Becoming a Better Comforter

“But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.” Job 16:5

Photo: Renae Bowman

Photo: Renae Bowman


I knew it when I messed up.

It wasn’t an earth-shattering mess up, but it was obvious.

From across the room, and through all the people, I could see she was having a different kind of morning. The once-a-week gathering with a few hundred other women, I saw my friend in the crowd with a different way about her. I hadn’t yet greeted her, but from afar I knew—as only besties can—there was something up; something was weighing heavy on her heart.

As I finally embraced her in a good morning hug it was painfully obvious up close. She was wrestling with a problem. So I asked. And she explained.

Then I felt the tough place to be—I didn’t know exactly what to say.  I wanted to ease her troubles. I wanted to encourage her. I thought I could help. So in response to her issue I gave her my advice even though she hadn’t asked.

And it all changed. Her body changed. Her countenance changed. Her gaze changed.

She wasn’t happy…with me.
I saw it in her eyes. I had let her down. For that morning,I had gone from being a comforting shoulder to a crushing stone. She didn’t need another heaping of what-to-do; she needed a what-to-do with her heaping.

Oh, I was instantly gripped with regret. I didn’t help, I hindered.

I felt I let down the very one I wanted to raise up. I knew her very feeling because I’ve been on the other end, too. I’ve been the one who just wanted to pour out my heart to another looking to have it filled back up with encouragement—but got a whole lot less in return. And it stinks when that happens.

Job’s been there. Our key verse is what he told his friends when they decided they wanted to preach instead of praise. He called them the miserable comforters. Yikes! He had to tell them, “Look, I heard what you said but you know what, I would have done it soooo differently than you did. You didn’t help me. Instead of giving endless speeches and crappy advice, I would have lifted you up instead.”

“But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.”

Oh I want to be that kind of friend—always.
Oh I want to be that kind of wife—always.
I want to be that mother, and daughter, and sister, and coworker, and…—always.
I want my words to bring relief instead of remorse.
I want what’s left in the room, after I leave, encouragement not annoyance.

But I seem to fall short sometimes, I seem to do just the opposite. I know there have been times when I too have been that miserable comforter. Oooh! I start out with great intentions like Job’s friends, but by the end there are more hard feelings than good.

I think for our lives, this has to be one of those deliberate acts to develop. We forget it’s about the preparation instead of the perpetration. This seems to be one of those areas that has to become a daily prayer. It has to be a wake up and fall asleep thought that remains in our hearts and on our lips, because if I know me and maybe you know you, it certainly won’t just happen in the moment.

The Perfect one understood it. He gave us the right words for the right time:

“For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him.” Matthew 12:34-35

Can there be any greater direction for us to get our insides connected to our outsides? Can there be a greater way to become a better comforter?

Oh Lord, help us store up good words!
The soft words.
The right words.
The edifying words.
And even the silent words.
Give us the ability to shut up and shut in the words that will mean nothing, and let flow those that will help not hurt.

THIS should be our prayer!  Every.  Single.  Day.  Are you with me?

I know at times we all get foot-in-mouth disease—it happens—quite often for me if you want to know the truth, but perhaps we could live with a little more example from the Apostle Paul, than from the friends of Job:

“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up.” 1Thes 5:11

For me, I want to move from being an accidental miserable comforter to being a deliberate generous encourager. The prayer starts today!

2 Replies

  1. Lori perez

    Good morning Renae. I have been there. I have put “foot in mouth”. We also have to remember that we ARE human and it happens. Sometimes I will remind myself about the song that I always hear on the radio. In this song one of the lines it says, “if you don’t know what to say just say Jesus “. I love that. I have done that many times and then told that person how much He lives them and how much I love them. Thank you for sharing this blog today. Another good one.

    1. Yes, Lori–when you don’t know what to say, say Jesus! Thank you for the reminder. And thank you for stopping by and chatting.

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