A little while back I needed to run a quick errand. My wife’s car blocked mine in so I decided I would just take hers instead. I went back inside grabbed the keys and proceeded to the car. However as soon as I shifted her car into reverse, something I had done thousands of times before, a terrible noise came from under the car. I quickly put the car back into park and the noise went away. I did this again a few times to see what would happen and each time the transmission was in reverse the noise was present. "What was going on?"
As any sane person would do I decided the only way I would figure out what was really happening to the car was to take it for a test drive. Backing out of my driveway, to the sound of my car falling apart, I proceeded to shift into drive and started going down the street. I discovered that the noise was less when the transmission was in drive, but it was still present. After a lap or two around my neighborhood, the noise was far less. “Was it fixing itself?” “Maybe something needed to be lubricated,” I thought to myself.
However as I pulled over to the side of the road, turned the car off and back on, and shifted into reverse the noise was back with a vengeance. It was loader than before. Pulling out onto the main road, the noise seemed to lessen again. That was until I hit a big bump in the road and thought the car was surely going to fall apart at that moment. The noise was louder than it had been at any point prior and was now persistent in both drive and reverse. I rushed back home as quickly as I could, parked the car and proceeded directly to my computer to see what Google had to say about this problem. After a quick search I was fairly confident my transmission was failing. Maybe a gear had broken apart and I was hearing the fragments rattling around in the housing. I started doing research on how much it would cost to overhaul a transmission or the cost to replace the entire thing. I quickly realized that both options were more than I wanted to spend on that car.
Over the next few days, I kept driving the car, thinking, "if it was already broken a few extra miles wouldn't make it much worse!" However, by the end of the third day that noise was too great to drive the car with any level of comfort. I decided the time had come to take it to a mechanic and bite the bullet.
After my description and their initial inspection it turns out it was not the transmission after all. It was a cracked weld on the exhaust. Because I had continued to drive the car it had rattled to the point of breaking a few of the hangers.
$230 later it was re-welded, hung up on a new bracket and the best part — no more noise.
I had greatly misdiagnosed the issue.
Another example that comes to my mind when I think about about misdiagnosing something is a TV show I have watched a few times. In the show Chef Gordon Ramsey takes a bunch of aspirating chefs, pits them against each other in a series of competitions with the offer of managing one of his restaurants (along with a serious salary) going to the winner.
One of the challenges that the chefs are tasked with doing is to identify various flavors of puréed foods. A blindfold is placed over their eyes, headphones over their ears and are feed small bites of mango, onions or potatoes. There are several distinct flavors that the chefs take turns trying to identifying. Let me just say, I am sure I wouldn't do well at this challenge, but it is funny watching them struggle to identify these flavors. To the dismay of the rest of the chefs on the team, one of them exclaims with excitement “It's strawberry!” when in reality it was squash. They would be served leeks and identify it as bananas.
While many of them identified the correct flavors, it was always entertaining to watch everyone's reactions when they greatly misidentify a common flavor.
However, sometimes when something is misdiagnosed it can have serious consequences. An example of where this can be a serious issue is in the medical field. When someone's health and treatment is based on a correct diagnosis it is critical to get it right.
Medical misdiagnosis, “describes a situation when your healthcare provider tells you that you have some illness or condition, but it's incorrect. For example, a healthcare provider might diagnose the flu, but the patient really has Lyme disease.” (Take from https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-common-is-misdiagnosis-or-missed-diagnosis-2615481)
While the statistics vary greatly for how common this issue is, several places suggest it happens as often as 5% of all diagnoses. That means that 5 out of every 100 people diagnosed with a medical issue are diagnosed with the wrong thing. This is serious because the entire treatment plan is based on the correct diagnosis.
Diagnosing things correctly is important.
There is a gift mentioned in the Bible that deals with diagnosing things correctly.
Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 2:13, 14
13 "And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. 14 The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (NET)
Spiritual discernment is a biblical gift that deals with being able to make decisions with wisdom.
John MacArthur defines it this way on Christianity.com;
"In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth."
As an example, if you have two things to choose between, spiritual discernment will help you chose what is best. Life is often not about choosing between a good and a bad choice, but about choosing what is best at a given time. All our choices have consequences and spiritual discernment helps take those things into account, asking for God's wisdom to help us make the decision that would be best for us. It is trusting that as we make decisions with God given wisdom His blessings will accompany the results.
However, is it possible that we ever misdiagnose things in our spiritual life? Is it possible that we misdiagnose the factors that go into our decision making?
It is important that we think about those questions, because if we are not spending amply time in God's Word and asking Him daily for wisdom (James 1:5), it is very possible that we end up making harmful decisions.
To illustrate this idea, imagine that some guys are going to play a game of darts. They have their darts, there are marks on the floor and the dart board is hanging on the wall. Just as they are ready to play one of the men walk over and turn off the lights. He announces that now they are ready to play. How well will that game of darts go? How many of their darts will actually end up hitting the dart board?
When we try to make decisions without the lights being on, we too often miss the mark. Our decisions often fall short when we are not making them with correct information. When we misdiagnose things in our life, things in our spiritual life, we end up making bad decisions.
In the Bible, Jeremiah shared the following words in chapter 17:6,9; (NKJV)
God is speaking and says;
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord."
He goes on to make a comparison between a man who trusts only in himself and a man who trusts in God.
A man trusting man =
(Verse 6) "For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited."
A man who trusts in God =
(Verse 8) "For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit."
Which one would you rather be? The man who is wasting away? Or the man who has a firm foundation and is thriving?
Only as we spend time in the Word we are able to identity elements correctly. Why? Because Jeremiah tells us in verse 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”
Our very nature leads us to misdiagnose what is really happening in life around us. Apart from God we could never diagnose things correctly. We would constantly be misdiagnosing things in our lives. While things being misdiagnosed in our physical health can have serious consequences, misdiagnosis in our spiritual life can have eternal significance.
Let us pray for spiritual eyes to see what is really happening in life around us and to avoid misdiagnosing anything.
The good news is that as we spend time in God's Word He blesses us with Spiritual Discernment. Then we are able to make right decisions. Then we start seeing things through spiritual lens. Then we are able to make decisions that are fully blessed by Him.
Today as you take an inventory of your own life, may you diagnose things correctly.