It happens every Christmas vacation. The anticipation, the buildup, the excitement. My boys can hardly stand it. They are so excited to sleep in, have time off, and do what they want to do.  Then reality sets in. They don’t sleep in but awake at 6:30 am and are bored to tears by 8:30. Then the pestering starts.

“Mom, I’m bored. What should I do?” Now, I can’t translate in any language well, but I can read pre-teen and teen boy well. They don’t really want me to tell them what to do. They know the options. They want me to tell them they can have screen time and watch television or play video games. Ugh. Raising kids in a virtual world is a daunting task.

So, this year, on a whim in the aisle at Barnes and Noble, I asked my son to pick out a puzzle. It was beautiful, a picture of an idyllic Mediterranean setting. So, hoping to provide some screenless family time, we broke open the bag and started putting together the puzzle’s boarder. We have completed a few larger puzzles a before this, usually with my mother’s expert help, but I’m sorry to say that two months later, our scene is missing more than a few pieces. We are getting there, and we will finish it, but our “holiday puzzle” has sadly outlasted the holidays.

A Puzzling Life

Life is a bit like an unfinished puzzle. Sure, we have the promise of “everything we need for life and godliness,” but that doesn’t mean each day doesn’t require trial and error, just like constructing a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

For example, sometimes a piece simply doesn’t fit where I think it should. In our recent puzzle adventure, we complained that pieces didn’t fit in spaces where it seemed they ought to fit. This is true in our spiritual lives as well. I often have specific plans and expectations for the way God should do things. More specifically, I think I know who I ought to minister to and what that ministry should look like. Often, however, God brings me a person I wasn’t expecting with a ministry opportunity I didn’t plan for at all.

We see this in the life of Jonah, for his life-defining ministry wasn’t what he wanted or expected. God called him to preach repentance to the Ninevites, enemies of God’s people. Jonah didn’t want to go and attempted to run away. But God pursued him. He spent three soul-searching days in the belly of a fish and then reluctantly went to Nineveh to do what God commanded him. But he wasn’t happy about it.

Much to his dismay, right after he announced God’s commands to Nineveh, they repented. Jonah 3 tells us, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened” (3:10). How did Jonah react? Even though he had issued the message, he thought God’s compassion for these people “seemed very wrong,” and even regretted speaking to them. He was so upset, he wished for God to “take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (4:3).

Often, the puzzle pieces of life don’t fit because we can’t see God’s bigger plan. For Jonah, he didn’t see and understand God’s plan to include the Gentiles in his plan of redemption. Likewise, when God calls us to minister to someone we can’t relate to or to someone with whom we struggle to connect or even to participate in a ministry we think is better suited for someone else entirely, we need to trust in God’s plan. He has a greater purpose than we can see. Whatever puzzles us, we can remember what God says in Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways . . . As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Our calling isn’t always to understand how God’s will for us fits, but to respond in trust and obedience.

The Puzzle of God’s Timing

In our puzzle building, there are times when I try a piece what seems like a thousand times, and when I’ve almost given up, it fits right in the spot I’ve tried to put it in multiple times. This is true in our own life as well. Sometimes we pursue things we think God wants us to pursue and it doesn’t work. Our plans don’t come to fruition. The truth is, God’s timing is different than our own. As Psalm 90 tells us, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by” (Psalm 90:4).

We see this in the life of Abram. God promised him a son, but years went by and he still had no children. Abram questioned God saying, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? . . .You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir” (Genesis 15:1-3). This is true in our own life. The piece we want to fit isn’t going to “fit” right now. God’s plan may not come to pass for many years. We have to wait for the Lord’s perfect timing and trust in his promises as we wait.

Waiting for God’s timing is not only an exercise of faith; it also brings divine benefits. Lamentations tells us, “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (3:25). Even when life’s puzzle piece seems like it will never fit, God’s perfect picture will be completed in his time. As Isaiah promises, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Life in a fallen world is uncertain. It often feels like putting together a puzzle. But we are not constructing it on our own. James tells us that God is not only with us “when (we) meet trails of various kinds” but will also produce “steadfastness” in us, eventually making us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). This means there will be no missing pieces. When the pieces of life don’t fit, may we trust the promises of our sovereign God, knowing we’ll see the completed picture in eternity.

Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

Jessica Roan

Jessica Roan has a Bachelor’s Degree in English Education from Oklahoma Baptist University and a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Montana State University-Billings. She is a high school English teacher, mentor, and blogger.  She can be found at She enjoys writing, hiking, skiing, and traveling. She lives in Billings, Montana with her husband and two boys. Her home church is Rocky Mountain Community Church.