“Phaz, you and your buddies are all just a bunch of miserable comforters. If you and I could switch places for a while, I suppose it would be very easy for me to sermonize you, to look at you, shake my head, and cluck my tongue is disdain. It’s so easy,” cries Job, “when we are not in the furnace ourselves, to ‘talk to the grief’ (Psalm 69:26) of those who are suffering.”
We are only able to minister the comfort of God to others to the measure of God’s comfort we have realized in our own lives. When I was single and pastoring a church, I found myself at times having to give “advice” to newly married couples or counseling young parents when I didn’t have any children of my own. Sure, it was very easy to give the “advice,” but very difficult to back it up with real-life evidence. There was no way I could fully comprehend the struggles. That is like a white guy, such as me, counseling a black guy about racism! However, when Patrice and I had our twins, well that is a different story, now I could understand! My pastor has gone through many struggles and painful difficulties with me.
After all the “suffering” I have experienced, he stated he had more confidence in me now, as a pastor, then he ever did before. Paul understood that his struggles were actually giving him the ability to minister to others. “If we are troubled,” he said, “it is for your comfort; and if we are comforted it is for your comfort and encouragement which work in you when you endure the same evils that we do” (II Corinthians 1:6).
“But,” Job said to Eliphaz, “if you were in my place, suffering like this . . . I would try to strengthen you with my words; speak in such a way that would help you, not cast you down and condemn you; I would try to take away your grief. Instead of callous reasoning and philosophizing over the greatness of God and the corruption of man and telling me I was only getting what I deserved! Stick it in your ear, Phaz!”
All of us are “miserable comforters” at times. I remember when Patty was in labor with the twins for 22 hours and I, one who has never experienced the “joys” of childbirth (I suppose my own birth doesn’t count), was there with her. At one point I was trying so hard to comfort her and ease the tension of the moment. I looked her in the eyes, and with all the love, empathy, and compassion I could muster, gave her a sweet, loving smile . . . only to receive a very sharp, formal, business-like, “Don’t smile at me!” Boy, what a “miserable comforter” I was. My heart was right, but I had never (and to my knowledge could never), enter the suffering myself. When our third child was born, we had a much more qualified coach along, one that had been through it four times herself.
Even though you and I live in the full light of the gospel and in the knowledge of Him who was made perfect through suffering, we still have hidden in our hearts the very same thoughts that Job’s friends had. We make suffering a test of being in sin, and freedom from suffering is proof that we are right with God. That simply is not true. Much of our suffering and struggles are a direct result of our right standing with God. We need to understand the full wisdom of the Lord.
“Christ bore our sorrows,” we say, “He took the Cross so that we don’t have to.” How little we understand the deepest purposes of God in the sacrifice of Jesus.
It is true that Christ bore our sorrows, but it was so that we would enter His sorrows over the world and His people. He took the Cross in order to bring us into fellowship with Him in the Cross. He took away our burdens, so that we would share His burdens.
For that to happen, we have to be broken down on every side so we can lose our hardness in dealing with others. Am I saying that God is the one who killed your brother or sister? Is He the one responsible for your sickness? Did He decide to give you diabetes? NO! A thousand times no! Our God is not the destroyer. He is not the one making everyone sick! Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy! However, our God does use those times of suffering to force us to cling to our faith is His love.
Although, there is a form of cleansing and purifying that God does work in our lives. It is by His command, oversight, and planning.
If you are interested, you can download the whole study of Job.
Other Bible Studies and Commentary are available at Doulos Studies.