It has been years since I put a puzzle together. Outside of the preschool-level puzzles I helped my sons with more than a decade ago, doing a puzzle hadn’t even crossed my mind. But when the pandemic shutdown first hit, we began thinking of creative ways to fill our time, and like many of you, we bought a 1,000-piece puzzle! (Did you also get back on your bicycle or bake banana bread? Great minds…)
Puzzle work seems to occur in a descending chain of events: initial excitement, sorting and identifying, fatigue and frustration…if you know, you know!
Now, think about a challenge that felt like a puzzle you couldn’t solve. The challenge is laid before you, with many parts and pieces. You begin sorting through the details to get a feel for things. You start trying (and failing) to put some of the pieces together. Some pieces fit; others don’t. Fatigue and frustration set in. It’s not “fun” anymore, and you want to give up.
In life, we often try every-which-way to make the puzzle work. Of our own ability, we struggle to make sense of everything. But in the metaphor of life, we can break it down like this:
Begin with the end result in mind
Like the beautiful picture on the puzzle box, we know what the end result looks like. We use the end result as our guide, and when we fail, we keep trying, knowing we have everything we need to complete the task.
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)
All the pieces are necessary
Even though some of the pieces don’t initially fit, we don’t toss them out. Every piece is vital to the finished product. Every piece has purpose and comes together to make the puzzle complete.
“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)
Sorting and identifying takes time
We want it to be easy. But 1,000 puzzle pieces (that all look alike) require patience to sort and identify the shapes and patterns that work together. It’s a necessary step, and it takes time.
“But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:4)
Fatigue and frustration are to be expected
Expect some bumps in the road. We may get fatigued or frustrated along the way, but anything worth having is worth working for.
“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” (2 Nephi 2:11)
Reward comes with completion
When you finally put the last puzzle piece in its place, it feels so good! Your masterpiece is before you, and the journey is complete. You can look back on the struggle and now bask in the satisfaction of a job well done.
“But to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.” (Proverbs 11:18)
It may be a long while before we welcome another puzzle activity (wink), but its spiritual representation can fill our time with deeper meaning.
Is there a challenge you’re facing that might benefit from this example? Has life left you puzzled?!
Don’t toss the puzzle pieces, but keep up the effort. There’s reward in completion and a lesson to be learned.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.