Sometimes, when in a moment of great need, a character will cry out to God, Crystal Dragon Jesus, or What Have You for some kind of sign that shows them what to do, where to go, or even just to let the character know that they are not alone. Often, God is perfectly happy to oblige. The sign can be subtle, or it can be much more obvious. (When Played for Laughs, the sign is usually downright Anvilicious!)
A frequent subversion is where the character does get a sign, only to ignore it or assume it means exactly the opposite of the obvious meaning. This can be funny or tragic, depending on the plot.
Often paired with Heaven Above, where characters will ask for a sign by speaking into the sky. Subtler examples may fall under Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter! is this trope with a more... belligerent tone.
Also see God Test.
- From Deadpool :
Al: Lord? We both know how strained things have been with us since that whole Vatican incident, but I figured I'd ask just the same. If Wade's serious, if that girl really is going to turn him around, give me a sign, would ya?
[tosses a basketball over her head; it bounces off the rim, over the roof, and onto an unseen bystander below]
Al: Thanks for squat, Big Guy.
- This is a Running Gag in Candorville. Whenever the reverend asks for a sign, it's always given, and it's always a blackout, presumably signifying God's displeasure at whatever dishonorable scheme the reverend has cooked up to raise money. It turns into a plot point when he asks for a sign if he should reveal that the local voting machines were sabotaged to elect a corrupt candidate — the machines are of a type that wipes its records in the event of a blackout, and only Clyde used a paper ballot, voting for a snide rap star.
- Bloom County has an example where Oliver Wendell Jones is sitting on his roof, looking at the night sky, and when he looks in the same direction as the reader, the stars in the sky spell out "REPENT OLIVER". He then comments on the difficulty in remaining agnostic these days.
- Naturally, B.C. had a few after Johnny Hart got "born again." One Sunday, a caveman asked God for a sign of His existence. Various events started happening around the caveman, from a rapidly sprouting flower to a volcanic eruption, but he remained oblivious.
- During one Zits story line, Jeremy contemplates stealing a street sign for a road that shares his name to use as a van decoration. In the middle of loosening it, he has a crisis of conscience and asks for a sign. He get his sign...specifically, the street sign, which falls on his head.
- A Running Gag in Kudzu has the Reverend praying to God and then God being a Literal Genie, apparently to screw with him. Reverend asks God "make me thine instrument"? God turns him into a guitar. Reverend asks to be canonized? God sticks him in a cannon.
- In the Don Bluth film Anastasia, when Anya prays for a sign, a dog steals her scarf and runs over to the path to St. Petersburg.
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Bruce Wayne has just started his vigilante crusade, but finds his anger diminished now he's falling in love with Andrea Beaumont. During a thunderstorm he visits his parent's graves and begs to be released from his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
Bruce: I know I made a promise, but I didn't see this coming! I didn't count on being happy! Please, tell me it's OK!Andrea: (Walk-In Chime-In) Maybe they already have. Maybe they sent me.
- In Rise of the Guardians, events culminating into a ruined Easter result in kids losing their belief in the titular Guardians. Jamie, the last kid who still believes, asks a stuffed rabbit, standing in for the Easter Bunny, to give him a sign that he's real. At that point, Bunny is powerless and unable to respond, but Jack Frost can, and sends the sign in the form of a ghostly snow rabbit through Jamie's window.
- The literal (traffic) sign from God in L.A. Story, which tells Steve Martin to "Kiss Her, You Fool."
- Happens in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: "Oh, don't grovel!"
- Bubba Ho Tep ends with the stars giving Elvis a sign (in ancient Egyptian) telling him all is well.
- In Bruce Almighty, this happens a couple of times. While he's driving, he asks God for some sort of sign, and then immediately passes by a road sign that reads, "Caution Ahead." He again asks for a sign from God, and a literal truckload of warning signs immediately passes by his car. Also, when Bruce is shouting his insults at God, his cell phone rings. Even after it gets smashed. Bruce himself tries to engineer these sorts of signs so Grace would come back to him, but they all fail.
- The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc. Joan finds a sword in a field and decides that it's a message from God. Her anthropomorphized sense of conscience questions her on how she could know that it didn't end up there simply by chance.
- In The Man with Two Brains Steve Martin's character asks the portrait of his late wife if he should go ahead with marrying his new crush. Cue thunder, lighting and the portrait spinning around while the voice of his wife wails "Nooooo, NOOOOOO!". "... Any Sign at all..." replies Martin. Later, he's slightly upset that she didn't give him any warning.
- In Orgazmo, the protagonist asks God to give him a sign if God doesn't want him to act in a porn. This is immediately followed by an earthquake that causes a statue of Jesus to fall off his desk and break. Of course, he is completely oblivious, and follows this by asking for "any sign at all."
- Bedazzled (1967) begins with Stanley in church, silently asking God for a sign ("you know I believe in you, but...") by giving him the courage to talk to the woman he loves. The Devil, outside a window, hears this and proceeds to make his move. Since Stanley ultimately said he knew for a fact that God existed since he'd gotten to know the devil, maybe that was a sign.
- In The Final, the outcasts demand a sign from God telling them not to carry out their plan. They take the lack of such a sign as proof that God has sanctioned the torture and mutilation that they will inflict on their classmates.
- The Blues Brothers: "The band... the band!"
- Voiced by Thorold Stone in the Apocalypse film series movie Revelation when he isn't convinced that there is a God other than the self-proclaimed Messiah Franco Maccalusso, which he doesn't believe is God either. He later gets his sign from the real true God when he and several other Christians get sent into the furnace and are supernaturally protected from the flames.
- Oh, God!:
- Played for laughs: to prove His divinity, Jerry asks God to make it rain. He does so... inside Jerry's moving car.
Jerry Landers: How about a little rain?
God: One small shower, coming up. [rain begins falling]
Jerry Landers: Hey... that's incredible! You didn't even bat an eye!
God: Rain's not too hard.
Jerry Landers: This is amazing! [he turns on the windshield wipers and discovers that the rain is only falling inside the car] Hey, it's not raining outside! It's just in here!
God: Why should I spoil everybody's day?
- In one of the sequels, Bobby Shelton, a struggling musician who sold his soul to the devil, prays to God that He would give him a sign. He receives it in the form of a rainbow that appears bright in the sky at night. And the colors are reversed (red on the inside, blue on the outside).note
- Played for laughs: to prove His divinity, Jerry asks God to make it rain. He does so... inside Jerry's moving car.
- In Super, after realizing he could go to prison for going out as the Crimson Bolt, Frank asks God whether he should keep at it, or throw his costume away. Specifically, he asks for God to make something float. Nothing happens, so he drives to a dumpster and tosses everything out. Later, he watches an episode of the show that gave him the idea to be a superhero in the first place, and the main character delivers the moral about "not throwing away" what you've been called to do. He goes back to the dumpster.
- The Grey: After losing all the members in his party of plane-crash survivors, Ottway screams at the heavens for a sign in a "now or never" fashion. A few minutes later, he realizes he's totally fucked, as he's in the middle of a wolves' den.
- The main character of Miss Nobody sees St. George as her guardian angel. After one of her rivals at work is sort of accidentally killed by her, she immediately spots a homeless man with a sign saying, "Call me George," and assumes this is a sign that St. George has her back. However, after noticing her other rivals giving her the stink eye at the funeral, she prays to St. George asking for another sign, just in case the homeless guy was a coincidence. Cue her mother's new boarder arriving, who is the spitting image of St. George...and a detective. Later, when she worries the detective may be on to her, she prays for another sign, and it begins to rain outside. She interprets this as meaning she needs a Fall Guy.
- In A Very Long Engagement, the protagonist makes a number of private bets with herself that, should an upcoming event happen in a certain way, she'll take it as a sign to continue her quest to locate her MIA boyfriend.
- Sort-of inverted and played for a brief moment of comedy in Deep Blue Sea, when the deeply religious and normally teetotalling cook finds a miraculously intact bottle of liquor in the wrecked and half-flooded kitchen.
"Lord, I am going to take this as a sign." [gulps down about half the bottle in one go]
- A guy is in his car, late to an important appointment, with no empty parking space to be found anywhere. He calls out "Lord, if you give me a parking space, I swear I'll go to church every Sunday and I'll quit drinking!" Suddenly he sees an empty space right in front of him, and he calls out "Never mind, I found one!"
- In So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, God left his final message to his creation (in fifty foot-tall letters of fire) on the side of a mountain. It reads "WE APOLOGISE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE." Marvin got to see it before he died. It made him feel a little better.
- Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon short story "Have You Heard the One...?" includes this. Jake Stonebender is telling a story about going to a musical gig.
What I really said was, "Should I go through with this? Lord, give me a sign." At that moment I stop for a stop sign, and overhead a bird electrocutes itself on the high-tension lines and drops dead on the front hood of my car. So I sit there at the stop sign awhile shivering, tilt my head back and real soft I say, "You didn't have to shout."
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian novel The Hour of the Dragon, men pray during The Plague, and take its ending with the king's death as a sign, and a mark of favor for his brother and heir. Conan has none of it:
"Men are fools, as always," grunted Conan. "If the plague struck all who sinned, then by Crom there wouldn't be enough left to count the living! Why should the gods—who the priests tell me are just—slay five hundred peasants and merchants and nobles before they slew the king, if the whole pestilence were aimed at him? Were the gods smiting blindly, like swordsmen in a fog? By Mitra, if I aimed my strokes no straighter, Aquilonia would have had a new king long ago."
- Played very seriously in The Emigrants. Kristina who has been very religious her entire life begins to doubt the existence of God after all the hardships she's had to endure and begs God to exist and to give her a sign that he does.
- In The Curse of Chalion, Cazaril, in an attempt to evade The Call, asks his friend Palli to pray for a sign about whether he, Palli, should ride to Ibra in an attempt to save the kingdom. Palli is skeptical, not the least because Cazaril himself had been skeptical about such things in the past, but agrees to try. Later, a perturbed Palli tells Caz: "Pray for guidance, you said. In my sleep, if you please. I was killed five times in my dreams last night, I'll have you know. Riding somewhere. Each time more horribly. In the last dream, my horses ate me. I don't want to put my leg across anything, horse, mule, or sawhorse, for a week at least!"
- In Earth's Children, the Clan believe their totems give them signs, often in the form of unusual objects, to indicate if they're on the right track. They keep these signs inside their amulets (for the Clan, amulets are drawstring pouches worn around their necks, given to infants when they receive their name and totem). Ayla finds an ammonite fossil shortly after picking up a discarded sling and believes it to be a sign her Cave Lion totem wants her to learn to hunt. Later, when she's begging her Cave Lion to give her guidance when her clan's leaders ae debating what to do with her supposedly deformed baby son, she finds a piece of quartz crystal and takes this as a sign Durc will live.
- On Lost, Locke spends a good amount of his time looking for signs from the island.
- The freak snowfall in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Amends", which prevents Angel's suicide-by-sunlight.
- In the finale of Power Rangers S.P.D., a guilt ridden Piggy yells to the sky, asking if he did the right thing turning over the Rangers to Emperor Grumm in the previous episode. A lightning bolt then strikes Piggy's trailer, causing it to crash down the hill, completely wrecking it. Piggy resolves then and there to help the Rangers escape.
- The crown of butterflies in Kings. Though it is a bit ambiguous as to whether this was an actual sign from God, or just the characters interpreting it that way.
- On Cheers, Diane has taken to a convent after breaking her engagement to Frasier, realizing she loves Sam. After Sam comes to visit her, she asks God for a sign. Sam returns and asks where the men's room is. Says Diane, "Well, that's not exactly the parting of the Red Sea..."
- Fringe: Walter tells a fellow scientist (who needed to be talked down from a dangerous time travel experiment) that he requested a sign of forgiveness from God: A white tulip. When the scientist points out that white tulips are out of season and don't grow in the area anyway, Walter insists that God would be able to make it happen if he had truly forgiven Walter. The scientist ends up going through with the experiment, traveling back months and dying long before Walter even heard of him, but not before giving a letter to a friend of his. Months later, on the day that Walter and the scientist had met in the original timeline, the scientist's friend follows the instructions she had been given and mails a letter to an address she doesn't recognize, and Walter receives an unmarked envelope containing a drawing of a white tulip.
- In the episode "The Man Who Would Be King", Castiel spends the whole episode praying to God, explaining how he came to work with Crowley in his attempt to stop Raphael from restarting the Apocalypse. At the end of the episode, Cas breaks down, begging his Father to give him a sign that what he's doing is right. Apparently none comes, as Castiel ends up Jumping Off the Slippery Slope straight into out-and-out Villain Protagonist territory.
- In "Party On, Garth", Dean begins to suspect that Bobby's ghost is helping them with their cases, and calls on Bobby to give him a sign if that's the case. Nothing happens, but the end of the episode reveals that Bobby really is haunting them; he just hasn't mastered telekinesis yet.
- On Charmed the girls have cast spells to invoke this.
- One episode has Tony go to the Navy Yard chapel while Gibbs and some of the others are in Afghanistan rescuing a captured Marine. He asks for some sign that things will turn out all right, only to have a chaplain come in behind him and gently tell him it doesn't work like that.
- After the death of her father in a drive-by shooting, Ziva sits in a synagogue and asks for a sign that she should not give up hope. Her prayer is answered by the door opening, and her sign is...Tony, offering support for whatever she needs.
- Australian comedy series Full Frontal did a skit where the host of an 'unexplained mysteries' series kept confusing ordinary household events for ghosts or alien conspiracies. Eventually he calls on whoever is out there to send him a sign, only to cop a Frying Pan of Doom from his exasperated wife.
- Daredevil (2015)
- Unintentional example; during one of his conversations with Matt, Father Lantom tells a story about how he did not believe in the existence of Satan when he first started seminary. That all changed when he started working in Rwanda and met a highly respected holy man who no one would harm. The local militia commander met with the man and they talked for hours, after which the commander took the holy man and his family and hacked them to pieces in front of the whole village. Lantom took this as a sign from God that his theories about Satan were wrong, and there was true evil in the world.
- Subverted when, as a young novitiate, Sister Maggie viewed her postpartum depression as a sign that she had made the wrong decision falling in love with Jack Murdock and having a child with him. She returns to her life as a nun and fails to reveal to Matt Murdock when encountering him a child, and later an adult, that she is his mother. When Matt discovers this on his own and leaves her, Maggie realises she failed to recognise an actual sign from God and messed up the chance God gave her to reconcile with her son.
- Sister Celine says variants of this phrase during the course of You, Me and the Apocalypse, including just before news of the approaching comet is announced.
- Life in Pieces: Greg and Jen are considering having another baby, and Greg's mother tells a story of a time they accidentally left an extra seat at the table, and took it as a sign that there was someone missing from their family. Greg and Jen agree to wait for a sign... and then get home to find a stork on their front lawn.
Jen: Huh. I was expecting we'd have at least a couple hours.
- Girls5eva: In the first episode, Gloria, Dawn, and Summer sit on the park bench dedicated to their deceased member Ashley and ask for a sign that they should continue with the reunion show. The construction workers across the street then proclaim that they can do a five-person job with four people, inspiring Dawn and Gloria. The Ditz Summer doesn't quite understand what the sign was.
- "The Sign" by Ace of Base is arguably the Trope Codifier, being about someone who "saw the sign"note that they were in a harmful relationship with a bad person.
- The Fiery Furnaces' "We Got Back The Plague" notes that about the time George W. Bush was elected, there was an actual case of bubonic plague in New York.
Although sometimes the signs from heaven are vague
Early November we got back the plague!
- DMX's "Lord Give Me A Sign."
- "...hit me baby one more time!"
- The very first (spoken) words in Kamelot's album "Silverthorn", later echoed in "My Confession"
Give me a sign / Sing the words of innocence and broken pride / Make my conclusions fail
- Victor Buono's comedy piece The Fat Man's Prayer, where he asks for God's guidance in maintaining his diet, ends thusly:
Lord if You love me, shut my mouth!
- A non-divine example comes from Hello, Dolly!! in which Dolly Levi asks her dead husband Ephraim for a sign that she should marry Horace Vandergelder. Shortly thereafter, Vandergelder quotes Ephraim's favorite aphorism to her.
- In French works, often played for laughs by having a swan appear for no good reason (in French, the words for "swan" and "sign" being homonyms).
- In Shrek: The Musical, from "Travel Song":
Shrek: Why me? Why me?
A simple answer would be fine
Won't someone please send me a sign?
Donkey: Oh look, a sign! Yunita Pal Avenue straight ahead!
- In The Rose Tattoo, Serafina goes to her shrine of the Madonna and prays for a sign.
- In Dubious Company, after Tiren has second thoughts about joining Kreedor's army, she goes AWOL and gets lost. She looks up at the moon and sees Walter's ship.
Tiren: Whatever gods are looking out for me, thanks.
- One NSFW comic based on Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt has Briefs call out, "Lord, give me a sign!" when at his wit's end. He gets a giant sign that says, "OKAY, YOU'RE A DICK." When he asks for a sign that's relevant, he gets a vision of his current target.
- Miko Miyazaki from The Order of the Stick is constantly looking for these sorts of signs, and always interprets whatever coincidental thing to mean that she should do what she wanted to do anyway. Then the Twelve Gods give her a sign as loud and clear as possible when they appear in the sky to personally strip her of her paladin status... so of course she ignores it. Or more precisely, she tries to blame it on everybody else but herself.
- Parodied often in The Simpsons.
- One notable example is in "Homer Badman", when Homer begging God for help, and the phone rings: "This is God... frey Jones. I heard about your story..."
- Inverted in "And Maggie Makes Three", when Homer asks for no sign.
Homer: Dear Lord, the gods have been good to me and I am thankful. For the first time in my life, everything is absolutely perfect just the way it is. So here's the deal: you freeze everything as it is, and I won't ask for anything more. If that is okay, please give me absolutely no sign. [brief pause] Okay, deal. In gratitude, I present you this offering of cookies and milk. If you want me to eat them for you, please give me no sign. [brief pause] Thy will be done! [Homer sucks down the cookies]
- In "Lisa's Sax", when Homer realizes that he can't afford to send Lisa to an independent school, he walks past a music shop:
Homer: Musical instruments? Could that be a way to encourage a gifted child? Just give me a sign!
[the shop manager places a sign in the window, reading "Musical Instruments: The Perfect Way to Encourage a Gifted Child"]
Homer: Eh, works for me.
- In the last episode of Generator Rex, Rex and Noah are playing basketball and discussing whether or not he should use a Dangerous Forbidden Technique that most likely caused his Laser-Guided Amnesia the last time he used it. After expressing a wish for some kind of sign, Rex, who is good at superheroing but bad at sports, makes one last throw. Nothing but net!
- Ignored by Early Cuyler on Squidbillies
Early: Dear Lord, what made all creatures big and small in his own image, did you make them fine-ass speakers what would sound gooder than hell comin' out the back of my Truck Boat Truck? Well, if you don't want me to jimmy-jack them sweet tweeters, you best gimmie a sign (cut to a sign taped to the speakers that says Early Cuyler, do not touch). A new sign, I done seen that one.
- Actress Robia La Morte (Jenny Calendar from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) said she embraced Christianity when, driving down the highway, she asked God for a sign that he was real. Moments later, a gang of bikers were passing her on either side - she was anxious about it, then saw by their jackets that they were 'Bikers for Jesus'.
- There was a news story a few years back about a guy, caught out in the middle of a thunderstorm, asked God for a sign. No prizes for guessing what happened next.