Are we ‘MISERABLE COMFORTERS’ to others in their DISTRESS?
Then Job answered and said: "I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all!" (Job 16:1-2)
Job’s three friends had travelled from their home town, from a long distance, to be with Job when they had heard of his adversities. In fact, they had made appointments together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him (Job 2:11). When they met Job, they could not recognize him due to the physical infirmity that had afflicted him. They wept aloud in sorrow, tore their clothes and sprinkled dust upon themselves as an outward expression of grief (v. 12). They sat down on the ground with Job for seven days and seven nights without speaking a word, seeing that Job’s grief was too intensive to be expressed aloud (v. 13).
However, when each of Job’s friends started speaking – Eliphaz (Job 4:1-5:27; 15:1-35), Bildad (Job 8:1-22), and Zophar (Job 11:1-20) – the words that came out of their mouths were words of condemnation and not of comfort. Instead of providing relief to Job, they were like inflicting pain to his wounds. To all the previous allegations from his three ‘friends’ Job simply responded, in essence, “I’ve heard it all before - you are all miserable comforters” (Job 16:2).
In his book ‘How to Get Along with Almost Anyone’, H. Norman Wright has categorized four different kinds of people who express various forms of destructive criticism:
- First, there are the ‘blamers’. They avoid accepting responsibility for their actions by criticizing other people or blaming past experiences which cannot be changed or undone.
- Next, there are the ‘hurtful jokers’. Humor is a positive method of relating with others, but hurtful jokers make others the butt of their humor. They specialize in laughing at people instead of laughing with them.
- Then, there are the ‘fault-finders’. These people have the insatiable need to point out others’ defects, but usually do that with a smile and the words, “I’m just trying to be helpful…”
- Finally, there are the ‘cannibals’. These people do not criticize in a joking manner or settle for mere nitpicking. They go for the jugular…they attack through the most severe forms of personal criticism and put others down with complete disregard of their feelings. These destructive critics are intent in tearing down and manipulating the hurting person.
As children of God, we should never engage in destructive criticism or turn out to be ‘miserable comforters’ like Job’s friends. In fact, Satan engages in these activities, and he is referred to as a thief by our Lord Jesus Christ. "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy." (John 10:10). Satan is the "accuser of God's children” who accuses them before God day and night (Rev 12:10).
If we are engaged in destructive criticism, let us detest from this activity once and for all. This is what God’s word counsels us to do: "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal 6:1-2)
Let us never be ‘miserable comforters’ to others in their distress!