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Life As a Puzzle

  • Cliff Young Contributing Writer
  • Updated Nov 11, 2009
Life As a Puzzle

 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9).

Whenever I meet up with my family for a vacation, a jigsaw puzzle always seems to appear on the dining room table.  We spend countless hours trying to piece together those small interlocking cardboard shapes into some wonderful picture.  It really intrigues me, not so much in the act of putting the pieces together, but rather in the process and the life lessons I draw from it.  (Maybe I have spent a little too much time staring at the thousands of puzzle pieces, but stick with me.)

Most people attack a puzzle by finding all of the pieces that have straight edges, forming the boundary of the puzzle and filling in the middle trying to match the picture.  Many of us approach life in the same way, or at least try to.  We attempt to establish the basic outline of our life and then fill in the details along the way according to the picture we have in our mind.

We desire to have a nice home, a good stable job, a spouse, a family, friends, a gratifying ministry and a relatively comfortable life—all good things in and of themselves.  However, when we focus our heart, mind and effort on obtaining each of these parts individually, the tendency is to view these as "edge" pieces in our "life puzzle."  As a result, they become our parameter rather than a facet. 

In other words, we envision the "picture" of our life (picket fence included) and we try to make everything else fit into it (if only life was that easy).  However, when we have an "edge" piece(s) missing in our life (or our picture), we can become "stuck," not seeing how other aspects and circumstances fit into our image.  God operates in a whole different way.

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed (Isaiah 28:16).

According to Wikipedia, "The cornerstone (or foundation stone) concept is derived from the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure."

Some of us started building our lives without that sure foundation of Jesus as our cornerstone.  Many of us have laid stone upon stone without a spiritual reference to determine the direction to build.  We have tried to structure our life according to a picture we created in our mind or one the world has created for us.

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, he says we are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).  We begin to rebuild on a foundation with him as our cornerstone with no parameters to limit our growth or direction.  Our human mind cannot begin to fathom what the Lord has determined for us nor how he will accomplish it.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit (Psalms 147:5).

If we claim to be Christians, true believers of Jesus Christ, he is our cornerstone on whom we build upon, for whom we live, for the purpose we are here, in the direction he guides us and who we trust.  Jesus is the one who determined long ago what our life would look like, not us. 

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart (Jeremiah 1:5).

The Lord does not lay out a boundary for our life and let us neatly fill in the middle, although we may prefer it.  His aspiration for us has no bounds.  When we encounter an obstruction in our life, it is often not from God, but rather self-imposed.  It is something we perceive or an impediment we have built.  Our struggle is created by fear, unbelief, doubt, over-analyzing, poor choices, or disobedience.

When I encounter an obstacle in my life, uncertainty sometimes causes me to question my situation, "It can't be done," "I'll never get around or through this," "I can't do it," "It will never happen for me."  This is not from God.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). 

When something doesn't seem to fit neatly into my picture (like a dissatisfying dead-end job, a disappointing relationship, a financial decline, a medical condition or a family crisis), I become unsure of how to proceed.  I don't know if I should try to disregard it, search for explanations, or concede it is just "life."  At times I end up pushing the situation aside like a puzzle piece I have no place for rather than examining it, understanding the reason it is there and determining how it fits into my life picture. 

In God's view, there is no person, event, struggle, ordeal, pain, achievement, victory or success that goes unnoticed, unappreciated, or overlooked.  Everything has a reason, a part, and a role in our lives. 
In my usual "linear" approach to thinking and functioning, I visualize a task from start to finish, lay out a plan to achieve the pre-determined goal, and proceed in a methodical way along that path, just like putting together a puzzle within the borders.

However, whenever I have fought my own nature to go (and grow) beyond my comfort zone and allowed God to work in every direction of my life without any assistance (or "Cliff-infused" restraints I place on him), I experience things only God can accomplish and things I can only imagine.

Examine those forgotten misunderstood pieces of your past and present, to understand how God has used, is using, or wants you to use them in your life.  Look at your future, not within the parameters you have created, but rather open your mind to how God created you and what he created you for.

Oftentimes, God uses odd-shaped random pieces to complete the picture he has pre-determined for us.  What may look like a random mosaic of colors and shapes to us, when looked upon from God's perspective, is a beautiful picture for our life.

We must continually keep our soul open to the fact of God's creative purpose, and never confuse or cloud it with our own intentions. 

- Oswald Chambers

Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in's Singles Channel.  An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback?  Send your comments and questions to 

**This article first published on October 22, 2009.