God Can Open a Door in Any Circumstance
by John Ortberg
Viktor Frankl was a brilliant doctor whom the Nazis imprisoned in a concentration camp. They took away his livelihood, confiscated his possessions, mocked his dignity, and killed his family. They locked him in a cell with no way out. A room without an open door is a prison. But he found a door that his guards did not know: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Frankl discovered that doors are not just physical. A door is a choice. He found that when his circumstances had closed every outer door to him, they revealed to him the doors that matter far more—the doors through which a soul can leave fear and enter into courage, leave hatred and enter into forgiveness, leave ignorance and enter into learning. He discovered that his guards were actually far more imprisoned—by cruelty and ignorance and foolish obedience to barbarism—than he was imprisoned by walls and barbed wire.
Some people learn this and become free; some never see it and live as prisoners. There is always a door.
Columbia researcher Sheena Iyengar has found that the average person makes about seventy conscious decisions every day. That’s 25,550 decisions a year. Over seventy years, that’s 1,788,500 decisions. Albert Camus said, “Life is a sum of all your choices.” You put all those 1,788,500 choices together, and that’s who you are.
The ability to recognize doors—to discover the range of possibilities that lie before us in every moment and in any circumstance—is a skill that can be learned. It brings the possibility of God’s presence and power into any situation on earth. People who study entrepreneurs say they excel in something called “opportunity alertness.” They look at the same circumstances as everyone else, but they “notice without search opportunities that have hitherto been overlooked.” They are “alert, waiting, continually receptive to something that may turn up.” Perhaps there is a kind of “divine opportunity alertness” we can cultivate.
Sometimes the opportunity doesn’t involve going to a new place; it means finding a new and previously unrecognized opportunity in the old place. In a sense, this is the surprising story of the nation of Israel. Israel thought it was on a journey to national greatness, with a powerful army and abundant wealth. Instead, it knew exile and oppression. But with the closed door of national greatness came an open door to a kind of spiritual greatness. Israel changed the spiritual and moral life of the world. And while nations like Assyria and Babylon and Persia have come and gone, Israel’s gift to humanity remains.
Open doors in the Bible never exist just for the sake of the people offered them. They involve opportunity, but it’s the opportunity to bless someone else. An open door may be thrilling to me, but it doesn’t exist solely for my benefit.
An open door is not just a picture of something good. It involves a good that we do not yet fully know. An open door does not offer a complete view of the future. An open door means opportunity, mystery, possibility—but not a guarantee.
God doesn’t say, “I’ve set before you a hammock.”
He doesn’t say, “I’ve set before you a detailed set of instructions about exactly what you should do and exactly what will happen as a result.”
An open door doesn’t mean all will be pleasant and smooth on the other side. One of those six-word memoirs looks like Jesus could have written it: “Savior complex makes for many disappointments.” An open door is not a blueprint or a guarantee.
It’s an open door. To find out what’s on the other side, you’ll have to go through.
Taken from All the Places to Go by John Ortberg Copyright © 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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