My wife and I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles, so during the winter evenings when the days are so short and the nights are so long, we occupy ourselves often with spending time listening to music and working on a puzzle. During the early stages of the shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we also pulled out a puzzle to fill in the time. We have had some very challenging ones and even a couple we had to give up on, especially ones with pieces that were all alike. We also built a couple on a backing so we could frame them—one of polar bears and Coca-Cola for our neighbor’s Laundromat where he has a Coke theme. That was a tough one with all the white. Then we also did one of Bryce Canyon where we took our family for our 50th anniversary celebration. What an amazing place!
With the many hours of assembling jigsaw puzzles, we have made a number of “Life Observations.” Here they are:
1. Don’t force a fit. If a piece doesn’t “quite fit,” then it doesn’t go there. It will fit perfectly somewhere else. God has made each of us as unique individuals—no two just alike. He has also given us as believers different spiritual gifts so that we have a unique place where we fit in to help complete the whole picture. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good …But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” (I Cor. 12:7,11).
2. When things aren’t going so well, take a break. Quite often you can get stuck looking for a particular piece for quite some time without success, yet if you take a break and come back later, amazingly, there the piece is! That seems to happen quite frequently. Sometimes in life, we are struggling with a problem that we can’t seem to solve. It is good to take a break and focus on something else and then come back to the problem with a clear mind. God created each of us with a need for rest and a time away from the normal routine. Even God, after creating the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, rested on the seventh day (not because He was tired) but to enjoy what He had made!…Gen. 1:31-2:2). During His earthly ministry, Jesus took time away from the demands of the crowds to spend time with His Father. He also gave Israel the Sabbath as a time of refreshing and spiritual renewal. We are all made with the need to take breaks and to be refreshed and refueled physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
3. Be sure to look at the big picture. If we get hung up on one little piece, we can become frustrated. In life, we often wonder how what is happening to us makes any sense. But there is a much bigger picture which God is “assembling,” as He works to conform us to the image of Christ. “And we know that all things (each piece of the puzzle) work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose…to be conformed to the image of His Son…” (Ro. 8:28,29).
4. Perseverance pays off. Every puzzle goes together the same way—one piece at a time! If you only get a piece or two each time, you will still complete it–in time. Stick with it. Paul writes, “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary” (Gal. 6:9)…”Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” I Cor. 15:58). Anything worth doing takes time and effort. A great puzzle can’t be rushed!
5. When you get stuck in one spot, move to another, but be sure to come back later (See #4). Sometimes when we are reading God’s Word, we struggle to understand a particular passage. Rather than getting hung up on that spot, go on in your reading and studying and come back to it later, with a fresh mind and quite often the Holy Spirit will then illumine it to us. That’s what is exciting about reading and studying God’s Word, for the best commentary on a passage of Scripture is the Bible itself. It all fits together so beautifully and often as we work on another area and then come back to where we struggled, it suddenly makes sense in context.
6. The Creator of the Puzzle gave you a picture as a guide. Trying to make sense out of the “pieces” of our life would be impossible if we didn’t have the picture (God’s Word) to refer to as a guide. “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (II Pet. 1:3). “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light to my path” (Psa. 119:105).
7. Variety is the spice of life. It’s the different shapes and colors that make the puzzle interesting. When all the pieces are similar shape, it is quite boring and difficult to assemble. As observed in #1, God makes us all uniquely—different shapes, sizes and colors; different abilities, gifts and personalities, That is something to celebrate, not to complain about. It makes life much more interesting. Paul uses the analogy of the human body (I Cor. 12). . How inefficient it would be if we were just an eye or an ear or with hands but no legs, etc. Each member of the body has a unique role to play and we need to “play together” for the body to work properly. That’s how God made the “pieces” of the puzzle…the world of humanity. Imagine what we could accomplish if we stopped fighting and worked together! Well, that will happen one day, when Jesus sets up His Millennial reign on earth—even so come! Paul also talks about how “the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part…” (Eph. 4:16).
8. Working together with others makes it more enjoyable. As with any task, it is more fun when your tackle it together with family and friends so you can struggle together and rejoice together. Even though my wife and I may spend a little time alone working on the puzzle, it is more enjoyable when we both have time to sit and do it together. That’s how God made us. Not only do “Many hands make light work,” but it makes the work more enjoyable. Paul often spoke with great affection about those who “labored with Him in the Gospel” (Phil. 4:1-4).
9. Establish the border first. The first thing we always do as we begin a puzzle (i.e., after turning all the pieces face up!) is to find the edge or frame pieces and put the frame together. Without a frame to work from, it is very difficult to see how everything fits to make the big picture. We all need boundaries in our lives from which to work. They give us a sense of security and order. God has given us the “frame pieces” in His Word through His commandments. As we obey the directives of God’s Word, all the other events (pieces) of our life fit together. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (the pieces will fit together)” (Pr. 3:5,6).
10. There will be some surprises. Our favorite puzzles are those which have uniquely shaped pieces and often they fit into the strangest locations, making the puzzle not only challenging, but fun and full of surprises. God loves to surprise us in life too with unexpected “pieces” fitting in where least expected. “Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).
11. Take time to enjoy the finished product. Celebrate your successes! When we complete a puzzle, we leave it on the table for a couple days just to enjoy the “big picture,” and see the fruit of our labors. There is satisfaction in a job completed. While on this side of heaven we will not get to see how every piece fit into the big picture, we will still get glimpses of what God has been accomplishing in our lives as He grows us for eternity. Stop and give thanks for what God has done and will continue to do. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).