Here’s a look at another common phrase we often use. As I said in the last post, I think it’s worthwhile looking at what we are really meaning when we say things. Plus, I like to overanalyze everything. Sometimes you get a twofer.
This phrase has been used on us a lot lately as resumes and interviews have amounted to a growing stack of rejection letters. It’s meant to be encouraging, a way of reminding us that God has a plan and that He will take care of us. And for the most part, it is true. But is God’s will and providence as simple as him opening and closing doors and us stepping through them? Yes and no.
I have stressed in previous posts that suffering does not come from God, and it doesn’t. It’s a result of sin. Then why did the saints all see every event, good and bad, as coming from the hand of God? Because in allowing sin, suffering and evil, God does not just throw up his hands and watch the free-for-all run amok. He allows bad things in a measured way. Even the worst sicknesses, losses or injustices can be seen as God’s will because he allows them for our greater good. He wills not the evil, but the good that can be accomplished in and through us as a result.
So we can take comfort in the fact that, no matter whether cutting our job was a good or bad decision, it was allowed by God, and is therefore his will for us. It is God who has closed the doors of jobs we may have wanted. Fr. Walter Ciszek, in his book, He Leadeth Me, has come to rescue me again from self pity on this point. I’m at the end of the book, and he’s just been thrown out of a town for finally getting to minister in an effective way to God’s people (after 23 years in prison and work camps in Soviet Russia.) Fr. Ciszek says:
“It was humility I needed: the grace to realize my position before God- not just in times when things were going well, … but more so in times of doubt and disappointment, like today when things were not going the way I would have planned them or wished them. That’s what humility means- learning to accept disappointments and even defeat as God-sent, learning to carry on… secure in the knowledge that something worthwile is being accomplished precisely because God’s will is at work in our life and we are doing our best to accept and follow it.” (p. 178)
So closed doors are definitively God’s will for us and our peace comes from accepting them as such. What about open doors? These are trickier. When we are given the luxury of many wonderful options, such as in choosing a vocation, many look for a “definite” from God. A lightning bolt that will signal it is time to ask the cute girl from Calculus out on a date. But in the face of open doors, I think God respects our free will more than we sometimes think.
When given more than one option, we are free to choose any that is morally licit, that fits our needs and obligations, and that appeal to our natural talents and preferences. When we wait around for God’s explicit command to do something, it is often an indicator of our fear of choosing the wrong thing, or a conception of God as an evil judge who will smite us if we choose the option he didn’t want. God doesn’t play games like that, though. If he gives us more than one good option, we should pray (which is really important!), weigh the outcomes and then simply choose. He will be happy with the outcome!
So, as we continue to wait for doors to open around here, we are most at peace when we realize that we are not “waiting for God’s will to unfold in our lives” (as I’ve said many a time!). His will is right here, right now. In the hallway of humility.
Happy Pentecost! Holy Spirit, let me know only your will.