Christmas and Thanksgiving. Two great holidays back to back. I love this time of year. There are many things I love about this time of the year, but one thing that I always look forward to as the holidays approach is the time Kimberly and I get to spend with our families. Thanksgiving and Christmas represent about 50% of the time we get to spend in the same town with our parents all year. We are both close with our families, and our brothers and sisters also return home for the holidays, so we all look forward to the turkey, the talking, and the time we get to spend together.
Many holiday seasons at one of our parents’ houses, we will put together a puzzle. You know the kind. 1,000 pieces. A complex, yet beautiful picture. Hours of frustration . . . I mean bonding while putting it together. For some odd reason, hours of family fun can be had while organizing fractured pieces into a whole picture that matches the box top. Past years have seen our family “piece” together the North Pole Village from Department 54, a collection of vintage Santa dolls, and a Thomas Kincade painting of a cabin in the woods. What glutens for punishment we are!
As I think about the notion of a puzzle, however, I am struck by how my understanding of a puzzle is an illustration of our spiritual lives. Here is what I mean. . .
Our lives are filled with many events which represent the fractured pieces of a puzzle. The day we trusted Christ is one piece of the puzzle. The day we found out our parents were getting divorced is another piece. The day we met our spouse is a piece. The night we wish we could forget, another. Our hometown and upbringing are another piece. Our spiritual gifting is another. As we dump out the pieces of our lives, we see a fractured set of facts which we know are designed to fit together to make some beautiful portrait. We know this because we know that our God is a sovereign God. He is in control, and so we are certain that God must work all these things together for the good of those who are called according to His great purpose. So, knowing this, what do we do?
Many times, what we do as we sift through the pieces of our lives, is that we try to make them all fit together to show the significance of “why that happened to me.” We tend to put ourselves in the position of my family at Christmastime, snapping pieces together to make a beautiful picture for God. When we do that . . . we have gotten it all wrong.
In reality, we are NEVER in the role of snapping the fractured pieces of our lives into some picture which shows something pretty to God. We are never asked to say definitively WHY something has happened to us. Truth is, in many instances we just don’t know why. We lack sufficient perspective and understanding to “piece” together all the events of our lives to reveal the whole picture to anyone. Now, I am not saying that it is not valuable to think through our lives and prayerfully consider how our lives fit together. That exercise can be very helpful both devotionally for us, and evangelistically in our relationships with others. What I am saying, though, is that many times, we just don’t know exactly how all the pieces of our lives fit together. Truth be told, we lack the full “box top” picture necessary to reconstruct all the events of our lives.
However, there is one who does hold the box top and can accurately piece together all the events of our lives . . . and that is God Almighty. God knows all of our days, and He is the One who is piecing together the puzzle of our lives to reveal a beautiful picture of His grace. We are not called to know exactly how all the pieces will fit together, we are called to simply believe that God is working that puzzle of our lives all the time. I think we see this principle clearly by looking at Joseph from the book of Genesis.
In Genesis 37-50, we see the exciting saga of Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son, who is used by God to provide for his entire family (and an entire nation) during a time of tremendous famine. When you look at these 14 chapters, you can clearly see how God was guiding Joseph to this task. His life is a beautiful picture of God’s sovereignty at work in human history to bring His plans into being, however, I am quite confident that all throughout Joseph’s life, there were many events which Joseph was not able to piece together, into any kind of plan which he would have seen as “good.”
First of all, Joseph’s brothers conspired to kill him. Then, instead of killing him, they sold him into slavery. After, he was sold into slavery, and was placed in Potiphar’s house, Potiphar’s wife lied about Joseph’s integrity, and sent him to jail. While in jail, Joseph was forgotten by the two men who could arrange for his release. I am pretty sure, that if you had ever spoken with Joseph while he was in the midst of one of these disappointments, you would find that he had no idea how the current event might fit into the puzzle of his life. While he lay in the bottom of the cistern awaiting being sold into slavery, I do not think he knew of any good that could come from that. While his character was maligned by a lying adulteress, I don’t think he saw a light at the end of the tunnel. While he slept on the smelly, hard floor of an Egyptian dungeon, I don’t think he knew what lay ahead. He simply did not know how to piece this together . . . he did not have the “box top” plan to work off of. Though, he lacked the total picture, Joseph did not lack in faith. Joseph is never seen as complaining or bitter. Though he did not know how the pieces fit together, he knew who did. Joseph’s faith is revealed in Genesis 45:8 as he says to his brothers, “So then, it was not you who sent me here (Egypt), but God.” Joseph may not have realized at the time exactly how the pieces fit together, but he was trusting that God was still in control. While he was in the midst of this trial, all he had was faith, but after the trials had passed, and God had put the puzzle together, the picture is clearly seen, as Joseph reflects in Genesis 50:20 as he speaks to his brothers after they have moved to Egypt, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
So how about you? As you look at the pieces of your life do you struggle with how they fit together? Remember that God has not asked you to make sense of all the “why’s” that you may have. You may not know how these pieces fit together, but remember that you do not have to put them together . . . God is putting the pieces of your life together to paint a beautiful picture of His grace for all to see.
This Christmas, remember that one of the greatest gifts God gives us is His sovereign rule over all. God used all these events to preserve the Jewish people (the promised line through which Jesus would come) during the difficult days of Joseph’s life. God is still at work in your life this Christmas also, piecing together the pieces of your puzzle.