When God Closes a Door with a Resounding Bang

Today’s post first appeared about 18 months ago, as part of a series on my friend Bethany’s blog. It’s about the end of a writing dream, but it also could apply to any situation in which God seems to close a door with a resounding bang. My prayer is that this little chapter from my life will encourage you in some way, especially if you are struggling to accept an outcome you weren’t expecting.

When I was in my early 30s, I wrote a book about infertility. I worked on it during the long months after my husband and I ended our three-year effort to conceive and before we adopted our first daughter from China.

I believed then—as I still believe now—God’s promise to work all things for the good of those who love him, those who are called according to his purpose. So every chapter, which mostly focused on the spiritual and emotional aspects of infertility, flowed out of my desire not to let our struggles go to waste.

My book was published by a traditional Christian publisher in 2003. The business was different back then; huge numbers of social media followers were not necessary to secure a book contract because social media barely even existed.

I had no blog, no platform, no speaking career. I was simply a former journalist, wife and mom-to-be with some deeply held beliefs about how God uses our pain for his glory.

In the months after the book’s release, the publisher arranged for me to promote it on several national Christian television and radio programs. I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed this process—it was fun to be on the other side of the interview after so many years of working as a reporter.

After about a year, though, I received the phone call no author ever wants to receive.

The editor was very sorry, but the book hadn’t lived up to sales projections. As a result, the company was going to sell off the remaining inventory at a deeply discounted price and put the book out of print.

I was angry and embarrassed, but what I felt most at the time was bitter disappointment. I couldn’t believe that the project I had poured my heart and soul into would be snuffed out so soon.

For a while, I held on to an irrational hope that the editor would call me back and say the company had made a mistake—that the decision makers had changed their minds about putting my book out of print.

That call never came.

What did come, though, was a message from the Holy Spirit. A familiar scripture that made a new impression on me—shared as part of a Bible study I started on the very day the publisher called.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

These seven words were spoken by John the Baptist near the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, but in my heart, I knew they also were what one of my mentors would call a “right now word from God.”

In those disappointing days after my book went out of print, I sensed that my current season of influence—however small and short-lived it might have been—was over. God wasn’t just ushering me off the stage, He was guiding me out of the building completely.

And somehow, John 3:30 helped me be OK with that.

I had no way of knowing that, in the years ahead, I would decrease so much I almost disappeared completely.

Soon thereafter, we moved to a new state where nobody knew about my writing background. Life was good in many ways, but the wilderness stretched long ahead of me. For several years, my words simply went away.

Years later, once the fog dissipated and the desert was mostly a memory, I started writing again. I took it slowly at first—with an article here and there, then a blog. Another book is in the works, but my past disappointment often hangs like a dark cloud over my current efforts.

Awhile back, I read an article by a literary agent about the kind of platform that publishers require these days. It was discouraging, to say the least.

Forget being in the ballpark. I’m not even in the same universe.

Later that day, John 3:30 came to mind again.

He must increase, but I must decrease.

In God’s economy, it’s not about numbers, platform or audience.

It’s not about the logical, most obvious way that God can use our trials for his glory.

It’s not about us at all.

Is there a message in there for you today? There is for me, though I confess it doesn’t make much sense right now.

As I look to the future—to what I sense God is calling me to do, writing wise—the way forward is a bit murky. How it all fits in with God increasing and me decreasing, I’m not sure.

One thing is certain: While I need to do my part—even in the face of near-insurmountable odds—God will be the one who gives the increase.

At this point, only He knows what that might look like. But I do know it won’t happen unless I get to work.

So a promise and a prayer from scripture that I ran across several months after my editor called gives me faith to take the next step, even when the next step is just to write another sentence.

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. Lord, Your love is eternal; do not abandon the work of your hands.” (Psalm 138:8)

Lois

In God’s economy, it’s not about numbers, platform or audience. Click To Tweet

Note: I’m linking up this week with Purposeful Faith, #TellHisStory, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, #HeartEncourgement, Thankful & Grateful and Grace & Truth.



30 Responses to When God Closes a Door with a Resounding Bang

  1. Brenda says:

    ((Hug)) And, how freeing it is to know that He’s able to do whatever He wishes, all we need to do is take the next step. Whether that be small impact or large, it matters not. (And, really, is there such a thing as “small impact” when we’re speaking eternally?) xoxo

  2. Great advice. Publishing can sound like a numbers game. But like you said, if God is the details it is more of his work and not us. He can do wonders when our numbers look sad.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      So true, Theresa. I stopped looking at my blog numbers about a year ago and now mostly just pray that God would put my posts in front of the people who need to read them each week. Less comparison and more peace with that!

  3. I know what you mean. My book that I self published barely sold to people who know me, but then God laid on my heart to write a mother/tween daughter devotional. It is written, but I need to figure out how to publish it. There is so much humility necessary, but we want our efforts to be acknowledged. But God knows best for each of us. That has to be enough for now!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      You’re right, Sarah. Your mother/tween daughter devotional sounds wonderful. It seems like there would be a market for that one (says one who fits directly in the target market)! I hope you can find a way to publish it.

  4. Liz says:

    Amen, Lois! Just write the next sentence. Thanks for sharing this again! I needed to read it today. Blessings!

  5. So glad you shared this post, as I missed it the first time around, and it is completely relevant to where I am in so many ways. I’m thankful for your words wherever I find them, and as we show up, post by post, God is doing something, even if it’s only in our own hearts.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Hi Michele … I’m glad this repeat was relevant to you now. It’s remains so for me as well, all these months after it was originally published over at Bethany’s. Thank you for your encouragement, my friend.

  6. Lisa notes says:

    Yes, this is truth, Lois: “In God’s economy, it’s not about numbers, platform or audience. It’s not about the logical, most obvious way that God can use our trials for his glory. It’s not about us at all.” I need reminding of that every single day. It’s so easy to switch the focus back to me, me, me. But the glory needs to go to God, God, God. Thanks for this reminder!

  7. Lois,
    I’m so glad you republished this post since its message is timely for me right now as I let go of a few dreams I’ve held on to and am embracing the small that’s in front of me. It’s strangely liberating and peaceful.

    I suppose we can never anticipate what’s around the corner for us (since that’s where trusting God comes in) but it is for us to enter into whatever uncertain and disappointing circumstances arrive and to see God’s hand in them. Sending love to you as you begin fresh adventures and new endeavors and revisit what God has done in the past! xo

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Amen to every word, Valerie. It’s hard to let go of dreams, isn’t it? But then when that process is followed by the peace you describe, I guess that’s how we know we’re on the right path. Hugs, friend!

  8. Meg says:

    Wow, Lois thanks for being so open with this. It really speaks to me right now and I appreciate reading it. Thank you so much. xoxo

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Meg, I’m glad this post spoke to you where you are right now. It’s not the easiest thing to write about, but it was definitely an experience that God used to do some pretty important work in my heart. Hope your week is off to a good start, my friend!

  9. Lesley says:

    Thanks for sharing, Lois. It is so important to remember to do what we do for God- that it’s not about building a platform or making a name for ourselves, but honouring him. And we never know the impact our words can have even if we don’t get to see it. I’m glad you kept writing- I’m always encouraged by your post and grateful for your words here.

  10. Trudy says:

    For some reason, my comment posted while still in the process! I was saying further that it’s certainly not easy how God brings us through that process of our decrease and His increase, is it? Love and hugs!

  11. Trudy says:

    Thank you for sharing so honestly, Lois. Yes, it certainly applies in so many life areas. As I read this, I couldn’t help thinking of the many who were helped reading your book before that door closed. And those books may still be circulating around. And God used it for you, too. God even uses your words here at this blog, my friend. I know your posts have been such an encouragement to me. So that door is still open! 🙂 I’m so glad God gave you the courage to pick up writing again. I know how rejection from publishers can bring a writer down.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Trudy. I know what you say about how God uses our words is true. I prayed long and hard for the book as I was writing it, that God would use it and direct it to the people who needed to read it. He is the one who opened the doors for it to be published, and when that season ended, I had to just let it go and trust that He had that under control as well. And yes, I am so grateful to be able to write what’s on my heart here and know that friends like you are reading. Hugs to you this week!

  12. Am still so grateful for this!

  13. Dear Lois, your words are such a blessing today! I’m currently seeking an agent, and keep reflecting back to Ps. 138:8. Sometimes “just” doing our part seems so feeble, but God looks at our hearts. We need to get together and chat about writing. In the meantime, prayers for peace and words.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Dear Alice … your words are an encouraging balm to MY Monday afternoon! I hope your search for an agent is successful … it seems like a hugely daunting process. I do hope that we can connect in person soon … until then, thank you for your prayers and thoughts, my friend!

  14. Lois, I am always encouraged by your words. So thankful God gave you this platform to share your wisdom. Not too long ago someone (I don’t remember her name) in a Facebook writing group said she, “wrote for an audience of One.” I try to keep that always in mind, but I admit that I struggle with wanting more and more readers. My one phrase this year is He > I because I must remember, He must increase but I must decrease.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you so much, Debbie. “He > I” is a great phrase to order your life around … I’ve seen it on your blog homepage but never connected it to this verse. It’s a good visual that will help me remember this too! Hugs, friend.

  15. Allen Bryant says:

    What about that one person who read your book that needed it?

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