Slaying the god of apathy

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. Myth: God Opens and Closes Doors

We live in an apathetic culture.

Sure, we are a culture of people who can do amazingly good things in times of crisis. We certainly think of ourselves as a culture of people who care for our neighbors and even a caregiver to the nations.

But we are also a people who have the attention span of the common flea. Just ask the people of the Gulf Coast who still have an oil spill issue. Or people affected by Hurricane Katrina. Or the people of Haiti. Or the people of Darfur. Or the people of [insert the name of any disaster in the last 10 years.]

Christians are just as guilty of this as non-Christians. It’s a cultural phenomenon.

We tend to get über excited about something big, obvious, or bleeding but struggle to carry it through beyond triage.

For example: I’ve never met an incoming freshmen who wasn’t excited to start college. But three weeks into college and they are bored, questioning why they entered school, skipping classes, and living for the next party.

On and on… we struggle with being excited about things and then when we get into the tedious parts we want to quit because it’s hard or it isn’t immediately fulfilling or it wasn’t what we expected it to be.

So we quit. We stop caring. We long for something else. We make plans.

We forget that hard work is a virtue. And perseverance. And over-coming adversity. And all those other words.

This is why the phrase “God opens and closes doors” feeds fatalism.

Is the phrase biblical? Of course. The metaphor is used several times in Scripture. And folks who come at life from a biblical perspective understand the metaphor.

Is the phrase understood in our culture? Absolutely not. It is entirely misunderstood. Most people who come to church don’t look at life through the lens of biblical Christianity. So the metaphor often times means just to opposite of its intention! They hear, “if its easy it is an open door” and “if its hard or boring it must be a closed door.” I even hear it used with words like, “I guess it wasn’t meant to be.” “It was just bad luck, I guess.”

How will I know if something is an open door, a closed door, or if I’m supposed to persevere, or be opportunistic?

Since we’re not talking about a metaphor you will never know if a door is open or if a door is closed. What if the door is open but you face persecution or you have to persevere through a dry spell or an open door is really a temptation and not what God wants?

That’s the problem with the phrase. It’s trying to describe something that you’ll never know in the moment.

And it feeds into our apathetic culture.

We confuse “open door” with “easy button.” And visa versa.

This is what I do know

We are called to the uncomfortable. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are called to be light in dark places. We are called to speak truth in love. We are called to be faithful with what we have. We are called to be living sacrifices. We are called to not just be hearers of the Word, but doers.

We are not called to be 3rd party observers looking for open and closed doors.





2 responses to “Slaying the god of apathy”

  1. Chris Avatar

    Absolutely! This is so counter cultural, at least in our American, convenience oriented culture. Everything is easy. We don’t have to walk down to the river to find water. We don’t have to hunt or grow our food. In fact, when I want food, I can choose what kind of food to eat. We don’t have to endure hot weather. When I want to watch a movie, I can watch it on demand.

    We say that God has blessed us and we equate that blessing with ease. In Matthew 7:14, Jesus said “the way is difficult that leads to life.”

    You also mentioned living sacrifices. That always makes me squirm. A sacrifice doesn’t have any say in what happens to it. It just gets laid up on the alter to pour its life out and blaze for God’s glory.

    Thanks for this. Keep saying it! (And maybe I’ll totally get it someday.)

  2. Leena P. Avatar

    I read a quote on twitter the other day that was something along the lines of :If a situation is difficult, that is a call to stick with it, not to give up”. That is what I try to do in my life and be an example of for the children and teens I work with (including my own daughters). Maybe if something is difficult but you’re really passionate about it, that isn’t so much a closed door but a door staying open for you to continue to work on it. I can see where there are some relationships or opportunities that one is having difficulty with and it probably would be best to stop pursuing it, but maybe the passionate part is a call that you are headed in the right direction yet need to try a different venue. Make sense?

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