When considering how God uses circumstances to guide us, we should consider the balance of two truths: first, God can and does use circumstances to guide us into His will; and second, circumstances are not always an indication of God’s plan for our lives.
It is probably easier to be swayed by circumstances than by any of the other keys to God’s guidance. Circumstances are so real to us in the physical world. Anything that touches our person in this world is circumstance – joy, sorrow, hunger, pain, happiness, cold, heat, birth, death.
Larry Tomczak, said, “You’re not under the circumstances; you’re above the circumstances. You’re not contending with the devil for a place of victory; you overcome the devil from your position of victory.” Circumstances, taken apart from consideration of the Scriptures and the peace of God, can lead us astray.
We can learn to discern God’s hand in both positive and negative circumstances. But neither favourable nor unfavourable circumstances can be taken alone as a sign that we are in or out of the will of God. If think there are two types of circumstances that God will use to lead us – closed doors and open doors.
Closed doors restrain us from moving forward in our pursuits. This can be frustrating at times, and when it happens, it should force us to seek the Lord as to why the door appears to be closed, especially if we think we already have had clear guidance to move in that direction. Some Christians will automatically think that a closed door is Satan’s attempt to prevent God’s plan from happening in their lives. Others will believe the closed door is a sign that God is saying no to that pursuit. But both can be wrong, we need spiritual discernment to discover God’s purpose in the closed doors of life. Often just because a door is closed doesn’t mean it will be closed forever. Sometimes God is just saying “wait” while He works on our character, or while He is setting the stage for our later success. Always keep in mind the tremendous promise of Psalm 37:23: The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way.
God can also lead us through the seemingly open doors that circumstances present. These potential open doors can be exciting, and can seem like a clear indication of God’s will for our lives. But we must beware. Not every open door is from God. Blaine Smith classifies open doors into two categories – suggestive or confirming: “Suggestive circumstances imply possibilities. Receiving a scholarship would suggest the possibility of attending a particular college. But this circumstance should align with the other guidance factors of desire, ability, and counsel. Confirming circumstances merely confirm the choice, which we believe to be God’s will. If you have already determined that you are to marry a particular person, then circumstances may simply confirm your decision.
When things don’t seem to be working out, or you’re having a hard time with the circumstances in your life, it is not always because you’re out of the plan of God. Often you are directly in His will!