When God Closes a Door, Does He Open a Window? by DEREK J. BROWN for The Gospel Coalition
“When God closes a door, he opens a window, right?” the author said as though she’d just penned some age-old axiom. After listening to her husband recount how he’d missed an important job interview due to car failure, this mom of six reassured herself of God’s good providence: if God says “no” to one opportunity, you can be sure he’s got another for you in the queue.
But like many other biblical-sounding phrases, this one isn’t actually in the Bible. It’s not wrong for that reason, but neither should we embrace such sayings because they bear some resemblance to the New Testament.
The world is full of religious clichés, and due to their catchiness and brevity, they possess unique power to weave themselves into our thinking and form our spiritual intuitions. Unwittingly, we begin to view the world and make decisions according to a list of clever platitudes instead of God’s Word.
What’s Wrong with That?
But catchiness isn’t the problem. Scripture provides us with an abundance of short, sharp, and serious sayings that God intends for us to hide in our hearts. The Proverbs are the most obvious example, but the prophets and the apostles also express Solomonic skill in delivering piercing one-liners.
The issue isn’t form; it’s content. The question we must ask is: does the statement, “When God closes a door, he opens a window,” accurately capture what Scripture teaches about God’s providence in our lives?
First, the language of “open doors” is found in the New Testament. When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, they attributed their recent missionary success to God’s opening “a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). Paul told the Corinthians that a door of effective work had been opened for him in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:9). He used the same language to describe an opportunity in Troas (2 Cor. 2:12) and asked the Colossians to pray that God would open doors of greater gospel opportunity.