Life is an enigma to me!
Life is a mystery to me a lot of the time. When I take time to ponder some of life’s enigmas, I am encouraged and awed; at other times, the contrasts I see confuse me, and even anger me. Like the poverty situation in some of my most loved countries; our country’s foreign policy; and on the local level, the political and practical issues related to our state’s decision to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. I see, hear and smell beauty all around me, and then, all I have to do is turn my head in a different direction to see, hear and smell ugly—huge and horrific!
Life baffles me!
And yet—I know behind the life we see, hear and smell—there is a designer. And we see how that design, in it’s original state was perfect and beautiful—but through man’s sin, it was marred. That’s where my thoughts took me this week when I thought of my ‘LIFE metaphor. I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you. Here it is:
LIFE is like . . .a jigsaw puzzle!
Every year at Thanksgiving time, I like to set up our card table and chairs in a corner of the house and put out a new Jigsaw puzzle for the family and I to work on! Dicey business if there are little toddlers around with sticky fingers, eye level with the table! BUT barring too many disastrous incidents, having that puzzle out is fun, and gives us many moments of enjoyment as we fit the pieces together. The great reward is seeing the picture emerge!
How like LIFE is that puzzle???
Here’s my take on it–and please have grace on my philosophical muse.
Have you ever felt like your life was like a pile of random pieces with no particular purpose or pattern to them–and making sense of it is like trying to put that puzzle together without the box top to look at? I sure have.
Maybe you are a natural-born optimist, and you got a good start on your puzzle. Early on, your life-picture began to fit together pretty neatly, one piece after another falling into place.
- Growing up. . .
- school. . .
- graduation. . .
- college. . .
- finding Mr. or Miss Right. . .
All these pieces fit together for you perfectly! How hard is that?
You rejoiced as you pick up piece after piece that links up easily—connecting to make that LIFE picture take shape! Your life puzzle seems to make sense; the seasons are defined, your life goals are working out.
As the years pass and you fit more and more pieces together your picture is looking pretty good! Even others looking at it tell you so. If you are like me–in times like this–you feel successful, satisfied–even like you have this LIFE-thing all figured out. Maybe you have even found yourself giving others advice on how to put their puzzle together. Those borders go up and around your picture: Job. . . marriage. . .saving. . .babies. . .work. . .career. . .nice and neat. Then it happens!
It was inevitable, you know. You got stuck and wonder—where are those pieces that connect to my job? Why am I am I not being promoted? Or—why can’t I find the piece that makes my child act. . .well, normal?
That’s equivalent to ‘suffering’!
In LIFE (real life) disaster has a way of coming along and messing up our puzzle! (Remember the sticky-fingered toddler or your jovial (big) dog with a boisterous tail-wagging spasm?) Messy, disastrous moments like this are equivalent to ‘suffering’—those times when pieces of our life scatter and the picture fractures–breaking apart!
s when discouragement sets in. You want to quit altogether. After all it took you a whole lifetime to get to this place in LIFE!
My life feels like that sometimes. I’ve had the pieces go flying off the table (figuratively speaking)—and all I could do was stare in shock at the wreckage. Like the year our teenaged daughter ran away from home! Shock. Sorrow. Grieving. I tried in vain to find the missing pieces. I so wanted to put our family picture back together. But for awhile the pieces I needed were hidden. I could only see the ginormous holes left behind—the big gaps. . .the missing pieces, the scattered pieces, the upside down pieces and the ones that had no design at all–just blue (or green). How would it ever get put together again?
This week in our bible study, our teacher helped us gain God’s perspective in living through difficult times—like the times when our Life-puzzle has been messed up! She did this by defining suffering for us. I want to share her definition with you—for it made a lot of sense to me.
“Suffering is to undergo or sustain an assault derived either by the sinfulness of man (our own or from another), or the fallen state of the creation.”
According to the definition above, all human suffering comes from one of two sources.
- “Interpersonal issues (an assault derived by the sinfulness of man)
- The physical degeneration process that ends in death (an assault derived from the fallen state of the creation).” ( God’s Perspective When Life Hurts, by Darlene Kordic, pg. 85)
Focusing on this definition helped restore perspective for me as I remember (even lament) the losses I’ve sustained in my life; the enigmas that confuse and frustrate me. Here are some examples, according to Darlene Kordic, of suffering based on her definition.
“Suffering as a result of the sinfulness of man:
- Being accused
- Murder or assault
- Verbal, physical, or sexual abuse,
- Any and all forms of unjust treatment by another human being.
Examples of suffering as a result of the fallen state of creation:
- Sickness of any kind,
- Physical pain,
- Mental illness,
- Emotional instability,
- Death as a result of physical degeneration. (These forms can also result from our own sinfulness too.)”
Just as God has a design and plan for our suffering, so does Satan. But his purposes are not for our good and hope for the future. His designs for our suffering is to torment us, confuse, harass, deceive and leave us hopeless and despairing. A despicable sadist, he gouges our emotional sore spots, twists his sharp edge of ridicule, blame, guilt and shame into our deepest and most secret places. Worst of all, through suffering, Satan tries to get us to blame God for this torment and pain. ‘After all,’ he insinuates: ‘where was God when you needed Him the most?’
On the other hand, God takes that same wound and binds it up with His sweet balm of Grace and LOVE and soothes our troubled spirits by encouraging us that this suffering is temporary. That we will make it through the fire and flood waters: We will, if we submit to His plan, be stronger on the other side of this journey through suffering—and He whispers to us, “never forget . . . surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt.28:20; Isaiah 43:1-3a)
Thinking Metaphorically of LIFE
Thinking of LIFE as a jigsaw puzzle combined with Darlene’s definition of suffering, has helped me to spot a few more pieces to put into place in my LIFE-puzzle! Those missing pieces don’t bother me quite so much any more. Realizing the active role Satan tries to play in my thinking, I can now adjust my attitude toward the seeming chaos and missing pieces in my LIFE picture. I can choose whether to believe the one who is known as ‘a liar’ or believe my God—the One who offers hope in the midst of that chaos and loss.
As I look back at my life—I can see the hand of God at work—even when all I could see before was a gaping hole, with not a clue where the piece that belonged there was hidden. I can see more of my life-picture emerging–and it’s beautiful! Pieces are being placed one by one right were they should be.
Oh, there are shadows, of course, and even some scenes where disaster struck, but I can also see the meadows, the mountain peaks; sunbeams and rainbows, ripened fruit and the seasons changing. And I know they are set according to His divine plan.
I will proceed ‘by faith’!
There are still some missing pieces to my puzzle! I think there always will be—until I get to heaven. Until then—I will proceed by faith, trusting His activity in my life, and day by day, those missing pieces will fall into place–in His timing, in His way.
How about YOU?
When you ponder LIFE—and particularly yours, do you think metaphorically? I hope so, because doing so uses that part of your brain that solves problems–makes sense of /give a place to life’s mysteries! Take a few moments to ponder this, ‘Selah . . . ‘pause and think on that’.
What metaphor would you use to describe LIFE—YOUR life? Take a moment and write something about it in your journal—a poem, or a prayer to God—maybe the beginnings of an essay. OR just ramble. It’s all a way of processing this wonderful thought.
Whatever response you make, be sure to thank Him for revealing this metaphor to you today. If you’d like to share it with me. Please jot a note in the comments box. I’d love to read it.
Thank you for stopping by my blog today. I hope you have been encouraged as you ponder these truths, and that it made a difference in your life. If you liked this article please share it with a friend.
All God’s best,
*God’s Perspective When Life Hurts, by Darlene Kordic, pg. 85 http://www.wordofgodspeakministries.org