What happens when you answer God’s call to service, you tell your church, get through the grueling process with a mission organization, maybe even have some training, and then something stops you from moving forward or moving overseas?
“God, what are you doing? Didn’t you call me to this task, these people, this country?”
What do you do when a door toward service doesn’t even open? What does it do to your faith or your call?
For some, that first closed door happens when an organization suddenly moves you from one country to another. This happened to us twice while we were still in orientation as new missionaries. The first change was because our target country had not yet reopened to Americans after a long and brutal civil war, so they asked us to go to the country next door. However, before we could shift gears to refocus, they asked us to go to a third country that was having an influx of refugees, where my husband’s native Arabic language could be a great help.
While my husband handled the change with little effort, I, on the other hand, felt the pushback in my soul. Didn’t God call us to Lebanon? What was he thinking, making us refocus so many times? Didn’t he know I don’t like change?
Sometimes that first closed door is to teach us flexibility in our calling.
While we literally earned the name “Mr. and Mrs. Flexibility,” God was teaching me a lesson early on that would carry me through many more closed doors in the years to come. I had to trust he was in control, he knew what was best, and he could see things we couldn’t. I had to learn to be moldable clay in the potter’s hands.
Sometimes that first closed door is to protect us from the unseen things.
It’s so hard, when you’ve completed training and said your goodbyes to just sit and wait on paperwork. Depending on the country, getting a visa can take a long time and require a lot of hoops through which we have to jump in the process. No one wants to hear, “Your visa has been refused” from an embassy employee. Isn’t God capable of opening doors to the places he’s called us?
While Satan would love to lead us down the path of doubt, learn to rest in the unknown things of God’s perfect will. You may not understand at the time when you can’t get in, but later on, it may become clear that it was for your protection. Instead of questioning God’s call, ask him what he wants to teach you through this closed door.
Sometimes that first closed door is a lesson in the making.
Funding shortfalls can put breaks on a person’s efforts to get to the field. Asking people for support is never easy, but such times can be God’s way to get us to get outside of our comfort zone in service. If we can’t do things we’re uncomfortable with before we go, how will we handle the many we’re going to have to face on the other side of service?
Sometimes that first door closes because he cares.
There is nothing sadder than to watch a family stop moving toward service because one of the members has received a tough diagnosis during the required physicals. Not only do you grieve the closed door of service, but you grieve the news of medical treatments and doctors’ visits. Learning to navigate a new reality may push some toward doubt and fear, but ultimately should be a reminder to be grateful that it was caught before they were in a strange country and away from good medical care and family.
Are you facing a closed door before you step foot out of your town or the country? Spend time in prayer, asking what God might be teaching or showing you. Seek the help of a friend or mentor who can be a sounding board for sharing your feelings while not losing hope in God and his plan for your life.
Be watching for the new door he’s leading you toward as you continue moving forward in faith and trust of the God who still has plans, good plans, for you.
Grace and Peace
For more on doors that won’t open, read When Doors Close: Changing Course in Missions Without Losing Your Way.