August 2: signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms: the difference between the two may be subtle. I think of signs as those things that point me in a direction, indicate where I should be going, and help me to know when I am on the right path. Symptoms, on the other hands, tell me when something is not right, when I’ve been in the wrong direction and if I don’t make a change there will be even greater trouble. I didn’t check the dictionary for the definition of a sign and a symptom, and my sense of these two words may not match your definition, but as a result of the scripture for today I’m thinking about signs (pointing forward) and symptoms (resulting from past decisions). There have been plenty of times in life when I wish I had paid attention to the signs rather than responding to the symptoms.

In reading from the Old Testament today, we hear the story of Manasseh, king of Judah, who spends much of his life doing evil in the sight of God. But when captured and taken to Babylon, now suddenly he turns to God. The symptoms (imprisonment) got his attention. Prayer comes easy when we are at a point of crisis. What’s the saying: there are no atheists on the battlefield. Manasseh’s prayer is answered and for the rest of his life, he is humble before God. And as the king, Manasseh could turn the hearts of an entire nation – but not for long. When Manasseh dies, his son reverts back to evil ways. He didn’t see the signs.

In the fourth chapter of John, there are two stories and in each, Jesus provides signs. A Samaritan woman and a royal (Roman) official are shown the way to life. Each is given a sign. She is offered living water. His son is healed. And we discover the purpose of the signs is to point us to God – to believe. Jesus says, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.”

Sometimes it takes symptoms, because I didn’t pay attention to the signs. Today, I’m reminded that I must watch for the signs, because sometimes the symptoms come too late.

Today’s readings: 2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 33; John 4

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