteous and the wicked. The only thing he promises is that we will be with him at the end of the road.

  12. It’s amazing how many ideas and concepts we pick up without testing them. I honestly never questioned this concept before. This is a great question to raise.
    If we follow the open/close door line of reason to the end, I think the conclusion becomes that God wants me to do whatever *I* see as worthwhile in whatever way or time it seems easiest and most convenient for ME. I know that’s not how God works. The easiest way is not always the path God wants us on. The most obvious door is not always the one we’re supposed to walk through. And a seemingly impossible obstacle might just be a place God intends to have us rely on His grace and power.
    But then what is the sign that we actually are in the will of God for our lives? It takes a lot of faith to start up a mean looking mountain rather than take the paved road when you don’t really

    1. I don’t know who your youth pastor was, but that dude was a freaking genius.

      All jokes aside, I think there are smarter people than I that can help figure out the will of God stuff. I watched a sermon series by Andy Stanley a couple years back that talked about a 3-legged chair concept of God’s law, the wise council of people in your life, and your skills. That might be worth checking out.

      Call me crazy, a lot of people do. But I’m a little more simple. I don’t worry too much about God’s will as that’s His will and I’m the creation while He is the creator. In my life, I just want to chase the passions God has put in my heart. Obviously, that’s checked against Scripture and usually affirmed by the wise owls in my life.

      In day-to-day stuff, I chase my passions. Obstacles are just obstacles. Where there is no open door I make my own.

  13. know where you’re supposed to go in the first place. Where do we gain assurance that we’re supposed to be on the mountain rather than the road?

  14. Adam – Excellent way to approach life. It certainly takes all the frustration with God off your heart and frees you to love him and love life. Live it to the fullest!

  15. Let’s not forget to let God be God.

    If we don’t believe God is deliberately choosing who, where, and when to bless and not bless, then we are in danger of denying Him and trying to be gods ourselves.

  16. Rev 3:7
    …what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

    The word has a lot more to say about open and closed doors than the single verse you used…

  17. The Bible clearly shows us that there is a such thing as God opening and closing doors. Though I do agree with you that many use this as an excuse to give up. I believe the key to the whole matter is hearing Gods voice and trusting Him through the process. In protection of His children and His will God will close doors. I thought of the same scripture in acts where paul was prevented by the Holy Spirit from going into asia. Thank God He is hands on because with our limited vision we would walk into doors with all the right intentions that God never intended for us to walk through.

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