A couple of weeks ago, I passed a car moving slowly on the interstate. And as I glanced out the passenger window of my truck, it was easy to see why. The young lady's hands on the car's steering wheel were bouncing as if her hands were operating a jack hammer.
One of those nice thick, cushy steering wheel covers would have helped lessen the vibration, but would not have fixed the problem. Fixing symptoms does not fix the underlying problems.
While most drivers understand that excessive steering wheel vibration has nothing to do with the steering column and everything to do with the front end (including tire balance), some drivers are unable to make the connection. Those are the drivers who do not understand the damage being done to their vehicles. And instead of making car repair a priority, they continue to drive without fully realizing their cars are being shaken apart—one mile at a time.
American culture is focused on relieving symptoms rather than fixing problems.
- “Eat all the brats you want. We've developed a pill to fix your tummy ache.”
- “Have all the sex you want. We have an entire industry available to help you with any unwanted pregnancies.”
- “Be as angry as you want. If you get out of control we have special counselors and prescription medications available to rein you in.”
- “Live with whatever sense of responsibility you can handle. If you run into problems, we have social program after social program to help you survive.
But trying to fix symptoms without dealing with the underlying problems comes at a very high price. Problems need to be fixed only once. But symptoms have to be fixed over and over and over again.
We used to have a renter who kept burning up the elements on the stovetop. She cooked in restaurant-sized pots—enough food for the entire neighborhood. Time after time after time I replaced burners. If I'd had a service tech come out to fix each of these “symptoms,” I would have paid enough in repair bills to buy two or three new ranges. I understood the underlying problem: She needed to be cooking in a commercial kitchen—not in the small kitchen of a duplex. In this case I was not going to fix the problem because I wasn't going to install a commercial stove in a rental unit. And I eventually quit fixing the symptoms, telling her that future repairs were her responsibility.
Good parents don't allow their child to keep bringing them “symptoms” to be fixed. “Mommy, I broke another one of your plates from the cabinet in the family room.” “Dad, will you sharpen your wood chisel again? It keeps getting dull when I pull out those nails.” Good parents help children fix the problems behind the symptoms.
Since our good parenting instincts came from our Heavenly Father, God is not interested in helping us deal with symptoms, either. He helps us by exposing the problems behind the symptoms.
If you are like the rest of us, you are probably trying to fix symptoms rather than problems. And this comes at a high cost in terms of guilt and shame. Since symptoms are recurring manifestations of unsolved problems, symptoms just keep stoking the fire of guilt and shame. An excellent illustration of what this looks like in everyday life is the story about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (see John chapter four).
When the Israelites were conquered and removed from their lands, the land was re-populated with immigrants combining with those few Israelites left behind. They became known as Samaritans. The Samaritans worshipped God, but also worshipped other gods as well. The pure-blood Israelites, after returning to their land and rebuilding the temple, didn't want to have any dealings with the Samaritans, whom they considered inferior.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. (John 4:7–9 NKJV)
In her mind, not only was a Jew asking a Samaritan for a drink, this Jew was asking a Samaritan woman for a drink. She was looked down upon because she was both a Samaritan and a woman. And as we find out later, she was also probably looked down upon as being immoral because of all the men in her life.
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10 NKJV)
At this point she has no clue Who she's talking to, so she's a bit sarcastic (see John 4:11–15) until Jesus says to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here (John 4:16b NKJV).”
She then tells Jesus she has no husband. She doesn't tell Him she's had five husbands. And she doesn't tell Him she's presently living with another man. Having no legal husband, she's not technically lying. But she's very much playing games with her reality.
Please don't miss this, because we all do the same thing. We talk about symptoms. We complain about symptoms. We may even deal with symptoms. But we don't go after what is causing those symptoms. Instead, we marry husband number one, so‐to‐speak. When that doesn't work out we move on to number two… then number three… then number four… number five… and after a while we become so desperate for a solution that we just move in with a man who's not even our husband. And then we try to hide away all those past husbands as if they never happened.
The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” (John 4:17–18 ESV)
At this point she realizes she's not just dealing with an ordinary man. Jesus then goes on to talk to her about worship, and about the nature of the one true God.
She then tells Him that she is expecting the Messiah to come at some future date. (see John 4:19–24.) It is here where Jesus reveals Himself to her: “I, the one speaking to you—I am he (John 4:26b).”
We don't know how long Jesus spent with the woman. But it couldn't have been very long because He didn't get to the well until noon, and the disciples returned from town sometime in that same afternoon. Maybe all of the conversation between Jesus and the woman was not recorded, but just keep in mind their conversation was relatively short.
In this brief period of time, the woman obviously had a saving encounter with Jesus. She left behind her water pot (her purpose for coming to the well in the first place) as she returned to the city. She had a new identity because she boldly told the men of the city to go see Jesus for themselves: “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ (John 4:29 NKJV)?” And these men of the city confirmed a couple of days later that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world (see John 4:42). The woman was obviously transformed by her encounter with Jesus.
What caused such a change? Did Jesus ask her to repent of her sins and ask Him into her heart? No… it was something deeper. Please push past religious tradition and notice what happened.
From the conversation recorded, Jesus told her that she'd had five husbands and was now living with a sixth man who was not her husband. That's all He told her about what she had done. But she told the men in the town that Jesus told her everything she'd ever done.
Obviously, Jesus didn't have time to tell her everything she had ever done. But in His words and in His presence somehow Jesus exposed to her everything necessary to help her make sense of her life.
As far as she was concerned, Jesus had exposed the problems behind the symptoms of the five husbands and whatever else she was dealing with. She was finally free. Jesus had set her free.
The power of forgiveness doesn't exist in treating symptoms. The power of forgiveness exists in dealing with problems at their core through the blood of Jesus.
Have a good day,