I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are! Job 16:2 NLT
Being a helpful comforter is more difficult than being a miserable comforter.
When others share their painful situations, I’m sometimes a miserable comforter. Whether I ask them or not, I wonder in my mind what gruesome sin they have committed that has resulted in their dire straits. Or worse yet, I’ve uttered some infamous statements: “I know how you feel,” or “Let me know if you need anything.” Then I walk off, end the text, or hang up the phone never to check on them again.
Job’s situation was almost beyond description. He lost roughly everything he had. The comfort his friends gave consisted of “You have sinned against God. You need to confess.” Job’s wife told him to curse God and die. In the midst of excruciating circumstances, Job received a large dose of miserable comfort.
If I want to avoid being a miserable comforter, I must show understanding. Perhaps the person I’m comforting has sinned and is suffering the consequences. Remembering that I’m not above sin myself enables me to provide proper comfort. Since no one is perfect, no one is beyond any particular sinful act. Often, as in Job’s case, the painful situation is through no fault of the sufferer. Suffering can merely be a consequence of living in a fallen world.
Good comforters listen. Miserable comforters do all the talking. Those passing through troubled waters may need to vent. I should let them without judging. Venting can be a part of the healing process.
Miserable comforters don’t pray with the person who is hurting. Good comforters do. Not prayers of pomposity but sincere prayers for the person who is suffering that God would grant them comfort, wisdom, and guidance.
Good comforters aren’t afraid to cry with the one who is suffering. Shedding tears with them is one way to help them carry their burden.
Miserable comforters use clichés and religious platitudes; good comforters avoid them. The one suffering doesn’t need to hear, “Time heals all wounds,” “I know how you feel,” or “God just needed another angel in heaven.” Clichés and holier than thou attitudes—even when given sincerely, won’t help the one who needs comfort.
And when the timing is right, sharing comfort from God’s Word is always appropriate. Job’s friends tried this, but their interpretations were wrong.
What steps can you take to avoid being a miserable comforter?
Prayer: Father, help us share with others the type of comfort You give us when we are hurting.