Last year I had two doors shut in my face, doors I thought were wide-open. Walking through those doors would have been changed my life.

My wife and I saw the openings; we prayed about them, sought godly counsel, looked for clarity and were convinced that God had indeed swung the doors open and cleared the path. Only to have them both slam shut.

Honestly, it hurt. It rocked us back and knocked us over. The resounding thud still resonates in my heart’s ear, and the pain is still very real.

It happens. We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt the pain, experienced the confusion. It hurts, both spiritually and emotionally.

It causes us to second guess ourselves and question God. Are we that out of tune with God’s will? Did we misunderstand His voice that much? Did we do something wrong? Did we mess up so much that God changed His mind and shut the door, stopping us dead in our tracks?

The questions can drive us mad, cause us to overanalyze the situation and come to all kinds of conclusions that have no grounding in truth. Better questions to ask would be: Where do we go after a door is closed? What can we learn from it?

Here are five lessons I’ve learned from closed doors.

God is in control, not me.
I want to be in control. I think I know what’s best for my life. After all, it’s my life, right? I think I can manage to call the shots and make things work out. I like to tell myself all these things, but the reality is I’m not in control. God is.

He is the ultimate playmaker; He calls the shots; He leads and I follow. Which doors open and which doors close is His business; it’s His specialty. He has the God’s-eye view of how all this stuff will work out. I only see what’s immediately before me on the ground level.

We walk by faith, not by sight.
We take life one step at a time, relying on God to light the way step by step.
Rarely does He shine that light farther down the path and show us more than we need to know. Open and closed doors are about following Him one step at a time—any open door can close and any closed door can open. It’s all about trusting Him with every step.

He is trustworthy.
We don’t always understand where He leads us or why. In fact, we rarely understand it. We question why some doors open and then close. We wonder why the door was opened in the first place. We question and wonder; and the cycle goes on and on.

What we need to remember is that God is trustworthy and He has a reason for everything He does. He doesn’t have to let us in on that reason and often chooses not to. Sometimes we have to just accept that a door is closed and we may never know the reason. But we know the One who closed the door and we trust Him.

God uses closed doors to teach us something.
Closed doors refine us further. They shape us and chisel away more of what doesn’t look like Christ in our lives.

I’ve found that at times, a closed door has a mirror on it, forcing me to examine myself and showing me something about myself, some part of my character that needs work or a facet of my spiritual life that requires attention. Sometimes God closes a door to reveal something about our relationship with Him—to force us to draw near to Him, seek refuge and direction and even answers.

God is more interested in our relationship with Him.
Whether walking through an open door or pausing to regroup at a closed one, doors drive us to seek God’s guidance and His will. But God is more interested in strengthening our relationship with Him than He is about us getting the doors right. I need to follow suit. Often, we pray for God to show us His will, show us which door to take; we ask Him to open doors for us.

But we fail to realize that discerning which door to take is more about our relationship with Him than His revealing what’s behind door number one. Recently, my prayer changed from, “Lord, show me Your will,” to “Lord, help me to do Your will.”

I’ve had plenty of experience with closed doors and they rarely close quietly. Often, they hurt, even cause lasting damage. But I’m learning that they don’t need to.

If our perspective is right, if our trust is in the One who both opens and closes doors, and if we focus more on our relationship with Him and less on the door, we will see every closed door as an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and our God.

And in the end, when faced with our next closed door, we will realize that in the Christian walk, closed doors are just as important as open doors.