Open-door decision making

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When people are talking about what next step they should take, whether they should take a new job, buy a new house, or start a new relationship, they often talk about ‘open’ or ‘closed’ doors.

“I was going to get married to _____, but God closed that door.”

“I didn’t know what school I was going to go to, but God just kept opening doors to _____, so I just kept walking through them.”

Ever heard a statement like that?

image credit: Creative Commons user Documentarist

If the door is metaphorically closed, it’s like trying to get into Ft. Knox. Or like trying to get your cable guy to shrink the time frame of when he’ll show up to fix your problem. Forget it. You’re not getting through.

If the door is metaphorically open, it’s like a magical door opened with the help of magical elves. And if you walk through it, everything smells like a fresh rainbow.

There’s a problem that exists with the swinging door. And I’d like to propose a better way to know what your next step should be.

Here’s the problem: you’re depending on something that could just as easily be the work of the Devil himself as the work of God.

An open door doesn’t always mean you need to walk through it. Likewise, a closed door doesn’t always mean you need to stop. If the apostle Paul used this theory, he would’ve given up on the Galatians. And he would’ve never gone to Spain.

If Jesus would’ve relied on the “open door” to follow God’s will, he wouldn’t have gone to the cross. He walked through a “closed door” with confidence. (Luke 22:42-44)

Don’t depend on swinging doors in trying to determine your next step.

3 Things to Depend on in Decision-Making

Depend on God’s Word.

This is the one thing that we can depend on every time. If the Bible clearly instructs us on something, we should follow its teachings. If you’re trying to decide whether to murder someone or not, I’d say not…Exodus 20:13. If you’re trying to decide whether to take a job that will keep you from your family, think again. The Bible instructs us to make a priority out of our home. If the Bible has clearly instructed, you’ve found your first answer. Sometimes the Bible guides by specific directives…other times it’s by principles. But it’s always to be trusted.

Depend on prayer.

I’ve never prayed and, as a result, seen the heavens open up and drop me a note with the answer I was looking for. But I often get much clarity through prayer. That’s a great gift God gives through the Spirit when we depend on Him. When you depend on God, He honors that. And not necessarily in giving you the answer you want to hear. Often, His answer is, “Keep trusting me. I’ll reveal the next step you should take.” Depending on prayer is important, too, because we see that the heart of God is moved when we pray. Last time I checked, that was a big deal. (Exodus 32:11-14)

Depend on people who know and love you.

Don’t make decisions by yourself. Ultimately, the decision may be yours to make and yours to deal with the consequences, but it’s foolish to operate alone. You may have your best interest at heart, but it’s hard to see the best course of action to take because you’re zoomed in too closely to your own situation. Find a group of people (I believe these people are often found in small groups) who have your back, have your best interest at heart, and will encourage you to seek God’s best.

Don’t depend on your circumstances, though they inform. Don’t depend on past decisions, though they also inform. Don’t depend on open or closed doors, though they may help sway.

There are 3 things you should depend on: The Bible. Prayer. And people who love you.


Ever heard people use “open doors” as the primary way they decide what course of action to take?



Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Sara

    And we should depend on the Holy Spirit (Matt. 4:1 & Acts 16:6)

    • Ben Reed

      Agreed, Sara! I mentioned the Holy Spirit under the “depend on prayer” point, but it probably should’ve been its own separate point. Great addition!

  • Chris Peek

    This is a powerful message Ben. For a long time, I tried depending upon #1 & 2 while disregarding #3. In the process, I failed to realize how other people who are invested in my life can see things that I can’t always see. 

    • Ben Reed

      Thanks Chris…it’s easy to overlook others’ influence as being a gift from God.

  • Arny

    yeah…I never got that whole when God closes a door he opens a window…

    i like what you said about Jesus not follow that way of thinking…the bible tells us that he could have called on 12 legions of Angels to come to his aid…he could have easly said that was a door that God was opening and run right through it…but he didn’t ….he knew the word and what had to be fufilled…

    • Ben Reed

      I’m so glad he didn’t run through that door!

  • Jason Vana

    I think there are times when the open/closed door model is how God communicates to us, but to use it as the basis of all our decisions – not a good idea. If I would have done that with my ministry or with getting into more European countries, I wouldn’t be in ministry anymore. Sometimes the very thing God calls us to do feels like standing outside a locked door and doing all we can to bust through. I have a few bruises on my shoulders because of that.

    • Ben Reed

      I’m so glad you didn’t walk away from ministry, Jason!!

  • Angi Pratt

    Yes! Thanks for speaking the truth Ben!!

    • Ben Reed

      You bet, Angi! You too!

  • Rob T

    i was thinking about this same phenomenon today.  someone who has dropped out of church in order to discern God’s will.  the open door will present itself, and they will think they have discovered God’s direction.  

  • Luther Wesley

    Our circumstances change and people may fail us but HIS Word is true and if there is an explicit teaching regarding our circumstances we had best listen.

    We all, no matter our age, also need Godly counselors if for nothing else to just see a different perspective.

    Ever played Bible Roulette?