4 part message about wrong-right way to comfort
1. MISERABLE COMFORTERS
I have heard many such things. Miserable comforters are ye all! (Job 16:1-2, KJV)
"Miserable comforters" -- this is what Job called his three friends, who had come to comfort him during his illness. But what were
they doing wrong? Job's friends had made great sacrifices on his behalf. They had dropped all of their own affairs and came
rushing to be by Job's side. They stayed with him for seven whole days without saying a word, because they saw how great his
pain was. Job's friends had also said many things to encourage him. Read Job 1-15 over again for yourself and see. For example,
Here is Eliphaz:
"But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before Him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that
cannot be counted. He bestows rain on the earth; he sends water upon the countryside. The lowly He sets on high, and those who mourn
are lifted to safety. He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. He catches the wise in their craftiness,
and the schemes of the wily are swept away. Darkness comes upon them in the daytime; at noon they grope as in the night. He saves the
needy from the sword in their mouth; He saves them from the clutches of the powerful. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its
mouth. Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He wounds, but He also binds up;
He injures, but His hands also heal. From six calamities He will rescue you; in seven no harm will befall you." (Job 5:8-19 NIV)
Here is Bildad:
"Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers. He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips
with shouts of joy. Your enemies will be clothed in shame, and the tents of the wicked will be no more." (Job 8:20-22, NIV)
Here is Zophar:
"Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to
dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble,
recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. You will be secure,
because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many
will court your favor. (Job 11:13-19, NIV)
Essentially they are saying to Job, "Seek God, and trust in Him. Cleanse your heart from sin, pray, and God will restore you." Don't
we say the same things when we comfort others? Are we better comforters than Job's friends? Or can we even begin to measure
up to their level? For
we rarely spend more than a few minutes with those who are afflicted,
while Job's three friends dropped all their business and stayed with Job constantly for seven days!
In the next article ( 'The Ways of the Comforter' ), we discuss practical ways in which we can become genuine comforters of those
who are afflicted.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we acknowledge that we too are "miserable comforters". We do not even
attain the level of Job's three friends. Teach us to comfort others, as You have comforted us.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit, Your Comforter, whom You made available to us through Your death
on the Cross.
2. THE WAYS OF THE COMFORTER
A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. (Job 6:14, NIV)
Job in his affliction called his three friends, "miserable comforters" (Job 16:2). But when we look at what they did on Job's behalf
(see previous article, 'Miserable Comforters'), we see that they went far beyond our feeble efforts to comfort the afflicted. How
then can we possibly avoid being "miserable comforters"?
First of all, we should recognize that
comfort is more in the heart than in the words.
Although Job's friends stayed with Job,
spiritually their hearts were not "with" him. Rather, they kept themselves above Job. They said, "Pray and God will lift you up to
be as we are". Instead, true comfort says: "I am willing to go down where you are - to share your feelings of grief, anger,
loneliness, and despair". For comfort to be transferred, the comforter must place himself at the same level as the afflicted. It's
just like plugging a plug into an outlet - in order for a connection to be made, the plug must line up at the same level with the
outlet. However, Job's friends gave no indication that they had ever been in a similar predicament. They gave no hint that they
understood and sympathized with his feelings.
Secondly, we should never react defensively when the sufferer attacks us. Like a wounded animal, the sufferer will lash out at
anyone, even those who are sincerely trying to help. We should expect this, and not answer back when they wound us. Job's
friends did not do this. When Job lashed out at his friends, first they tried to justify themselves, and then they returned the attack.
They became more and more defensive, more and more strident in their accusations against Job, and less and less concerned
with Job's suffering.
Many times during his speeches, Job even lashes out at God. But God understood that Job was reacting from his deep pain, and
does not count his words against him as sin. Just as God overlooked Job's tirades against Him, so we also should overlook
when the afflicted attack us with their words.
In the next article ( 'The Comforter's Key' ), we will share the spiritual key to genuine comfort.
Prayer: Father, I acknowledge my grievous shortcomings as a comforter. I may say nice words,
but out of fear I still keep myself separate from others' sufferings, and refuse to immerse myself
in their experience. And I am prone to answer back when others attack me. Lord Jesus, please
teach me Your way -- how You who wept wordlessly in compassion for the afflicted, how You remained
silent when others taunted You. Empower me, Lord, by Your gracious Holy Spirit which dwells in me.
3. THE COMFORTER'S KEY
... Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them. (Heb 7:25, KJV)
In the previous article ( 'The Ways of the Comforter' ), we have mentioned two essential attitudes we must hold in our hearts if we
are to offer genuine comfort to the afflicted. First, we must not just offer fine words, but bring our own hearts down to the level of
the sufferer. Second, we must expect the sufferer to attack us, and never react defensively when he/she does.
These are important practical guidelines, but in themselves they are not enough. There is one essential spiritual ingredient,
without which our attempts to comfort others will always fall flat.
The essential ingredient is intercession. This may also be seen in the account of Job: for God finally broke through to Job after
Elihu shared this truth:
"A man may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones, so that his very being finds food repulsive and his soul
loathes the choicest meal. His flesh wastes away to nothing, and his bones, once hidden, now stick out. His soul draws near to the pit,
and his life to the messengers of death. "Yet if there is an angel on his side as a mediator, one out of a thousand, to tell a man what is
right for him,to be gracious to him and say, `Spare him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for him'--then his flesh is
renewed like a child's; it is restored as in the days of his youth. He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God's face and shouts
for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state." (Job 33:19-26)
Spiritually, we understand that the ‘mediator' Elihu speaks of is Jesus Christ, who intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25). However,
believers in Christ are empowered by the Holy Spirit to share in this ministry of intercession.
When we visit the afflicted, we don't need to explain to them why they are suffering. We do not need to tell them what to do,
unless they specifically ask our advice. Instead, we should let them know: "I will walk with you through this.
I will be a shoulder
you can cry on. I will bring you before the Lord in prayer so that He may touch you." When we intercede in this fashion, it is not
we who are interceding but the Spirit of Jesus Himself who is interceding through us.
Don't EVER place religious condemnation on the sufferer. Don't say to him, "Strengthen your faith, pray, and God will restore
you." This is not comfort, it's a Satanic accusation. If your faith is so strong, then YOU should pray. The book of James
specifically states that those who are sick should be healed through the prayers of OTHERS (James 5:14-16). Should a doctor
say to a patient: "Make yourself well"? But when another person is afflicted, spiritually we are the doctors, and the afflicted is the
patient. We are the ones who should exercise faith. Of course, the sufferer should confess any sins in his/her heart (James 5:16)
But the Holy Spirit is the one who should convict of sin, it's not up to us to point out secret sins which we imagine they must be
In the next article ( 'The Comforter's College' ), we will show how God trains us to be effective comforters and intercessors.
Prayer: Father, forgive us, for we talk to much to each other and too little to You. Jesus
said, "I can do only what I see the Father doing" (John 5:19). We should do the same, but we
don't. Instead, we do what seems right to us, because we do not take the time and effort to see
what the Father is doing.. So our words and actions are empty and powerless. Father, break
through the protective shells we have erected around ourselves. Invade our lives with Your
grace. Compel us to seek You and call out to You, not just on our own behalf, but on behalf of
others. I pray in Jesus' name.
4. THE COMFORTER'S COLLEGE
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb 2:18, NIV)
In a previous article, ( 'The Comforter's Key' ) we have dealt with the essential spiritual requirement for an effective comforter. To
offer true comfort to others, we must also intercede for them. But how may we learn to intercede for others?
God has a college where he teaches intercession. This college offers only one course, which is called, SUFFERING.
We should embrace suffering as the means by which we become effective intercessors. Kathryn Kuhlman, who ministered
healing to thousands, herself took medicine every day. Her experience of poor health made her able to intercede effectively for
others who were sick.
Remember that Jesus Himself helps us in our sufferings because He shared in them (Hebrews 2:18). He suffered as a sinner,
though He were none (2 Cor. 5:21). He does not point His finger down at us from a high pedestal. It is true that Jesus rebukes us,
just as He rebuked His disciples for lack of faith in the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Luke 8:24-25). But remember, He was in the
same boat with them as He rebuked them. The same principle holds for the prophets. Jeremiah warned and castigated Israel for
her sin – but when God's punishment came, Jeremiah did not separate himself, but suffered through the same consequences.
When righteous Daniel interceded for his people, he did not refer to "their sin" but "our sin" (Daniel 9:4-19). Hence, if we though
blameless suffer the same troubles that sinners suffer, we should thank God: for He "…comforts us in all our tribulation, that we
may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, by the comfort which God has ministered to us" (2 Cor. 1:4).
Prayer: Father, in Jesus' name please teach me to be an effective comforter. I recognize that
You are training me, but the process is very painful, and I balk. Father, my spirit is willing,
but my flesh is weak. Empower me with your Comforter, the Holy Spirit, that I may say "no" to the
voice of my flesh, and to be a channel through which Jesus Christ may pour out His comfort.
[ by Chris Thorn -- from 'Themestream' ]
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