Many people probably think it is a line from the Bible, but it actually appears in ‘The Sound of Music’: “When God closes a door, He opens a window somewhere.” Actually, it is truer to say that when God closes a door, lots of people get their fingers jammed!
It is a characteristic of much of faith to cover over the pain of a faith journey: it creates the impression that the journey of faith is only one of joy and victory, of moving from one triumph to another. Last week we heard Manjula highlight the fallacy of that truth as she set into context the words of the chorus we have all sung. Jeremiah can only declare that ‘the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases’ once he has declared, ‘my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, "Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord."’ (Lamentations 3:17-18) The renewed mercies are declared only in the midst of an ache so deep that it threatens to destroy faith. It is in the ownership and declaration of this pain that this faith is moulded.
Time and again through the story of faith, God’s people are fashioned in the midst of their grief and loss, in the midst of struggles which threaten to overwhelm. Isaiah’s call to ministry comes in the wake of the death of King Uzziah – a king who had ruled Israel with justice, under the blessing of God, in the face of a strong enemy crouching in the distance. Ezekiel emerges in the context of exile, as Israelites – together with Ezekiel – lament the loss of the temple and the promised land. In the face of their pain, God is found.
The problem with the “When God closes a door, He opens a window somewhere” theology is that people fail to see God at work in the painful experience. It implies somehow that God has left, just when the going got tough.
Can we look into the disasters in America recently and detect the presence of God? Can we enter the desperation of refugees and know God’s hand? Are we able to discover God in the midst of life-threatening illness? As we threaten to be enveloped by grief at the loss of a loved one? As we contemplate life in the loss of a job? Or a trusted friend?
Maybe God does open a window when He shuts a door. But he also remains at the closed door, feeling our sense of pain, entering our despair and confusion, waiting to take our hand when we are ready to offer our own, and walk us in the new pathway He places before us.
That’s the sound of music that we hear from the cross of Calvary.
September 30, 2001