When I was a child, my family would put puzzles together, sometimes huge puzzles that would take weeks to assemble. Then when my children were young, we would put their favorite puzzles together, glue the pieces together and then frame them as pictures for their rooms. To this day, several puzzles hang in their bedrooms as reminders of our successful, though painstakingly slow, family fun times.
Those framed works of love serve as reminders of how life can be a puzzle that each person puts together over the years—each piece built on the next with the full picture slowly coming into view.
But what happens if one or more pieces are missing? The picture looks unfinished and incomplete, and the people putting it together feel unfulfilled.
I recently helped a friend move some final household things from her public storage unit. There on the ground beside her storage unit lay three puzzle pieces. With many people moving their belongings in and out of that particular storage company, these three lost pieces could belong to any of hundreds of people. There would be no way to identify their owner and return them.
As I looked at them, I thought, “That family is going to be sadly surprised when they try to put that puzzle together.” They might look for the pieces under the table, on the floor, or in the closet. From my own experience, family members might even intentionally hide some pieces so they could finish the puzzle themselves. Unfortunately, unless this family recognizes their loss and retrieves the lost pieces soon, their puzzle will remain incomplete.
Right then the Holy Spirit nudged my heart with some personal truth. Quite often life feels like something important is missing. Something seems off balance or incomplete. It may be an uneasy feeling about some incomplete task. Or a lost relationship – maybe even the lack of a new one. It could be an unfulfilling job that was paying the bills but leaving an inner desire to do so much more. Maybe it is a lack of connection to a church or social group—you know, when you’ve attended numerous times and met many people, yet you still feel out of place. All these circumstances have seemed like lost puzzle pieces in my attempt to put life together.
As I considered what God was revealing, I thought about the steps I’ve found necessary to reclaim or replace the missing pieces of my life. The process requires my active partnership with God—action, patience, and discernment on my part, while trusting God to move sovereignly behind the scenes.
First, identify what is lost. This will be different for each person. For some people it could be a loss of self-confidence or self-worth. For others, it could be a loss of faith in God or trust in other people. Some losses come through divorce, death, illness, unemployment, bankruptcy or betrayal. Even positive situations like children leaving home for college or getting married can leave a parent feeling empty.
Until I realize and accept what I’ve lost, my attempts at recovery will be futile. This step requires honest introspection and spiritual discernment. I must look past my denial, isolation, anger, vengeance, bargaining, depression, resentment, settling and any other feeling that is holding me captive. I must prayerfully and honestly ask God to reveal the true source of the emptiness. “I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life” (Psalm 143:8).
Secondly, wait patiently while God reveals each loss. Waiting on God’s timing and having spiritual insight are essential to finding true and lasting fulfillment. God has designed each person’s life to be an amazing portrait of beauty. Each puzzle piece must fit snugly with the surrounding pieces and complete the overall picture. Even though something or someone may feel like a natural fit, everything must have God’s approval—His provision on His time schedule. “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart” (Psalm 27:14).
In addition, wait patiently for what’s right. No matter the desire to quickly replace what was lost, refrain from trying to “force fit” close substitutes into that painful vacancy. Quickly accepting a new job may pay the bills, but it may prevent me from finding a fulfilling job. Running into the arms of the next available person may quiet the immediate loneliness, but it may prevent me from finding true compatibility and companionship. Never settle or run ahead of God’s leading. “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation (what I long for) is from Him” (Psalm 62:5, parenthesis added).
Finally, keep the big picture in mind. When putting puzzles together, I found it best to keep the box top nearby and use the final picture as a reference point. Sometimes, though a puzzle piece may initially fit, once the surrounding pieces are in place, it becomes obvious that the piece belongs somewhere else. There is always a place for everyone and everything; the key is to know what fits best in your life’s puzzle.
Reference God’s Word daily. Use it as a guide to confirm everything fits in the big picture God has in mind for you. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
If you feel like some pieces of your life are missing, rest assured God wants your picture restored. Keep in mind, behind every apparent loss lies a deeper spiritual truth. As Job said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). God is more interested in completing your overall picture according to His design and purpose than He is in granting your temporary desire. Accept your loss, present it to God, wait patiently for Him and allow Him to replace the missing pieces.