“I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all.” (Job 16:2 ESV).
Job, in the midst of a massive trial, had three friends who attempted to confront him with "their truth," which were all lies, and Job knew it. Though his perspective was not quite yet God's, he recognized a void of wisdom when he saw one. His three friends had not yet tapped into real truth. They had come, perhaps to comfort and console, but had done no such thing.
So Job replied, "Miserable comforters are you all." Straight up.
Some have said what Job said when confronted with the truth; blinded by sin, they have become numb to the goodness of the truth, and they are wrong to say it. But Job was right to say it. He had not heard what was right, so the comfort which flowed was miserable and unhelpful.
For our purposes, though, let's think for a moment of everything we might turn to for comfort in this life. God has given us common grace, a beautiful creation to enjoy, and he often comforts us with it, so we should not reject it and think a monkish life is the Scriptural ideal. However, there are often outlets we turn to when in distress which only mask our issues and keep us from the real comfort. We ought to say of these masking agents, "miserable comforters are you all."
What are the handful of the miserable comforters to which we might turn?
Because I get that humans hurt, I get why addiction occurs. In the pain of trauma, insecurities or anger, we often turn to substances in search of alleviation. But it leaves us less ourselves, rather than remade into the image of God.
Since life whirls by at breakneck speed, we often turn to our screens to provide us a little respite from reality. To click off the brain for a few minutes, while appealing at times, can become a habit which overcomes and consumes our lives. Hours become days which become weeks which become months which become years. Then, at death, regret at the time spent with the screen.
A sport or hobby can be a refreshing gift from Christ, but we often allow them to consume us to the point that they become our lives. When distress hits, we might respond by turning on the game or hopping online, diving deeper into our interests. Again, they can be good and refreshing, but for the trials of life, the Lord himself stands at the ready to serve our spirits and souls.
Driving forward in life is one way to forget the pain of today, so we often will turn to deepened success to numb our pains. If we attain significance in the workplace, get that next project accomplished or advance to the next position, we often think our hurts will alleviate. But, though advancement can be a manifestation of good stewardship over our lives, advancement is not meant to be a medicine for our souls.
When trials or pains overcome us, we often turn to the high of romance to stir us up and cover the pain. Too often this is dangerous for us because we will turn to people or encounters which can hurt us in the long run.
Rarely would we say out loud that more money would solve our problems and pains, but we often feel it would. We think greater prosperity would buy us out of so many of life's frustrations. Ignoring the teaching of Scripture, we think of money as a cure, and begin, in the process, to love it. But the love of money leads to all kinds of evil, and it cannot comfort us.
Often, it is good for a believer to look something in the eye and say, "Miserable comforters are you all. Only the Lord can satisfy my soul. I will not be comforted by you, nor will I turn to you to try to find my peace."