|Photo by Piero 2005|
Saturday, May 2, 2020
As the King of Siam sang to governess Anna in the musical, “The King and I,” sometimes life is a puzzlement!
Even as born-again Christians (John 3:3-8) who have been saved by our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we often struggle to make sense of the few puzzle pieces God allows us to see in His grand mural of life. Coronavirus, causing more US deaths thus far than the Vietnam War; worldwide famine; unprecedented restrictions on personal activities, church attendance, work and school; global financial crisis – how can any of this be justified in a world governed by our loving God?
One of the items in great demand during this pandemic is jigsaw puzzles, as many find it therapeutic to work with their hands when they are in isolation. We can't control the pandemic, but fitting puzzle pieces together may be reassuring, supporting the illusion that we can control at least some aspect of our lives. I believe that's why so many have cleaned out and reorganized their closets and garages during this time of sheltering in place! Even the waiting rooms in our Iocal cancer center recently had tables filled with jigsaw puzzles in various stages of completion, although that may have changed now that more rigorous sanitizing measures are in place.
It reminds me of the complex jigsaw puzzles my mother, grandmother and I used to work on when I was a child. Upon tearing open the box, we thought we faced an impossible challenge, as the sea of tiny pieces seemed to have no relationship to one another.
Yet we know that with God there are no unrelated incidents nor coincidences. He has a specific plan for each of His children (Jeremiah 29:11) that He designed from before the beginning of time (Psalm 139:16; Ephesians 1:5,11) , and He is working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
As we embarked on the puzzle construction, we scrambled to find the corner pieces, each of which set the structure for two borders of the puzzle. Jesus Christ is our Cornerstone, the firm Foundation Who gives structure, purpose and meaning to our life (Isaiah 28:16).
Next we looked for the straight-edged pieces, for these would form the boundaries that determined the size and shape of the completed puzzle. It was easier finding good fits for these than for irregularly shaped pieces, because the straight edges had to align together. Similarly, God’s law sets boundaries for our life that ensure we will live out the days He intended for us, and that things will go well for us in accordance with His perfect plan (Deuteronomy 5:16. Ephesians 6:2; Matthew 22:36-40).
Even once the boundaries were in place, assembling the remaining pieces would be a daunting challenge were it not for the box lid showing the image of the completed puzzle! This showed us whether it was a landscape, with structures such as a red barn indicating where most of the red pieces would go, or a pond where the pieces with wavy blue-green patterns would find their home.
God’s Word is like the box lid, showing us what a life pleasing to God looks like, and how we should order and place our worship, service, human relationships, work and rest within each day He so graciously gives us (Proverbs 3:5-6). We ignore it at our peril, finding out all too late that we have wasted time, effort and resources on trying to cram fragments of our life into areas where they don’t belong (Proverbs 16:9), if we fail to put God first (Colossians 1:18).
We may try to fit ourselves into a relationship, career or opportunity that seems right to us, but if God did not ordain it, the connection will be no better than trying to jam together two puzzle pieces not designed to align with one another (2 Corinthians 6:14). Even worse, the wrong fit will block both pieces from finding their true bond.
Sometimes as we sorted through the remaining puzzle pieces we identified an unusual piece, perhaps bearing a facial feature like the ear of a girl dabbling her toes in the pond. The uniqueness of this detail meant that there was only one place it would fit, and we had a clear sense of direction in placing it there.
Sometimes God sends us an unmistakable sign, whether through His Word (Psalm 119:105), a sermon, a dream (Genesis 31:11; 37:5), Godly counsel (Proverbs 27:17), or His handiwork in nature (Psalm 19:1). If we listen to His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12), we can have the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), knowing that He has directed us in accordance with His perfect will.
But what about those days when it seems like we have to work on the puzzle from the reverse side, where everything looks the same, with no clues? Or what about times when our life seems like one of those demonic puzzles that is painted solid red? Even in these trials when life seems to make no sense at all (1 Peter 4:12-14), we can rely on our Cornerstone and His boundaries to order our understanding. He is not the Author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33).
We completed many such puzzles when I was a young girl, sliding them onto poster-size cardboard and stacking them under the bed. But the puzzle of my life, with the beautiful picture God intended for my life since before the beginning of time, may never be completed, whether Jesus calls me home tomorrow (James 4:14) or blesses me with many more years on earth (Psalm 90:10). Christ Himself finished the work His Father gave Him to do (John 17:4; Hebrews 4:3), but I believe that most if not all of us will fall short of that goal.
Whether working on jigsaw puzzles or living the life God appointed to us, it does seem to fall into place more clearly the further we go. We see connections that previously eluded us, and we can build on the work we have done under His direction, on the truths He has revealed through His Holy Spirit, and especially on Jesus Christ Himself (1 Corinthians 3:10).
In the meantime, may we redeem the time for His purposes (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5), order our days by following His Word, and trust that the Master Designer has a perfect plan even when all we see is disjointed fragments of the puzzle!
© 2018 Laurie Collett
Updated and reposted from the archives