What Putting Together A Thousand-Piece Puzzle Taught Me About Life

What Putting Together A Thousand-Piece Puzzle Taught Me About Life February 13, 2020


For five out of seven days last week, I spent several hours a day putting together a thousand-piece puzzle of the world. The bottom portion of the puzzle said “THE WORLD”, while the top portion was an actual map of the entire world. Seas and oceans, continents and countries, the equator, and even animals native to certain parts of the world were included. Putting it together tried my patience, hurt my neck and back, and I admittedly cursed whoever executed the idea for the puzzle. In my book, he or she definitely did not qualify for a Nobel Peace Prize!

It was the most difficult puzzle I’ve ever put together. This may be saying something since my Mom, Grandpa, and Grandma used to put together huge puzzles on a cardboard table. I’d always help, but I don’t recall ever getting so frustrated. This puzzle, the puzzle of The World … it was also large, with teensy weensy pieces, and the lettering on it was so small, fine, and fancy, it was nearly impossible to tell what piece went where. And the box. Argh! The picture on the outside of it that is supposed to be helpful as a guide was anything but helpful. At one point, I dug out the magnifying glass in an attempt to see what a small portion of the puzzle said so that I could then look for the pieces and place them correctly. But even with the magnifying glass (and my prescription glasses to boot!), I could not see the lettering on the box. Turned out to be “Equator”, which of course made total sense once we put two pieces together, guided by color and shape, and then put those two pieces into the bigger portion of the puzzle.

I’m sweating just talking about it …

Anyway. I don’t know how many times I lamented aloud about how difficult it was to put The World together.

“I hate this puzzle,” I’d say to my Mom who became just as obsessed as I did about getting it finished.

“Why did they have to make the lines so fine?”

“What was the creator thinking when he made an elk look like that!?”

“I’ve got to take some Motrin if I’m going to keep this up.”

So I’d take some Motrin – and a nap – and I’d improve a touch, so I’d lean over the table and go at it a few more hours. Mom would soup up on her Ibuprofen, too, and then we’d sit back down, laughing about how obsessed we were.

“It’s a puzzle, Ma! It’s not important.” (This was meant to scold us and thereby motivate us to get back to life.)

“Eating is important. Laundry and paying bills is important. The dog is feeling abandoned, and that’s important.” (More ineffective scolding.)

Still, we carried on. And as we did, we hooped and hollered when we were able to fit a piece or two, or rarely, a slew of eight or nine. We sighed. A lot. We laughed, sometimes hysterically. I seriously almost cried when the pain got so bad, not even a maximum amount of Motrin and every natural pain trick in the world would ease it. But we still carried on.

You might think we were insane, but I think we were simply living out life the way we always do, in spite of our issues, attempting to figure out The World, why its creator made it the way he or she did, why it was so difficult to be a part of it, and whether we would see it all come together, make sense, be beautiful, or … did I mention make sense?

So much of it was a mystery, right up until the very end. But approximately half way through, I began to realize that this puzzle was a picture of real life. For in real life, we also carry on through the pain, whatever its origin – emotional, physical, spiritual, or mental. One foot in front of the other. One piece at a time. Sometimes pieces come together beautifully. Other times, we must labor and toil and think hard, think differently, or not think at all and simply accept what we do not know. 

Put the puzzle piece down. Walk away. Do something different. Come back, try again, and suddenly, a piece will fit and there’s wonder at why it wasn’t seen before.

That was the drill with the puzzle of The World.

That’s also the drill with the Christian life. We’d appreciate knowing what our Creator was thinking when He made The World, why He allows this or that tragedy, and why He hasn’t come back for us yet. Or why the map He left us, the Bible, is at times confusing. Truth is though, if we are His and we are diligent about seeking Him, He shows us so much, piece by piece, at just the right time, when our hearts and minds are ready.

Sure, we are like Job. And there will be times when we question God, but He will answer us with a question, as he did with Job:

Who made The World to begin with?

To quote exactly (and more eloquently):

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, Job, if you have understanding. Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line in it? 

And then later on …

Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it. Now gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you, and you instruct Me. Will you really annul my judgment? Will you condemn me that you may be justified? 


Job’s response?

Behold, I am vile. What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer. Yes, twice. But I will proceed no further. 

Point is, the Creator knows infinitely more than the created. And it would behoove the created, in the midst of life’s tragedies, hardships, and perplexities, to place their hand over their mouth. The orchestration of The World and the events of it are not the creatures’ territory. Though the creature is instructed to act certain ways in response to life’s events, the creature is not to observe the puzzle of life and in response, question the Creator’s authority, purpose, or goodness.

God not only has the ultimate authority, He is the ultimate authority. His purpose is to bring the lost unto Himself, and sanctify those who have done so. And the means He uses to do both are always good.

Life is often admittedly a puzzle. We don’t understand the ways or thoughts of the Creator, because they are so much higher than our own. On the other hand, our Creator has given us a large portion of His heart and mind through His Word. Much of what is perplexing and difficult will become less so if we will, with an open mind and heart, read and follow the words He left us.

No matter how much we know of His Word, we will never know it all. Even in Heaven, we will not know as much as God knows. But we can know enough. Because Christ is enough. He is sufficient. And if we keep plodding away at what we do know, at putting a piece of the puzzle here and there (even in the midst of our pain), one day, it’s all going to come together, make (enough) sense, and be finished. None of what we experience here will last forever, thank God. Time will end. And if we make the right choice to know and follow Christ, we will live with Him forever after this life is said and done.

Like Job, I am not called to have it all figured out. But I am called to submit to an omniscient God who does, in fact, have it all figured out. And I must trust Him in the journey from here to life everlasting.

Funny thing about the puzzle of The World. We never did finish it. When we got to the end, much to my chagrin, there were five (!!) pieces missing. A few years ago, I brought the puzzle out and began putting it together, but ended up putting it back in the box because the troops were not rallying around the table with me and I didn’t want to take on the task of assembling it all by myself. Unbeknownst to me, I must have lost three or four pieces at that time. Then this round, the dog chewed up either one or two pieces. All the information I worked so hard to be privy to was never to be seen or known.

When we get to Heaven, we will know abundantly more than we currently know. But there will always be a portion of God and His ways that are bigger, higher, and greater. Being the creatures we are, we simply are not able to fathom it all.

I’m learning to be okay with that. It is not imperative that I know what drives Nancy Pelosi. I don’t have to be in control of Donald Trump. There’s no need or even ability to know whether Iran is going to try and nuke us or whether healthcare will be available to me by the time I’m retired. It is not a must that I have the why of cancer, car wrecks, kidnapping, and tragedies laid out before me in a cohesive, understandable fashion. All I have to do is work hard to know and do what I have been told, and leave the rest to the Creator.

That can be frustrating … or that can be freeing.

My choice.

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