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  • Writer's picturePatty

That's Puzzling, Isn't It?

Read: Romans 8:28-29; Philippians 2:12-13

Several years ago my father and stepmother lived in a facility which offered various levels of care. There were lots of activities both inside the facility and in the community that the residents could participate in, according to their personal desires. My stepmother enjoyed working on puzzles in the common room, and she and other ladies worked on many of them. There was however, one thing they didn't like about puzzling.

It was when residents would come during the night and finish the puzzle on which they had been working. They wanted the fun of putting in those last pieces, and they took action. Notes were written to ask those interlopers to keep hands off the almost finished puzzles. It is fun, isn't it? To stand back and see the finished picture of cute dogs or a stunning sunset scene. Every piece in its place making up the completed vista.

I have heard of our lives as believers in Jesus being described as puzzles that Jesus is completing piece by piece. Every now and again, we see a little part of a corner where it looks like He has put pieces together. Oh, those times when an incident that hadn't made any sense at all came together and God's glory shone through. However, at other times, it seems like a piece that seemed to join perfectly into the picture all-of-a-sudden no longer fits, and that space is empty again. The problem is that God is the One Who is moving around the pieces, and He is putting together innumerable puzzles all at the same time. I can only see my little ever shifting puzzle pieces. The things I have experienced and the lives with whom I have intersected. If I try to fill in the areas that seem obvious to me, it generally ends up in frustration. Thankfully, even though we can't put the pieces of our own puzzles together, there is precious truth about God's work that can comfort us found in Romans 8:28-29; Philippians 2:12-13.

Before we go further, it is important to note that the encouraging things we will share aren't meant to say that the sorrows we all face can be flicked away by God's precious truth. God's truth is a real balm that when applied brings sweet soothing to our wounds. It does not brush away our pain like an unwanted fly. His Word like honey brings His comfort as we walk through circumstances we often can't comprehend, 2 Corinthians 1:3. With that in mind, let's remind ourselves about what God does tell us He is doing when we go through puzzling times.

1. God is working, Romans 8:28. Even that simple statement that seems so obvious at times seems unlikely during other circumstances. I have asked the Lord in times of befuddlement to please give me a glimpse of this work that He is doing. How I would love to tell you that He always did so, but that would be false. When I don't see evidence of God's working, that's when I need to take a lesson from the official in John 4. His son was very ill, and he longed for Jesus to go with him so his son would be healed. Jesus did not go with him to his home. Instead, He said that his son would be healed. He took the Master at His word, John 4:50. He walked away from Jesus' presence with no physical evidence that anything had changed at home. When the Lord says that He is at work in Romans 8:28, it is just as certain as what He said to the official. Without seeing any puzzle piece fitting into the picture, I can be comforted by taking Jesus at His word.

2. God is actively causing everything to work together for the good. That word together is an important one. Often we take a circumstance in isolation and wonder how in the world it can be for our or anyone else's good. The truth is that in isolation, we're not expected to see a circumstance as being good. It is as Jesus works in the very big picture that it will be seen as having worked together for good. Back to my stepmother and the desire to put in those last few pieces. We like that kind of specificity with our circumstances too. We want to see the beauty and the order and how things fit together. Please know that isn't said in a chiding way. It is a natural and understandable desire that we all share. It simply won't happen now, but the One Who is over all has promised that when we stand in His presence, we will have great joy, Jude 1:24, and He keeps every promise.

3. These sweet truths are for those who love Jesus and who are called to fulfill His purpose. This is family truth. For those who have been born anew and have exchanged their sins for Jesus' righteousness, John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21. We can claim these promises.

4. Romans 8:29 reminds us of one thing we can know for certain. God is accomplishing something beautiful in our lives through this work. When we were born again, John 3:3, we received God's perfect righteousness, 2 Corinthians 5:21. We were new creations; however, there was work to be done to make our actions and reactions match up with our new nature. This process is called sanctification, and it is a process that takes time. This is a very personal work that the Lord does in the lives of each of His children. Philippians 2:12-13 says that we are to work out our own salvation. When we were born again, we were given all the resources that we need to grow and change, 2 Peter 1:1-4. He gives us both the desire and the will to do the things that please Him. He is at work to grow within us those actions and reactions that look more and more like His. It is encouraging and fun to look back at some of the Bible's characters. To see beautiful things God did as He put together their puzzles.

For example, how sweet it is to see Joseph and hear his declaration of victory found in Genesis 50:20. He knew two parallel truths. First, his brothers meant evil against him.

Second, God meant to bring good for him and countless others. Just think! That is only one of God's amazing stories. What a foretaste of the way God alone can work, and there is coming a day when we will stand amazed at all of the completed puzzles and how they complement one another.

For now, how thankful I am that God soothes the pain that is part of living in the here-and -now, and that He is at work doing amazing things in the puzzling times.

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