Sunday, October 2, 2011

Puzzles


"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28
(KJV)

I think this could possibly be one of the most misinterpreted verses in all of God's Word.
I hear it quoted often, and I cringe when I realize that the person quoting it is missing the mark.
Not that I know more than anyone else.
Sadly, I don't.
But, I do know this.
I have lived long enough to figure out that the life of a Christian does not lead down easy street.

Romans 8:28 does not say that "all things that happen to those who love God will be GOOD things".
Nor does it say, "if you are called by God, you will only experience life's best".

There is a real trend among Christianity's circles to "name and claim" prosperity,
abundance of wealth, perfection of health, and life that resembles peaches and cream.
It sort of leaves a bunch of us out, when we realize that we are far from prospering,
we live on the poor side of town, our bodies are pain-racked, and trials abound.
Because most of us....well, we are human.
We get up every morning, and we face the reality that we live in a fallen, sinful world,
life is full of struggles,
body parts age and wear out and malfunction,
and there is a cross for each one of us that must be picked up daily,
in order to follow Jesus Christ.

Don't get me wrong.
I believe in God's power....I believe more strongly than I even know how to put into words.
I believe if we ask, we will receive.
I believe we live beneath our privileges many times, due to a lack of faith.
And I absolutely and certainly believe that "life and death are in the power of the tongue",
and we should ALWAYS speak blessings over our lives, our loved ones, and our situations.

But, at the same time, I am not naive enough to buy into the lie that life is always going to be smooth,
easy to navigate, and filled to the brim with fun and games.
That is just not reality, sad to say.

There is good.
There is bad.
And I believe that what God wanted us to understand from this verse, 
is that He will allow the good, and He will permit the bad,
then He will mix all of that together to bring about something that is ultimately good.
Not everything will be good.
Not everything will be bad.
But, the good AND the bad will be combined into something that is good...
something that is interwoven into a good result,
something that is pieced together, by His loving hand, into an "expected end".

"For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the LORD,
thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."
Jeremiah 29:11


Nothing has ever demonstrated the real meaning of Romans 8:28 better to me
than when God took something as simple as a jigsaw puzzle and made it so clear.
  
During the time of my mother’s nursing home stay after a serious car accident and operation in 2008,
Zachary and I would drive the 30 something miles to go visit her every, single day. 
Zach was little and could be pretty easily amused, in those days, thankfully.
Bless his little heart, he was...and still is, such a faithful, loyal trooper.
He would crawl up in to Mom's hospital bed beside her, and she would let him watch shows like Clifford, Diego, and Calilou, and he would be as content and snug as a bug in a rug...
for hours on end.

As for me, the hours went by slowly, so I bought some jigsaw puzzles to pass the time.  
I would spread a puzzle out on a cardboard at the foot of Mom's hospital bed,
and I would work on it, as she and I visited throughout the day.
Sometimes, we talked; sometimes, not so much.
For a time, my sister, Sharon, got to come visit us, and she was so faithful to ride along.
It meant so much to have her with us, and she was such a dear blessing.
Just having some of us near her was all that mattered to Mom.
Just the presence of someone you love can mean everything when you are in such an unfamiliar place and surrounded by such a foreign, oftentimes indifferent, environment.

When it came time for Zach and I to leave each evening,
I’d slide the puzzle and cardboard under Mom's bed to resume the next day when we returned.  
After that one was finished, I’d start another…then another.  
Each time I started a new puzzle, I would dump all of the pieces out on the cardboard,
and it, of course, would look like a jumbled mess.  
It was so confusing, in the beginning, when each piece was separate.  
I could only imagine that one day, the mixed-up pieces in front of me,
would look just like the picture on the front of the box.

One day, it occurred to me that jigsaw puzzles are a lot like life.

Some jigsaw puzzle pieces are dark and unattractive and really seem to have no point.  
Others have beautiful colors on them, and you can instantly see
that they are flowers, trees, faces, or something else that is meaningful.  
They immediately make sense and have a point,
even though each individual piece is incomplete on its own.  
Then one day, you set the final piece in place, and, suddenly, it ALL makes sense...
even the black, dark, ugly pieces that were so unsightly and didn't seem to be contributing anything valuable, necessary, or worthwhile. let alone anything beautiful.  
You take a step back, and you see the finished product, and you gasp!
Because, when you survey the whole picture, it is lovely.  
You don’t see a black piece here that is dark and ugly, or a bright piece there that is beautiful. 
You see that, what appeared to be misshapen and unseemly, was actually the brim of a gentleman's hat, or the hinge of an iron gate that opens to a beautiful rose garden just beyond.
You see that, the dark shades of gray that appeared to be foreboding shadows,
actually joined together to create the silver canopy of the carriage transporting the lady of the manor.
You really don’t see “pieces” at all.  
You see a completed picture.  
The end result.
The whole.
A culmination of hundreds of little parts.
And it looks exactly like it is supposed to look.
All of it has been woven together to create what it was intended to be....
something good.

God is in a continual process of creating our lives, on a personal, individual basis.  
Some of the "pieces" are dark and ugly and even frightening,
and we struggle to make any sense of them at all.  
Others are peaceful, lovely scenes that seem to make perfect sense, right from their earliest onset.  
As we go through life, there will be both kinds of "pieces".
The older we become, the more we begin to realize that the good and bad come in stages,
and we might as well accept that not every piece of our life’s puzzle is going to be pleasant.  
But, one day, when our Maker sees our work on earth is done,
He will place that last piece in the empty spot,
and I can just picture Him standing back and surveying the beautiful,
perfect picture before Him of a life well-lived. 
I can just imagine that sense of satisfaction He must feel as He sees
that His creation “was very good”.  (Genesis 1:31)  

"He has made everything beautiful in its time..."
Ecclesiastes 3:11

It doesn't happen all at once.
Just like it takes time to assemble the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of jigsaw puzzle pieces,
it takes time for God to "perfect that which concerneth" us.  Psalm 138:8

We are a work in progress.
He is the Master Builder, daily constructing the composition of "us" 
into the beautiful, finished-product "picture" He envisions us to be.

The good, mixed with the bad, that He permits, is "working together", hand in hand,
shaping us, molding us, pruning us, purging us, and perfecting us into something good.
One day, He will see that the good and the bad have been sufficiently interwoven into His masterpiece, and He will call us home.

That is the moment we are all waiting for, is it not?  
That glorious moment when the last piece of the puzzle of our life is in place,
and God looks at us and says “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…
enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”  
Matthew 25:21

As we look at the individual pieces, life can seem so puzzling.  
On that day, when it is all complete, and we stand, awestruck, in His holy presence,
all of the pieces, including the failures, disappointments, and defeats,
will all fit perfectly together into one splendid embodiment of His foreknowledge,
and it will all make perfect sense.

24 comments:

  1. Love this post! God sees the picture on the box as He knits us together in our mother's womb...Praise His Holy Name ❤️

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    1. YES! I love this point you made....what a lovely thought that He saw the picture on the box while we were yet in the womb!!! Yes, dear sister, praise His holy name, indeed. So happy you stopped by and grateful for your encouragement. ;) God bless you.

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  2. I really needed to read this today. Thank you.

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    1. I am so grateful if you found encouragement here. Thank you so much for stopping by! God bless you and always hold you near to His heart. :)

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  3. Beautiful post Cheryl, I really enjoyed reading this. You are so right, when we are going on our life's journey we don't see what is happening in the recesses because the picture isn't complete, but when it is, boy can we see God's hand on our life. Thanks for taking the time each week to share with us at Good Morning Mondays, it really blesses me and I am so enjoying our friendship. Have a great week. Blessings xxx

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    1. Yes, dear friend, it surely is rewarding when we can look backwards and trace God's hand. Then, we can see, that He was leading us all along, even in those dark places that made no sense at the time. So thankful for you, your precious encouragement, and our friendship, too. God bless you richly!

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  4. So true! When those pieces come together in a moment and I say" Oh now I get it!"

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    1. YES! That is such a dear blessing when that happens! Thank you so much for stopping by, Shandra. God bless you. :)

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  5. You are such a blessing to many. Yes, stuff happens in life and the rain does fall on the just and the unjust, but God is behind the scenes and He is working it all together for our good. Thanks for sharing your lovely story of visiting your mother and the picture puzzles lesson too.

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    1. Thank you so much, Hazel. Your kind words and sweet visits are always such a blessing and encouragement to me. I am still amazed at your post about the Key of David last night. It was so fitting to what we needed to hear! God bless you abundantly.

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  6. My life is so much like a puzzle as you describe. I tried so hard to make so many pieces fit, but in His wisdom, God had a better fit every single time. It makes it just a little easier to surrender...the next time. Thank you, dear Cheryl, for your great big loving heart and your love of God's word and your powerful prayer life too!

    Hugs,
    Mary

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    1. That is such a great thought about how we try to make the pieces fit into place sometimes, but they just aren't meant to go in that spot. The same with our lives. We question and wonder what is going on and try to "fix" things, but God has it all under control all along. I loved the thoughts you shared on this. Thank you SO much for your sweet visit and for the precious encouragement you left behind. It has brightened my day. I prayed for Amy this morning and will continue to do so. Looking for God to send her miracle!! :)

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  7. Yes! I agree. I hate to see this verse (or any) misinterpreted. We all do it, but I just feel that this verse is too important to mess up, ya know?

    Kristin // thepeculiartreasureblog.com

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    1. Yes, I do know. God help us to always right divide the Word of Truth. It is so precious! Thank you for your sweet visit, Kristin. :) God bless you.

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  8. This was beautifully written and just what I was needing to hear today! Thank you for posting this. Your description made it click for me too and I long and hope for the day when the ugly dark pieces are made into something beautiful. God used you to encourage me this morning. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and sweet visit, Stephanie. I am so thankful this post ministered to you. Much love and many blessings to you. ;)

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  9. I so needed to hear this today! This was beautiful!

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    1. Oh, bless your dear heart! I am SO thankful this was an encouragement to you. So happy to "meet" you. God bless you and meet your every need. :)

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  10. Wow, I needed this today. What a gorgeous post. Thank you, Cheryl!

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    1. I am SO grateful you came by, Mazie, and it just blesses me abundantly to know God used this post to encourage you! May He bless you abundantly, and may He show you just how much He loves you!! :)

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  11. Thanks so much for linking to this post in your most recent writings. I love every word and it ministered to my heart. I've blogged about a few of the shared Scriptures in years past and how rich they are. I've always loved Ecclesiastes 3:11: "He has made everything beautiful in its time..."

    God bless you, dear friend.

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    1. Oh, it is wonderful to have you visit here, sweet Dayle. God bless you over and over again for the encouragement and blessing you are to me. :)

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  12. This spoke to me on so many levels tonight. Thank you for linking to it.

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    1. Thank you dear Gayle, for visiting and leaving such precious encouragement behind. You and your precious sister mean so much to me! God bless you abundantly. :)

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