Closing Chapters

Saying goodbye to people, places, and things in our lives can be a mixed bag of emotions. Sometimes these endings leave us feeling relieved and excited for the next stage to come. Others fill us with sadness as we reluctantly or abruptly are forced to move on with our life. And at times what we leave behind causes us to feel both extremes.

Whether it’s changing jobs or dealing with a break-up, closing a chapter in life can be both difficult and joyous. The important thing is to place our focus on using those experiences as a way to better ourselves. The past has a tendency to hold people back from moving on to their future. Part of that can be contributed to the fact that we are comfortable with the past because we’ve been there and done that whereas the future is a little more daunting with its unknowns. Our brains also have a propensity to romanticize the past where we remember things with a more positive outlook than it may have been in reality. Whatever the reason, we can’t allow the past to hinder our future but rather enhance it.

There is a quote by Alexander Graham Bell that says,

When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

God knows the plans He has for us, and those plans are for us to prosper, have hope, and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).  We have to trust God’s word. If we truly seek His face, will, and direction then He will direct our path (Proverbs 3:6).

Chapters closed should propel us onward. We pick up tools, life lessons, and connections along the way that can help us prepare for and face the future better equipped. I wholeheartedly believe that everything we go through – good or bad – is orchestrated by God to mold and shape us into the people we need to be in order to face what lies ahead. That’s why when doors close, I begin to explore and pray about what I can take away from those experiences to make me a better person and so that I can take on the next open door with vigor and excitement.

Looking back
Not all reflection is a bad thing. We shouldn’t ignore our past; it is what formed us into the person we are today. The problem comes when we dwell on the past rather than reflect upon it.

The difference between dwelling versus reflecting on the past is that reflecting is looking back to move forward. It means asking yourself what you learned from your experience. What could I have done better or differently? What does this chapter show me about myself? What can I take away from this experience? Reflection is a contemplative and intentional thought-process that analyzes and digests events in a way that helps us to learn from them.

Looking forward
Part of the allure of dwelling in the past is that it is comfortable and known. There is no mystery because it already happened whereas the future is full of uncertainty and mystery. While that can be a frightening notion, it can also be an exciting one.

The future is a blank page staring us in the face waiting for us to leave our mark. God gives us opportunities, and we should seize them. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Sometimes we don’t understand why we are where we are, but we can take confidence in knowing that God is by our side. He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

As you grab hold of the lessons you have learned from life’s previous chapters, face the future with excitement, vigor, tenacity, and faith in God. This life is but a vapor (James 4:14), so what will you do with it? Will you make it count? Will you represent Christ? Will you trust in His goodness and promises?

With each completed chapter in life, there is something precious, special, and valuable we can take away and into the next. Life is a series of opportunities presented to us, and it’s up to us grab hold of and make the most of them. Through that process we grow and develop into the person God designed us to be.

So, the next time you find yourself waving goodbye, take a glance in the rearview mirror of life, appreciate the view for a moment, and then enjoy the ride onto roads untraveled. Who knows who you will meet, how God will use you, or where you will end up.


Ashley McIlwain, M.A., is a Marriage and Family Therapist, speaker, and writer. She is the founder and C.E.O. of the non-profit organization, Foundation Restoration, and blog, which are comprehensive resources committed to restoring the very foundation of society - marriage. She is committed to and passionate about helping relationships thrive. Ashley holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic University and a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from Azusa Pacific University. Ashley previously served as Managing Editor for where she helped launch and develop the website into a hub for premarital preparation. Currently she and her husband, Steve, reside in Southern California.

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