Differential Diagnosis 1/3: The Symptoms

“These were the sons who were born to David in Hebron…”
2 Samuel 3:1

I finally caved and gave the t.v. sitcom “House” a try.  Now I am addicted.

Gregory House is a brilliant M.D. who works for a teaching hospital in New Jersey.  He specializes in solving cases that elude all other doctors.  He always begins his investigation by asking the three Fellows working with him to brainstorm the differential diagnosis.  No longer is the thing that “looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck” actually a duck.   They go through a whole slew of tests and treatments, attempting to discover and cure whatever the problem is.  Often times, there are several near-death reactions to wrong treatments before uncovering the correct diagnosis and cure.

I couldn’t help but see a correlation between that diagnostic process and my walk with Christ.

It starts with vague symptoms that are out of the norm yet easy enough to shrug off: I’m having an “off” day.  Most things frustrate me more than they should.  I am short with my loved ones in conversation.  Then those symptoms become more obtuse and frequent and people close to me start noticing: I stop making time each day for reading the Bible.  I worry about life more than I pray about life.  I stop making an effort to take care of myself and my relationships.  At some point, these symptoms get so disruptive that I decide to make an appointment with a doctor for a check up: Google all my symptoms and self-diagnose.  Doctor Google discerns that all my symptoms point to simple diagnoses: depression, anxiety, poor stress management and digestive issues.  But what do I do when all the traditional treatments for those illnesses don’t cure me?

By the end of 1 Samuel, both Samuel and Saul have died.  David begins his official reign in the book of 2 Samuel shortly after finding out about Saul’s death.  He consults God at virtually every step along the way but there is an odd “symptom” that has started to form a pattern in his life.  David had started taking on multiple wives – which is an acceptable practice for kings at this time, but God had specifically warned his people about it (Deuteronomy 17:14-17).  Here’s where the symptom multiplies:

These were the sons who were born to David in Hebron:
The oldest was Amnon, whose mother was Ahinoam of Jezreel.  The second was Kileab, whose mother was Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel.  The third was Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur.  The fourth was Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith.  The fifth was Shephatiah, whose mother was Abital.  The sixth was Ithream, whose mother was David’s wife Eglah.  (2 Samuel 3:2-5 nlt)

Whaaaaa?!  That’s SIX kids, EACH of which has a different mother.  (I have a family of one man, one woman and four kids from two different mothers – that’s more drama than I can even handle some days!  I stop breathing when I think about a budget conversation in David’s household.)  Why would David, the man who God described as “A man after my own heart,” deliberately go against God in this way?  Did he think it wasn’t that big of a deal?  Did he figure that he was allowed one vice?  Is this an insecurity issue, like Saul had?  If David doesn’t just have “When-In-Rome-itis,” what is the differential diagnosis?  And how close to death will David get before a cure is found?

I can’t answer those questions yet because I need more information, but at this point there is one question I want to pause and focus on until next week.  Here is the challenge to consider:

Looking back over all of my life, what symptoms have I repeatedly exhibited that indicate a deeper illness was present?


Dear Lord, I need you.  I get into trouble every time I forget that I need you.  You offer me everything I need to not only survive but THRIVE in this world and the next.  You remind me to live transformed, not conformed to the ways that might seem right to my human brain; give me the strength to live this out.  Open my eyes to your wisdom in moments of choice each day.  Show me how to bless your name in my sickness and in your health.  Amen.


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About messyworship

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I believe that you can bump into God outside of a Sunday morning church service. That is what Messy Worship is: a written meditation with an authentic, transparent take on the Bible's application to today's world. This is where I challenge myself to blurr the line between "life" and "worship" so much that the line disappears a little more each day. I hope, by sharing what I learn, the idea of a seamless life of worship becomes contagious.

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