Then God Closed the Door

We were little, and probably hadn’t been to a funeral before. So they told us what to expect. One thing stuck out: “…then they will close the lid, and after that it’s not going to open again…” I was only almost-seven, but I fully understood what my parents were implying. My baby brother was dead, he was in that coffin, and when they shut the lid it was final. That was it. He would go into the ground, and I wouldn’t see him again until heaven.

And those words have never left me, because when I heard them, they reminded me of the words in our Bible story book at home. A vivid image flashed into my young mind to accompany the words. Noah and all the animals had gone into the ark as God had commanded them, then God closed the door.

Throughout my life, this image has continued to both haunt and inspire me. This simple phrase rings in my ears: then God closed the door.

This is God.
My God, who sometimes closes the door.

When God closed the door on the ark, it was shut. There was a finality in that. It was shut, and it was not going to open until God opened it again. And that was not going to happen until all of the devastation and destruction and heartache that were coming had passed.

God’s act of closing the door was both an act of justice and of mercy. In shutting the door, the moment of choice had passed. No one was coming in, and no one was going out. To the eight who had believed and obeyed God, the act was one of mercy. Because the door was shut, the water could not enter. The ark would float. It would keep them safe. God had shut the door, and they were inside.

But for others, it was an act of justice. The rain was pounding the ground. It was strange, sort of eerie. What was even going on? What was this water falling out of the sky? They’d never seen the likes. But it didn’t take long to get worried. The water started to pool on the ground, and then rise into measurable depths. They moved to wherever the water was not. It was a couple days of decreasing higher ground, increasing anxiety, and desperate innovation. They’d laughed those many decades as they’d watched the “righteous man” build that useless thing (whatever it was), but now they were sorry. The only actual place of safety wasn’t an option for them; the Lord had closed the door.

The eight were safe in the ark, safe in the hand of God. They were the obedient, and they had received mercy. No doubt they were grateful for the closed door making the ark float-able, able to keep them safe. And yet. They hadn’t lived their several hundred years each in a vacuum. Noah was 600 years, 2 months, and 17 days old when the flood began. God had told him to go into the ark with all his household. It’s fair to assume that Noah’s sons and their wives had children. But they hadn’t believed, they hadn’t obeyed. When God closed the door, Noah’s grandchildren weren’t in the ark. Inside the ark, these eight obedient people were safe, while outside the ark, all the eight had ever known was washed away and all those whom they dearly loved drowned.

We don’t get the privilege of being given any of Noah’s perspective on the event. We can only assume. I have imaginations of the atmosphere inside the ark. I think that there was a lot of emotion. 150 days of grief, stench, stale air, noise, claustrophobia, and probably some temper. 150 days of grieving the past, and fearing the future. 150 days of gratitude to God, but also doubts, questions, and anger.

It probably looked a lot like the book of Job.
It probably looked a lot like my life.

My God… He is God. At times I can’t imagine where He is going with things, or why He is asking me to do things so seemingly illogical, so beyond my supposed capacity, so very costly. I can’t imagine why He had to close the door, why He had to choose a route to His end that hurts so much.

I can only be honest with Him, offer up prayers and supplications and laments with loud cries and tears, remain assured of things hoped for and convicted of things not seen, and then obey my God who I don’t understand. I can only look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of my faith, and lean into Him. I can only trust God in what I know His character to be: good.

Though my child-heart didn’t have the words to explain it then, my first encounter with the sovereignty of God laid a foundation for my life. As God does what God may do or not do in my life and in this world, may I be on the inside. May I be one who worships and obeys Him, even when that closed door hurts. Even when I don’t understand why, even when the future looks grim.

May I worship my God, even when He closes the door.

Where have you encountered the sovereignty of God lately? How have you worshipped God through that experience?

 

Photo by Danielle Dolson on Unsplash

5 Comments

  1. Elizabeth October 9, 2017

    Hi Esther, this is powerful. Maybe it caught my attention and struck a deeper chord in me because I remember the coffin lid closing. It was my younger brother in the coffin, and I remember thinking I would never see him again until heaven.
    Yes, God closed a rather large door for us about 10 months ago. We have wept and grieved, but it has become evident that God closed this door in His mercy to us and our family. Our hearts are still wounded (by others in this particular situation), but increasingly my heart is turning to God in thanksgiving.

  2. Cecily October 9, 2017

    Your post is captivating, Esther. Thanks for taking us into your imagination of the way things may have been, causing me to think about things that I hadn’t thought of before.
    In the dark season that I have just emerged from (thanks be to God!), I learned about trust and obedience. Does not trust in God demonstrate itself through obedience? If we know and understand everything, then no trust is necessary. And if what God is instructing us to do lines up exactly with what we were planning to do, then that really isn’t an issue of obedience. But, when we know what God is asking us to do, but we don’t understand why, and we see the cost of the obedience, that’s when the rubber meets the road. This is when we demonstrate our trust in Him through our obedience.

    Romans 15:13 (NIV2011)
    May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    I have been meditating on this verse a lot lately. The amazing thing is that this verse that is laced with goodness requires only one thing from us. Trust.
    The prayer is that God will be the one to fill us with joy and peace as we choose to trust. Then, as we trust, and are filled with the joy and peace that God gives, the Holy Spirit empowers us with an overflowing hope.

  3. Ellie October 9, 2017

    Wow Esther, I can really see you’ve been wrestling with these questions in a “Jacob wrestled with God, hard, hanging in there” way. It reminds me of the Jewish way of “lament and life”, both/and.. It was a great privilege to read the fruits of your wrestling. Thank you sincerely for sharing, from another wrestler! Blessings.

  4. Kacy Lou Leyba October 9, 2017

    THIS. This is so INCREDIBLY powerful in my life. Thank you for writing this.

  5. Spring October 9, 2017

    Thank you so much. This post is an encouragment to me. Sometimes open doors look good or even look fearful but end up being God’s provision.

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