I love doing puzzles. Whether they’re logic puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, binary puzzles, sudoku puzzles, word puzzles, or cryptogram puzzles, I haven’t met a puzzle yet that I haven’t enjoyed. As far back as I can remember I’ve always looked at things around me as puzzles to solve and I’ve found myself many times wondering how things were made and how they worked. Yes, I was that annoying child who always asked questions to anyone who would listen and now, as an adult, I still love asking questions and learning how things work.
I remember in college, going to the bowling alley with some girlfriends. While they were busy planning how to get the hunky football players to ask them out, I was busy calculating what force might be required to quickly shoot that bowling ball from the back of the lane to the front. And I didn’t let us leave until I had asked the manager to allow me into the area behind the lanes, where those fascinating automatic pinsetters were. It was so cool seeing how those babies worked!
So you see, I’ve had the mind of a puzzle-lover for a long time. Puzzles help to relax my mind and they provide beneficial mental exercise. As a matter of fact, there are many scientists who claim that solving puzzles keeps us young. I don’t know about you, but at 60 years old, I need all the help I can get in that area! Although solving puzzles can be frustrating at times, it’s a challenge that when conquered, I find extremely rewarding.
Recently I’ve been thinking about how the playing of different types of puzzles can reflect deeper truths in my life. In a puzzle, each piece, or bit of information, plays such an important role in the big picture, and I must be open to all the possibilities before I can solve it successfully. Puzzles require patience and determination to finish, they require me to play by their rules, and they demand I not make assumptions, unless they’re directly based on the given facts, no matter how obviously accurate those assumptions might seem to be. And honestly, there are some puzzles that are just too hard for me to solve. I’m humbled by their reminder that I’m not smart enough, that I can’t figure everything out using my own feelings and human perspective alone.
So, I see some definite similarities between dealing with life and solving puzzles but there are also important differences. In our lives it’s people and events who play the important parts, not pieces and bits of information. And unlike puzzles, in life we’re not often given all the information up front and solving some of them feel like anything but a game. Still, it’s been interesting to consider the parallels that do exist between life and one of my favorite pastimes.
A puzzle might take me a minute to solve or it might take me a week to solve. The ones that take me the longest prove to be the most frustrating… and in the end, the most satisfying. They tempt me to give up and peek at the answers, just to be done with it, but whenever I keep working and refuse to quit, I’m usually rewarded with the satisfaction of successfully completing them myself.
There have been times when working on a puzzle, I’d get frustrated because there was this one piece that I was convinced just HAD to fit in this one spot. I’d try it, and it wouldn’t fit, then a few minutes later I’d be right back to that same piece, determined to make it fit in that one spot. Of course, it never did, and it was only later, after taking a break to relax, I’d laugh at myself when I saw the completely different spot where that one piece did fit!
How many times have I done this same thing in my own life? Those times when I’ve made assumptions based on my human wisdom and feelings that seemed to be correct, but were in truth, dead wrong. Those times when I stubbornly tried to make things happen that just weren’t meant to be, all because I was convinced they should fit a certain way… convinced that I alone knew what was best. Those times when I wanted to play by my own rules, solving the puzzle in my own way, instead of following the rules laid out for me in His word by the master-puzzle maker, God Himself.
Life has been like this for me sometimes: I’ll tried so hard to understand why things happen the way they do, and I’ll search everywhere for the answers, getting frustrated when things don’t make sense to me. It’s only when I give up my demand that the pieces fit the way I think they should and step back to refocus, am I in a position to maybe see the answers that are right in front of me. Sometimes those answers are revealed in the pages of God’s word, but often, in God’s sovereignty, these answers continue to elude me. My life-puzzle then remains unsolved and I find myself in the very difficult position of having to let go, move forward, and trust God’s heart anyway.
In Genesis 16:13, after obeying the sinful wishes of both Abraham and his wife, Sarah, we find Hagar pregnant with Ishmael, Abraham’s child. After arrogantly flaunting her pregnancy in front of an infertile, hurting Sarah, she was driven out into the desert. Hagar, realizing she’s going to die, places her baby boy a short distance away from her because she can’t bring herself to watch him die. At this most desperate place, God finds her and brings forgiveness, comfort, and hope to her heart. A grateful Hagar then calls God by His name, Jehovah-Roi… the God Who sees. The truth here is the same God who sees me and you in all the puzzle pieces of our lives is the same God who meets the genuine needs of all He sees.
Everything in my life, people and events, whether happy or painful, are a part of a complete puzzle only God knows. He sees them all and understands where I am and how I’m feeling at every given moment. I’ve had many pieces I still can’t figure out, ones I wish weren’t a part of my story. There have been difficult pieces that have made me ask, “Why, God?”, but then I’ve come to see later, that some of these pieces have fallen into place quite well, revealing a little of the holy wisdom behind the WHY. Seeing how God has used these pieces, some very painful, for my good and for His glory, gives me the courage to trust God for all those other pieces that I have yet to figure out.
The day is coming when I’ll take my last breath and I’ll leave this earth to be with my Savior forever. Although I don’t understand the meaning and purpose behind all the pieces of my life, I know that when my journey in this life comes to an end and the final piece gets put into place, I’m going to look back and finally understand, finally be able to see the finished puzzle and the sovereign engineering that went into each part that made it complete.
Until that day I will choose to live on in faith. I’ll keep my God-given thirst to know, to understand how things work, but I’ll allow myself to be reminded regularly that I’m not smart enough to solve all puzzles this side of Heaven. I’ll remind myself of how wise, good, and faithful God has been to me in the past, so I can be encouraged to trust Him to make those still-confusing pieces fall into place in His time. I’ll live my life in dependence on Him daily, trusting Him to live and to love through me. I’ll do all this, never perfectly, but consistently enough so on that blessed day, when God’s masterpiece life-puzzle of me is finally complete, he will then whisper, “Well done”.