I have a confession to make. I’ve been living in the shadows way too long and I just need to come out and admit it – I am a dissectologist. I know you’re in shock and terribly ashamed of me. I’ve tried to stop but I can’t. I will shout it out for all to hear – I love jigsaw puzzles! You’ve learned of my deep, dark secret (plus, new word to impress your friends!)
I speak of my “guilty pleasure” because I’ve been reminded lately that even the process of putting a jigsaw puzzle together can teach us an awesome lesson on the importance of having faith during challenging times. I know that might not make much sense, but let me explain.
Everyone knows there is but one way to put a puzzle together. First, you find the corners. Next, you build the border. Then, slowly but surely, you find the proper home for each oddly shaped piece by comparing once piece to another. However, there’s always a few times during the assembly process that you pick up a piece and no matter how hard or long you look, it just doesn’t seem to go ANYWHERE! This is a crucial moment and it is here that an important decision is made.
Some people, out of a heart of frustration and a doubt that they will ever finish, walk away and never see the picture completed. Others, while feeling that same frustration of not being able to make things fit, simply put that piece down and pick up another, trusting that with perseverance the wayward piece will eventually find its proper home. Hopefully you’re beginning to see the bigger picture.
We love it when the events of our lives align perfectly with our plans. You might spend several years and thousands of dollars getting an education so that you might work in a particular field. When you finally graduate and get that dream job you say, “My hard work paid off, all the pieces are falling into place, and everything is going according to plan!”
But let me ask you – what do you do when you are confronted with something that just doesn’t fit? When economic downturn causes you to loose that job, or your marriage falls apart, or the doctor calls with bad news, or worse yet, when you face the sudden loss of a loved one – what do you do then? Just as it was with the puzzle, there are two choices.
Some people take that piece they’ve labeled “why did this happen to me?” and, not knowing how to handle it, begin to doubt the goodness of God. With a heart of frustration or even anger, some will walk away from a life of faith and trust. This comes from a false belief that those ugly and terrible things can have absolutely no place in God’s grand plan for one’s life. Those who respond this way will end up missing out on the realization that even the most beautiful pictures contain some very dark colors.
However, there is another way, which I’m sure you’ve already guessed. We can choose to take that same piece, and instead of walking away full of anger and doubt, we simply set it down and keep pursuing a life of faith, trusting that God will eventually show us how what once seemed disastrous is actually being used for His glory and our blessing.
Let’s take a moment to consider what God’s Word has to say on the subject.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:5–8, NIV)
Very quickly, take note of 3 things from this passage.
- God welcomes your questions – even the tough ones. We are not meant to figure out everything on our own. When confronted with something that was not a part of our plans, God desires for us to turn to Him for answers. I believe that some of the most powerful prayers are ones where we honestly admit our lack of knowledge and wisdom.
- God provides answers – in His time. We are promised that when we place our questions before God, believing that He will provide an answer and reveal His truth, we won’t be disappointed. However, we aren’t told when God will answer. A strong faith will allow us to take the question, place it before God, and then continue on as before awaiting the day when will understand more fully.
- God can handle doubt – we cannot. I realize that the passage said, “you must believe and not doubt,” but the key word there is “you.” God knows we have moments of doubt, but He doesn’t want us to carry those doubts. If I hold onto doubts, refusing to surrender them unto God, then just like those verses said, I will loose all my stability.
I know I’m running the risk of making this post a little too long, but I’d like to conclude by sharing a personal story. Six years ago, my wife and I received one of those doctor reports you never hope to get. What made it worse was that it concerned our youngest son. I share this story quite often because what we experienced during those days forever changed our family.
My youngest, Parker, has had an interesting and lengthy medical history. We’ve faced more than our fair share of scary moments with him. However, the toughest of these came when he was just eighteen months old and the doctors told us that due to an abnormality in his skull, he would require major corrective surgery. I’ll spare the gory details, but I’ll never forget being told how the surgeons would remove a huge portion of his skull, break it into pieces, and then try to fit it all back together (very much like a jigsaw puzzle) into the proper shape.
Trust me when I tell you that putting my precious child through this was something that didn’t fit in my plans. I simply didn’t know what to do with this news and at several points, I felt angry and frustrated over why this was happening. However, somewhere along the way (because this was a process that took time) I handed this thing I didn’t understand over to God. Learning to trust God took on a much deeper meaning for us as we sent that baby into the operating room. By faith, we had to believe that even this unwanted piece of life’s puzzle would eventually find its proper home in our lives.
I know that others have faced much harder things, for our story had the happy ending of a successful surgery and full recovery. But as the years have gone by and the story has been told and retold, this experience has become an indelible part of our lives. My son still carries a scar that runs across the top of his head from ear to ear, but I don’t think I would remove that scar even if we could. God has already used that experience to minister and bring comfort to many others in their time of distress, and I know that it will be used in even greater ways in the days ahead.
So take a lesson from me and my fellow puzzle practitioners; if today you are facing something that doesn’t fit in your plans and that you don’t have an answer to, refuse to take on doubt or loose hope over the plans God has for you. Take that part of your life, that part that you don’t think could ever be used for good, and place it before God. Ask Him to give you the wisdom you don’t currently have and seek His strength to keep living for Him while you wait for the answers.