Puzzle Pieces

Image by Mike Sweeney from Pixabay

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. –John 14:1 NIV

My youngest grandson loves to put together jigsaw puzzles. So I keep several age-appropriate puzzles around for when the he comes for some “Grandma time.”

When he was five, his favorite puzzle was a 100-piece pirate ship puzzle, which he could put together without my assistance. But I still helped, assembling the border. The straight-edge pieces are much easier to figure out than the inside. By the time I had the border in place, he’d already completed quite a bit of the inside. It’s a good thing the puzzle makers put a picture on the front of the box. Without it, I’d get too frustrated.

Ever think that life is like a jigsaw puzzle?

Imagine what the young Jewish girl Hadassah, an orphan raised by her uncle, felt when she was taken to be a part of King Xerxes’ harem.

Hadassah’s dreams for a husband and family were dashed. What were her chances of being chosen to the queen of Persia? Uncle Mordecai, who held a high position in the civil service of the empire, advised her not to reveal her family background or nationality. So she had to do things no nice Jewish girl would have done. So much for her reputation.

But she found favor with the head harem keeper, who pampered her more than the other girls, and put her in the best place in the harem. After twelve months of beauty treatments, the time came for Hadassah, who now went by “Esther,” to go to the king.

“Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. He set a royal crown upon her head and made her queen” (Esther 2:17).

But things did not remain settled for Queen Esther. You know the story—how she risked her life to uncover a wicked man’s plot to annihilate the Jews.

Sometimes we focus on the risk and courage aspect of this story—and that the bad guy gets caught in the end—and forget that Hadassah didn’t know how her life story would play out. First she’s orphaned, then taken from her adopted home to be a part of something that would only bring shame to a young Jewish girl. Then, when everything seems hunky-dory, she’s asked to lay it all on the line.

I imagine, like us, she wondered how the pieces of her life would fit together. By itself, each puzzle piece seems to make no sense. But as the pieces are patiently fit into the overall pattern, the picture becomes clearer.

Life’s puzzle, however, doesn’t come with a picture on the box, at least one we can see.

Our Maker, though, does—indeed, He has designed it—and patiently directs us, one piece at a time.

When the pieces of my life don’t seem to fit anywhere, Lord, remind me that each piece has a place in the picture You created just for me. Amen.

Read through the Book of Esther in one sitting.

© 2012, 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

The Birds of the Air

Photo courtesy of Mark’s Outdoor Shots, © 2019 Mark Kephart Sr. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” –Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 6:34 (The Message)

 It was literally the birds of the air that caught my attention one morning during my quiet time.

The morning temperatures were still warm enough to sit out on the back deck and absorb the peacefulness of the woods behind my house. I’d not slept well the night before, my mind whirring with worries.

I know—Christians aren’t supposed to worry, right? But life slams Christians, too. What makes it different for us is how we respond to it.

And I wasn’t responding very well. Not as well as I thought I would. It’s easy to spout Scripture when things are going relatively smoothly. But when the storms come, the winds tear at your faith, and the waves crash over your resolve to stand firm, it’s all you can do to hang on.

Scripture tells us to cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) and He’ll sustain us (Psalm 55:22). It’s one thing to read those words; it’s another story entirely to do them.

Now, I’m good at casting. The problem is I keep reeling the burden back in. And casting it out again. And reeling it back in.

That night I cast my burden on the Lord by presenting Him with the whole list of what was worrying me. I claimed Philippians 4:19—that God will supply all that I needed. And, in keeping with Luke 11:9, I asked. I sought. I knocked.

Now if only I could leave the response to Him.

But no. I awoke the next morning with the burden still heavy on my mind, heart, and spirit.

The little gray bird flitting from limb to limb caught my eye first. Then the robin, worm still in its beak.

“Look at the birds of the air,” I heard God say. “They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”  (Matthew 6:26)

I looked up the Scripture—Matthew 6:25–34. Three times Jesus said, “Do not worry.”

And I remembered Philippians 4:6—“Don’t be anxious or worried about anything.”

I did the second part of that verse—“pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” But peace still eluded me. Because I kept reeling those worries back in again and again.

“Worry is like a rocking chair,” motivational speaker Glenn Turner noted. “It gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere.”

I’m not good at sitting and waiting for God to work. I have to be doing something—anything but be still.

“I have come, that they might have life,” Jesus said, “life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). Abundant life.

And worry compromises that abundant life by siphoning your hope, your joy, and your energy, and replacing them with anxiety, insomnia, tension, and irritability. In other words, you’re no fun to live with.

So, how do we deal with worry?

First, recognize where it comes from: the enemy of our souls, a lack of trust in God, and a weak faith. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Second, respond to it by praying: cast your burdens on the Lord and leave them there!

Prioritize that worry list. Determine what’s most important and, with prayer, deal with that.

And finally, live in the present.

“Worry is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength—carrying two days at once,” said Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. “It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength.”

Look at your calendar. See that square marked today? Focus on that. Live in one square at a time.

Do you dwell on the what if’s?

Do you focus on the worst-case scenario?

Do you lie awake at night because your worries are whirring through your mind and you just can’t put them to bed?

Maybe, like me, you need more practice with your casting—and learning not to reel them back in.

When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.  When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.  –Psalm 94:18–19 ESV

Read and reflect on Matthew 6:25–34.

 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Photo courtesy of Mark’s Outdoor Shots, © 2019, by Mark Kephart Sr. All rights reserved. Used with permission.  Click here to see more outdoor shots.