When it comes to calling, where does our effort meet God’s providence? God has a purpose for our lives. We look for the open doors. Sometimes, however, there are closed doors. We are apt to think that this is where persistence comes in.
After all, persistence is an important aspect of calling. The Apostle Paul talks about persisting, straining ahead, running the race, fighting the good fight—not folding your tent at the first sight of a dead end. Further, just because you are called to something doesn’t mean it will be easy.
This approach takes a great deal of discernment and, ideally, feedback from trusted advisors. I am familiar with a well-respected pastor who has had a great and positive impact in a major city. However, he was told by his first church that he was not cut out for the ministry. Fortunately he sought out the wise counsel of others and persisted in his ministry work.
So, what about closed doors? Should we welcome a closed door that emphatically confirms that a certain direction is not the way we should go? The closed doors are a way of narrowing our options and revealing where the open door lies.
One business owner upon analyzing various options waits to see what doors open and which doors close—this is part of his decision-making process. The closing of doors eliminates options. So, there is no disappointment but rather contentment that the best path is being revealed and the recognition that we might not always understand the process when we are in the middle of it.
What are some examples of the value of closed doors? Perhaps you think you are suited for a certain work opportunity but the chance never comes. Perhaps that means that people aren’t recognizing your self-perceived skills in a certain area. Or, what’s the meaning of a situation where someone is released from employment? For some people, when they get fired or asked to move on for their current job, after the initial aggravation wears off, they may well realize that it is the best thing that ever happened to them.
How do closed doors fit into career planning? I taught business law in the school of business at a Christian university for a number of years. I would regularly have students talk to me about their desire to apply to law schools. Applicants go through a rigorous admissions process with often only 1 of 10 – 15 qualifying for one of the coveted first year spots at leading law schools. The lesser the perceived prestige and quality of the school the easier it is to get in.
If a person believes they are called to go to law school and don’t have good qualifications such as grades and the requisite Law School Admissions Test (“LSAT”) score they won’t get in to a school. That may be a sign that other career options should be pursued. But the person could say they will persist and if they have exhausted all options in their home country, they can go to the international market and find a law school somewhere that will gladly accept their money. Does that make sense? Perhaps the closed doors in their own country meant something.
Sometimes closed doors mean that we change our approach to being more open to the doors that open and appreciative of them. What are practical steps to discern whether a closed door is a dead end or an opportunity to show persistence? Be open to the notion that is could be either. You should get input from a range of people who have your best interests in mind. You should view the outcome as a positive, and not negative, process as it will bring clarity. In the end, we should thank God for closed doors.