Know anyone that’s addicted to puzzles? It might be plain old jigsaw puzzles with traditional pieces or even Sudoku or Tangrams. What do they do when they get stuck or run into a problem?  They often physically react, don’t they? They just can’t help themselves—tossing the piece or paper down. Maybe they cover up their eyes, clutch their heads, erase furiously or even walk away for awhile. But if they’re a true puzzle-lover, you know they’ll be back. They might not even be able to sleep until they solve it!

That makes me think about what truly causes us to learn—to want to try and figure something out. There needs to be one of two things:

1. a gap in our understanding
2. or a conflict—something that goes against what we believe to be true already

So going back to those puzzles—I’ve watched my mom working on them for hours. She gets (and gives) new ones every year at Christmas. She’ll have this piece that just doesn’t seem to fit anywhere or maybe she’s sure that it fits in one specific spot—but it just won’t go. I’ve seen her sit back with a puzzled but intense look on her face too many times to count. And you know what almost always happens next? She grabs the box and studies it, looking back and forth between the piece, what she’s put together so far on the table and the box with the completed picture.

The same thing happens to all of us in real life, doesn’t it? We’re going along and all of the sudden—something happens that we don’t expect or like. Maybe we’re not sure what to do next (gap) or maybe this new thing makes us question what we believed before (conflict). That’s when it’s so important to take a step back and look for the bigger picture, allow ourselves to ask hard questions, and remind ourselves of the things we still know are true.

One of the best things we can help our kids understand is that sometimes things are just not going to make sense and they may find themselves holding a piece of the puzzle that just doesn’t seem to fit.

Maybe someone they care about dies
A parent loses a job
They get bullied at school
Someone gets divorced

Our job is to help our kids understand that there is a big picture that we can’t always see. And just because things don’t make sense to them doesn’t mean they don’t make sense somehow. God has a way of taking the pieces of the puzzle that don’t seem to fit and using them in ways we could never imagine. That’s where hope comes in. Hope is believing that those puzzle pieces fit into the bigger picture—outside of the small context that we can understand.

We define hope as believing that something good can come out of something bad.

As Reggie Joiner explains more in the preview video below, “It’s important to help kids know what to do when life throws them a curveball—when their picture doesn’t pan out the way they think it will—that life will get messy at some point. But no matter how confusing, God still has a plan.”

What conversations are you having with your children about hope when bad things happen? Share them with us!

Preview: Puzzled (April 2012) from Orange on Vimeo.