by Kyle Idleman
Have you ever tried to put together a puzzle without the box?
When I was growing up, we would go visit my grandparents. This was before the days of cell phones and iPads, and there was never much to do at their house. I had to annoy my sisters and cousins for entertainment.
Then after a few days, absolutely desperate, I’d get out one of my grandmother’s puzzles. The catch: most of her puzzles weren’t kept in the box they came in. She had large ziplock bags, each containing a different puzzle.*
I’d pour hundreds of puzzle pieces out of the bag and onto the floor, and turn each of them over, wondering what kind of picture they might form. Maybe it was a skyline of Chicago, or an old farmhouse in a field, or three snobby cats. I had no idea. Just for the irony, I’d like to think one of the puzzles was a picture of a frustrated grandson trying to put together a puzzle without the box. Who knows what they pictured, because I never finished a ziplock puzzle. I’d get the edges done, maybe connect a few easy pieces, then I’d get frustrated and zip it back up.
The big picture is your guide for the whole process. It shows you where you’re going. It assures you that everything interlocks in a way that makes sense.
The writer of Hebrews 11 defines the big picture of the cloud of witnesses as faith. Faith is the principle that joins all these various lives. Here’s how the writer puts it:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. (Heb. 11:1–2)
Faith is a confidence that keeps believing all the pieces are going to somehow fit together, even when you don’t have the big picture to work from. It’s believing that God has a purpose, even when there seems to be no reason.
Faith that gives you the confidence to keep believing and the courage to keep going is not faith in life’s circumstances; it’s faith in God’s character.
Sometimes faith does heal. Sometimes it does pay the bills. But sometimes what it gives you instead is something more precious: the strength to get through the day where there is no perfect healing, or when you’re not sure how the bills are going to get paid.
Our faith is in God and the big picture that we won’t completely see this side of eternity. It isn’t easily—or rarely at all—measured by earthly success, but it’s what keeps us aligned with the truth that sings out in our soul.
It’s faith that keeps believing, even when the pieces don’t seem to fit together.
*I never asked her why, but I assume it had something to do with the Great Depression. That was her go- to answer for all of our questions.
Kyle Idleman, Don’t Give Up Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2019. Used by permission.
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