“I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all!” (Job 16:2, NKJV)
I recently again read the Book of Job. Each time I read this familiar story, I gain new insights (and ask more questions) about the meaning of suffering. Job faced great affliction and loss, yet ultimately he came through victorious. Much of the book contains dialogue between Job and three friends who came to console him during this dark period in his life. The more I read, the more I had mixed feelings about their “help.”
The phrase “Job’s comforter” derives from this story of Job and his friends. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “a person who discourages or depresses while seemingly giving comfort and consolation” (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ ). No one needs a visitor like that.
The Three Friends
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar may have had good intentions when they came to see Job. After all, they did show up and in silence sat and grieved with him for seven days and nights. But they miserably failed to comfort their friend afterward. Instead of offering words of encouragement and support, they jumped to conclusions. The three insisted God must be punishing Job for unconfessed sin in his life. No matter how fervently Job declared his innocence, they refused to listen.
Obviously Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar did little to comfort their hurting friend. Look at the words of Job. He plainly told them he would react differently if the situation were reversed.
“I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you. But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief.” (Job 16:4-5, NLT)
How to Respond
When it’s someone else’s life, it’s easy for us to jump to conclusions about why it’s happening, offer pat answers and platitudes, or belittle their pain by implying we’ve endured worse. But a compassionate friend will refrain from such hurtful responses. Instead, we will offer love, kindness, and compassion. We will listen without judgment. We will speak words of encouragement and comfort. In this way, we respond in the same way as our heavenly Father responds.
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (II Corinthians 1:3-4, NLT)
Whatever someone’s situation, we can assure the suffering one that God knows and cares. The above passage calls Him the “source of all comfort.” He knows our pain and ministers to us at our point of need. As we heal, we learn how to minister to others with the gift of comfort.
Job’s friends thought that troubles come because of a sinful life. But we live in a fallen world where both saint and sinner encounter trials and times of suffering. When that happens, we must not be a Job’s comforter. Instead, we must “give them the same comfort God has given us.”