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Miserable Comforters - Written by Tyler Eskovitz

Updated: Mar 4, 2021


This category of the blog is meant to illuminate and share the heart-aches and longings of the soul that could not be dwindled down to conversation or a single, lonesome thought. My intention was to make this a virtual platform that dwells firmly not on only my words but others whose hearts are centered firmly in Christ. It is my hope that amidst the current stir-craziness that this platform allows the molding of stories made by each writer's own experiences and wanderings of the mind. I hope to continue a weekly installation of these inklings and if you'd like to keep up with posts feel free to like and follow the page for more!

Wrestling Around “Miserable Comforters” - Written by Tyler Eskovitz

The state of the world is…uncomfortable, to say the least.

Expecting parents are wondering if it is safe to deliver their child in a hospital. Employees—some who have been at their jobs for twenty years or longer—are losing their positions or taking pay cuts. A multitude of students are no longer receiving a structured education, if any education at all. The elderly, especially those in nursing homes, are more vulnerable than ever, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for family members to help them. Animals can’t receive treatment or check-ups. Finances are tight. Retirement plans are ruined. Abused spouses and children are trapped with their abusers. The media are overwhelmingly pessimistic and at times sensational. And at the center of all this is a mysterious, dreaded virus that is spreading across borders, across buildings, across people.

The world is groaning. Our mortality has scarcely been so tangible for the lot of us.

I could go on, but I don’t want to. I’m not writing this piece to add to your pain; I’m hoping to alleviate even a mite of it.

Before I get into the point of this letter—explaining some practical ways to endure suffering—I have to first start here: To comfort is a skilled art that many are simply terrible at.

This may seem critical, but I am firm in this assertion. Our culture doesn’t teach us how to proactively rest or speak into someone’s troubles. Instead, it runs on the belief that life can be—and the best life is—without suffering, without pain. But this premise is a lie, and one that bad theology tends to nurture. Does the Lord not give and take away (Job 1:21)? Do we not deal with Satan, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8)? Aren’t we in a fallen world, where entropy and decay exist?

Suffering is real. It is very real. Yet, our culture’s shortcomings and bad theology have left many of us prone to what Job called “miserable comfort” (16:2). What qualifies as “miserable comfort”? There are many manifestations of it—too many to unpack here—but these seem to be two most popular:

1. The Harsh Approach—Aspects of Truth Without Sympathy

These are harsh: Telling a husband that his wife died because “everything happens for a reason.” Telling a college senior that he shouldn’t be disappointed in losing out on a graduation ceremony because “God is good.” Saying verbatim that depression can be easily defeated because “the Lord is a healer.” Explaining to a businesswoman whose retirement will now be delayed that “if she would just trust God more, she will be fine.”

These responses, and responses like these, don’t signify that the sufferer is being listened to; they address the sufferer’s problems to a degree, but not the sufferer’s heart. In other words, it is recalling the Lord’s qualities and Truth to a sufferer without expressing any compassion. It is responding in a way that directly undermines the sufferer’s natural and healthy emotional reaction to distress. In other words, you shouldn’t weep because “it isn’t rational.”

But the Christian knows the Lord is good, that all things happen for a reason, that Jesus is Healer, Protector, and Comforter. The Christian is not necessarily denying these when suffering. Yet, one who has a “harsh approach” makes it seem like he is.

Truth without compassion will embitter a sufferer.

2. The Emotional Approach—Compassion without Truth

The opposite can be just as dangerous: responding with too much sympathy, with too much soul invested in the sufferer’s pain can inspire a graver agony for both the comforter and the sufferer.

The Lord wants us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:12), whether literally or figuratively, and to share a fellow sufferer’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). However, this process can become incidentally complicated when one addresses a sufferer’s emotions without directing the sufferer to the gospel.

In having a distinct emotional response to the sufferer, the comforter is grieved at the sufferer’s condition and begins feeling the same despondency. He may be able to address the sufferer’s emotional and mental distress, but he forgets to bring the hopefulness and sanctification of the gospel into the matter. This type of approach can beget a few severe mentalities:

  • The sufferer’s issues become monumental, heavy, and eventually crushing for both the comforter and the sufferer. The comforter adopts the sufferer’s questions and doubts. They both wander in a dark pit and neither have hope.

  • The sufferer victimizes himself, which the comforter encourages. How this mentality manifests itself depends on the sufferer, but victimization and entitlement are married; where these two beasts rear their heads, chaos follows.

Elijah’s Despair and God’s Healing

Neither the “harsh” nor “emotional” approaches reflect the Lord’s demeanor or His Word. Within each are gaping holes in logic and kindness, and it is a mistake to think that suffering is so simple. Rather, time and again, the Lord reminds us that suffering is intricate and multilayered.

In 1 Kings 18, the Lord sent Elijah to confront Ahab, who was the idolatrous king over Israel at that time, to hold a competition between God and Israel’s beloved false prophets. Should the Lord prove the prophets useless and their gods non-existent, Elijah was confident Israel would repent and again serve the One True God.

By the end of the chapter, the prophets of Baal were proven wrong; those of Israel who witnessed did repent, falling on their faces and saying, ‘The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God’” (v.39). Then all the false prophets were killed. For what it seemed, Israel’s whoredom was nearing its end, and the wretched Israel king would be purged from their midst.

This wasn’t the case, however. Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, sought to have Elijah’s corpse at their feet (19:2). So, Elijah, panicked, fled for his life, wondering why the Lord was letting their previous victory to be turned on its head.

After a day’s journey in the wilderness, Elijah was physically weary, confused, anxious, desperate, depressed to the point of wanting God to allow him to die (v.4), hungry, and alone. Did the Lord say, “Get up! What are you doing there sleeping?” Did He say, “Everything happens for My reasons, Elijah, so get up and keep going”? Did God condemn Elijah for being depressed or for crying or for being despondent?

No. Instead, Jesus touched Elijah’s shoulder, showing him that he is not alone. He replenished Elijah’s strength with food, water, and sleep (vv.5-8). In one of those instances of feasting, Jesus even expressed sympathy for Elijah: “Arise and eat [once more], for the journey is too great for you” (v.7). He asked Elijah what troubled him (vv.9-14). Finally, Jesus reassured Elijah by explaining His plan and promising He will protect him (vv.15-18).

Do you see what God did? He doesn’t address Elijah with a list of things to do in order to avoid his agony. Nor does God address only one of Elijah’s needs. He speaks to them all—the physical (food, drink, sleep), the mental (asking Elijah about his grief), the emotional (touching his shoulder, being near), and the spiritual (God’s reassurance).

Likewise, we of the Church ought never to hurt our brothers and sisters with hastiness, half-truths, or fix-it mentalities. What more, we ought never subject ourselves to those same notions, believing that we cannot weep or be angry or question the Lord in our own suffering.

Suffering Well in the Wakes of COVID-19

With this all said, now the question is—how do we handle our present anxieties and griefs in this pandemic?

While I can’t speak to your specific circumstances, here are three general, practical strategies that will help you persevere through them:

1. Longsuffering.

Longsuffering means to possess patience in troubles—to endure.

Understand this, Reader, that this does not mean “be happy” when you are otherwise grieved, or “be carefree" when you are otherwise crestfallen. This also doesn’t mean continue on despite undergoing trauma or a burden.

Biblical longsuffering means to patiently press on in the understanding that tribulations are unavoidable and necessary for the sanctified life. We do not endure despite tribulations—meaning that we do our best to separate our life stories from what troubles us—but we endure amid our tribulations, as they are an essential part of our stories.

Our wounds and scars will eventually become our glory. This is part of God’s promise to us. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). Not even Jesus escaped being wounded, presenting to Thomas the holes in his hands in His glorified body. It was a testament to His immense suffering and majesty.

So, if longsuffering means to patiently endure, how do we do so? How do we suffer well? By pressing into Christ even when we feel like doing anything else. By having the “courage to yell, to doubt, to kick at God with angry violence” when our personal worlds are on fire.* Seriously. It may sound strange to be so unfiltered before God, but that is partly because it is a process not encouraged often enough in our society.** We can each be like Job and confidently declare: “[Al]though [God] slay[s] me, I will hope in Him; yet I will argue my ways to His face” (13:15).

The Lord gives you the freedom to direct your questions, doubts, and frustrations at Him. You can be angry and not sin (Psalm 4:5). Jesus longs to hear your raw voice and heart while receiving the brunt of your assault. He can handle it. He endured suffering, Himself.

Do not waste this freedom believing that crying makes you weak, that life can be lived devoid of suffering, that you are a victim to circumstances, or that Christ doesn’t want to know your heart. These are lies that Satan wants to wrap around your neck to suffocate you. Don’t let him.

2. Keep Fast in His Word, in Prayer

Yes, press into Christ above all else.

It can be tempting in these times to abandon the Lord’s Word and to maintain silence instead of prayer. Every Christian experiences this temptation throughout his life. But stepping away from the Bible and prayer is equivalent to abandoning food and drink; your spirit will wither.

The Lord has promised to protect, provide for, and love His sons and daughters; while it may seem like God forsakes us at times, we can have the blessed assurance that He never does (Matthew 28:20).

Talk to God. Or, if you insist on being silent, be so in His presence. If reading His Word puts a bitter taste in your mouth, keep reading until the taste someday dissipates. If you feel nothing by what you read, press on until the numbness gives way to renewed life.

If we endure our tribulations, we will someday see how all of the pain was worth it (Romans 8:18); how not a single tear escaped His notice; how He put all the pieces of our lives together; how He prepared for us a perfect rest with Him.

Even if we should find ourselves faithless at times, Jesus will prove Himself consistently, unconditionally faithful (2 Timothy 2:11-13).

3. Praying “Thy Will Be Done”

Yelling and anger (without sin) can only take a person so far in his journey—Truth must push him onward.

Since the Fall, we have been creatures lusting for control over our lives. It is part of what Paul alluded to when he wrote about the war of two laws in our inward being (Romans 7:21-25). In the mundane seasons, we perceive an illusion of control, but in the whirlwind of this pandemic the veil tears off and we see that we had nothing in ours hands.

What does this mean? This means we have to rewire our minds. Rather than being passive toward and/or wallowing in our anxieties, we ought rather to pray to God Thy will be done.

Is your mind rejecting this idea? Are you afraid of it? It’s normal to fear surrendering ourselves to God. But the Lord calls us to this, knowing that His will is more fulfilling, restorative, and liberating than our own (Psalm 37:4-5 / Proverbs 16:1, 9, 25; 20:24 / 1 Peter 5:5-11).

This isn’t to say the process of surrendering is easy; it certainly isn’t. But the Lord never told us living for Him would be (Matthew 10:34-39 / 1 John 2:6).

The Lord is an immovable Rock on which we stand, and He has promised to love you, protect you, and walk alongside you, even when the door to His throne room seems bolted shut. Should you choose to lean on Him and pray to Him Thy will, Lord, not my own, allowing your life to be in His mercy, only then will you know how “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hear[t] and your min[d] in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: keep heart, keep pressing forward, and “keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).



*L’Engle, Madeleine. Forward. A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis, HarperCollins Publishers, 1994, p. xvi.

**Ibid, p. xvi



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