Did you ever hear the cliche' "When God closes a door He opens a window?" It sounds good, like many cliche's, but I have always thought that leaping out of that window didn't sound so appealing. Like many of our Christian cliche's, this one leaves a lot to be desired. So, what do we do when we hit obstacles in the path of our journey in life? What is the Biblical way to move forward?
Isaac had a door, window, opportunity situation in Genesis 26:18-26. Isaac needed water for his flocks and his people. As he became more and more prosperous, the Philistines became more and more envious. So they filled the wells that had been dug by Abraham with dirt and they told Isaac ... "You have become too prosperous! There is not enough room for all of us, so you need to move away." Isaac moved to the Valley of Gerar and set up shop there. He, again, dug wells, reopening wells dug by Abraham, but the local residents said ... "Not so fast ... that water belongs to us!" Isaac dug another well and, again, the locals quarreled over the water. Finally, Isaac dug a well that offered no opposition and he named it Rehoboth because he said, "God has given us room." There are many facets to this story but we will dwell on just a few today.
The first, and I think most obvious, point is that life (including for the chosen people of God) presents obstacles. If you listen to prosperity gospel messages, please stop! They are untrue and false teachings. Every person in Scripture faces obstacles ... and so do we! While it is natural to want to avoid obstacles, it is also natural that we expect, prepare for and endure obstacles. In our world bad things do happen. Some are part of corporate evil (WOW!!!, we have seen that in our political systems, our corporations, our governments and even our churches). Corporate evil is real. Bad people are also real! Some people mean us harm. Even in our local community we hear people talking down good people and even our churches. Sometimes people choose evil and disunity as their agenda ... and we all suffer! And sometimes bad things happen even when we are trying to do good. A horrific example of this is the apparent accident of the Minneapolis police officer pulling their gun instead of their taser, firing once and killing a young man. Not one person desired this outcome, yet it happened. Isaac faced all of these evils that plague us even today.
The second point is that life is often more complicated than we expect. I have embarked on projects that, in my estimation, are easy. We thought getting bids on a new HVAC system in the Family Life Center would be a simple process. Many months after we started this project, we have endured reluctant bidders, long equipment delivery estimates, vendors who decide (in the middle of the process) they are not interested in bidding, and limited funds. Roadblocks have risen up in every part of this process. Each roadblock required an assessment and a decision. I have learned almost nothing is simple. Life is complicated!
The final point is that there are things we can do even if things are complicated and even if all sorts of obstacles rear their ugly heads. The story of Isaac is a story that is filled with possible solutions. Isaac tried to do what had worked before ... Abraham's wells. But these wells were filled up by the Philistines. Isaac still needed water and he tried to co-exist with his neighbors. New opposition rose up ... he finds that the Philistines just don't want him or his people around! Isaac had to move his entire operation elsewhere. He had to adapt to current conditions. His new plan was to dig wells at a new location, but that was opposed by the people in the new area who said, "That's our water!" So Isaac dug yet another well. That worked, and he rejoices that God provided!
Isaac tried the door, but it closed. He tried the window and he fell flat on his face. He tried diplomacy, relocation, old ideas. It didn't work. But what did work was 1) persistence, 2) focusing on the real goal and 3) trusting that God would provide. God seems to honor our efforts when we truly seek and trust Him to lead us forward. It worked for Isaac ... and I think it will work for us! Randy