Aokigahara Forest, west of Tokyo, is known as a place where people go to commit suicide. Japan’s suicide rate is among the world’s highest and has climbed in recent years due to the poor economy. People who are unemployed or bankrupt or have experienced other tragedies go to the socalled “suicide forest” to end their lives.
Unlike these poor souls, Job, despite his misery and suffering, did not commit suicide. His faith in God was based not in circumstances but rather in God’s faithfulness. As he listened to his friends and responded to their charges that he was being judged for sin, Job repeatedly asked for a conversation with the Lord. He envisioned himself as an innocent man arguing his case before a just judge (Job 23:3–7).
But when this wished-for conversation finally happened, it didn’t go that way at all. Instead, God had a case to present to Job. His argument hinged on His surpassing greatness, and He made this point through a series of dramatic rhetorical questions drawn from the natural world. We see something of God’s power, creativity, wisdom, righteousness, and love of order.
Be careful what you wish for! Job had wanted his “day in court,” but this assumed he understood how God operates. Confronted with his ignorance, helplessness, and mortality (38:2, 17), Job could do nothing but acknowledge God’s greatness and his own presumption and unworthiness (42:1–6). When he said, “I despise myself,” this was not an expression of self-loathing but an exaggerated expression of humility, as we can see in the next line when he repented of his pride and lack of understanding. Overall, though, God commended Job for coming through the test with flying colors (42:7).
Apply the Word
Encouragement is an important ministry and spiritual gift (1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 3:13). But we must be careful to offer godly encouragement, based on the truth of the Word (Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 4:2). Too often we are tempted to pump up self-esteem or offer “positive thinking,” whereas our ultimate encouragement comes from being united with Christ (Phil. 2:1).