Is there any sadder word in the English language than hopeless?
Life is full of challenges, setbacks, and hardships. To face those without a lick of hope is like trying to climb a fence that's leaning toward you...or kiss someone who's leaning away from you.
I just finished reading Ray Johnston's 2014 book, The Hope Quotient. While the opening of the book, in my humble opinion, tries a little too hard to make Hope seem like the magic pill that can cure all ills, the remaining 14 chapters are full of great stories and helpful hints to increase a person's level of hope (their hope quotient) and thereby make life's challenges, setbacks, and hardships more manageable.
In the chapter titled "Play to Your Strengths", Johnston tells a story that first appeared in a couple British newspapers in order to make a point about how doing what God wired you to do increases hope:
A Brit named Jack Harris lost his elderly wife and took up jigsaw puzzles to occupy his mind. Over time, he chose more and more complex puzzles. He finally tackled a five-thousand-piece puzzle depicting a 150-year-old painting of the return of the prodigal son. He worked on the puzzle for hours each day for more than seven years. When he was eighty-six years old, he was finally ready to finish the puzzle - 4,999 pieces already in place - and he couldn't find piece number 5,000. The only thing he could imagine was that somehow that piece had fallen off the table and the dog ate it. Jack was distraught. The puzzle was no longer being manufactured. But when the company that created the puzzle heard about his problem, they crafted a one-of-a-kind piece, and Jack finished the job.
Almost everybody I know could sympathize with that. Who hasn't put together a puzzle and discovered the last piece is missing? The problem is, when every puzzle piece is in place except for one, what is the only thing you notice when you look at that puzzle? The missing piece. That's a God's-eye view when you're not functioning using your gifts.
Perhaps you believe that no one will miss you if you drop off the table somehow. Nothing could be further from the truth. God's perspective is, "I have a one-of-a-kind spot, just for you." God created you as a unique individual, and without you, the puzzle remains unfinished.
There are people, churches, and causes that will never reach their God-given potential if you don't find your God-given gifts and step into place. Surprising as it may seem to you, you may be the exact missing puzzle piece some group, some person, some church is looking for right now as you read this.
* * * * * * *Truth is...I was desperately searching for the puzzle I belonged in when I read these words. And then, God opened one manager's eyes to see things in my resume and LinkedIn profile that scores of others had been unimpressed by for the past ten months. As of yesterday, I am now gainfully employed and eager to see how my particular set of skills ("giftedness") fits perfectly.