Job 16:2, 4 (ESV)
“I have heard many such things;
miserable comforters are you all.
I also could speak as you do,
if you were in my place;
I could join words together against you
and shake my head at you.
Job 17:1 (ESV)
“My spirit is broken; my days are extinct;
the graveyard is ready for me.
Job waxes poetic as he responds to his accusers in chapters 16-17, but in essence he says three things. First, his friends are “miserable comforters.” Second, they clearly do not understand his pain. If he were as comfortable as they are he could say the same things they are saying. Yet their assessment is not accurate. Third, he is realizing how short life is. He has almost lost hope and feels like he is standing on the edge of the grave. Each of these statements are heavy truths that deserve a blog of their own. Let’s think through the first of these three statements.
His friends are miserable comforters. How often we have failed to minister to those who are hurting. True ministry means getting my hands dirty. I would rather stand on the edge of the mud hole and tell you about the mistakes you made that got you there. If I actually help you get out I might get dirty too. We become self-appointed critics when we should be God-appointed servants. To switch metaphors, we can explain why there is no fruit in your life, but we are not willing to help cultivate, irrigate, and fertilize for healthy growth. And yet, like Job’s friends, we think we are being helpful because we are pointing out the lack of fruit. We call that encouragement. The one we are “helping” calls it criticism.
Job’s friends were miserable comforters. Thankfully, whether others come alongside us or not, Jesus said that he sent us “another comforter.” The Holy Spirit is there to come alongside us, strengthen us, encourage us, and help us to stand even when everyone else feels obligated to tell us why we fell down. What if we, as believers, and as brothers and sisters in Christ, acted more like the Holy Spirit and less like the Accuser of the Brethren? We don’t have to be miserable comforters. Instead of hopelessness we could help bring hope. Instead of grief and pain we could help bring healing. Instead of criticism we could bring real help. We could bring real encouragement rather than patting ourselves on the back for “helping,” when all we’ve really done is criticize.
The three statements mentioned in the first paragraph build on one another. We’ll explore the other two in separate blogs. For now, perhaps it is worth some prayerful introspection to ask God and ourselves, “Am I an encourager, or a critic?” Do we build up, or do we tear down? How do our words affect those around us? May we be more like the Holy Spirit in his role as comforter, and less like the Accuser of the Brethren. May we be more like God and less like Job’s friends.