Ever feel like God is shutting all the doors you thought He was opening for you? Like everything was finally starting to come together right before it all explodes into a million fragments of broken promises? The confusion and the frustration sets in. The disappointment and depression. Prayers of understanding turn into selfish prayers swimming in self-doubt and, even worse, faith-centered doubt.
Last fall, that’s where I was at. It felt like God shut every single door I counted as opened. No, scratch that. He slammed the doors in my face. That’s how it felt.
After moving to Barcelona to attend my dream graduate program back in September, I was ready to take on the world. My summer was filled with lots of back and forth, but I had finally found peace and confidence in my big move. I crossed the ocean and settled into a renovated industrial building filled with artists from around the world. I was excited to see their work and learn their stories while studying to get my Master’s in Digital Marketing. During my first month in Spain, I also connected with Hillsong BCN and joined my first ever small group. My fears of failure and solitude melted away, and everything seemed to be piecing itself together.
But God had other plans.
Two and a half weeks into my program, the bank pulled my loan that I was relying on to pay for my program. I turned from a promising student to grad school drop-out. The whole reason for coming abroad was for this program, and it seemed like God was going back on what I was convinced He wanted for me. Within the next 24 hours, my living situation took a turn for the worse. I couldn’t go back to my place without feeling extremely uncomfortable and uneasy. My church group was there for me, but I didn’t want to burden them with my problems, having just met them. I felt trapped. No school. No safe place to call home. No close friends or family.
But when I looked for good, evil came to me; when I waited for light, then darkness came. –Job 30:26
During this time, I happened to be reading through Job. I was going through it almost angry because I could not wrap my mind around the greater picture in Job’s story…or in mine. Dissecting every verse and praying prayers filled with discouragement and worry, I couldn’t see that in the midst of my onslaught of problems, God never left my side.
Listen to this, O Job; stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. –Job 37:14
This verse hit me like a brick. Right before Job’s story finally gets better and God’s plan is revealed, Job is told to gain some perspective. To stop. To pay attention to how GOOD God is… not the temporary obstacles.
It was then that His design started weaving itself together for me.
School? Within the next couple weeks I was accepted into two other programs, both of which were exponentially more aligned with my interests. Home? I was introduced to a family in Barcelona who is close friends with my family chiropractor back in the States, and they invited me in to live with them, (small world, right?!). Community? My church group prayed for me, and we had a pow-wow focused on living out our faith daily. My heart finally lifted out of the negativity, and I had a moment of clarity.
That’s when I realized that all of my problems, all of my rejections, all of my closed doors…they were only there to point me in the right direction and pave the way for God’s original plan.
I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from you. –Job 42: 2
The program I’m now enrolled in would have been overlooked in my initial searches because it starts in January, which would have seemed forever away from me at the time I was making decisions. The way His plan unveiled also gave me huge, unanticipated gifts: time, travel, and complete surrender.
Throughout November and December, I was able to do volunteer-stays in the south of Spain and travel around with HIM as my daily pursuit. It’s something I needed for a while. Often, we get caught up in selfish prayers when things don’t go our way. When doors start closing, we start slowly shutting down and questioning the goodness of our God. I was 100 percent guilty of this when my life was seemingly falling apart.
Working in exchange for food and a roof over my head humbled me and made me pursue a Christian work ethic every moment of the day. I wanted the people I interacted with to see my lifestyle as different since most of them didn’t know Christ or have a relationship with Him. If I couldn’t talk to them directly about my faith, I could show them through my works, which is exactly what my small group met about before I left for my trip.
It wasn’t enough to have faith; I needed to pursue opportunities where I could actively live out that faith.
Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. –James 2:17
Traveling, meeting new people, and gaining perspective on how indescribably blessed I am knocked me to my knees more than a few times. I realized that His plan was never to belittle me. In my moments of doubt and fleeting pursuit for His comfort, He never once left me. In the end, I learned a lot by getting a bad case of the Closed Door Syndrome.