There is a beloved tale told in East Africa to children and adults alike.  It begins with a contest in a mouse tribe to find the strongest boy.  The winner of the contest is bragging to his grandpa about his brute strength and claims that he is the strongest animal on the African plains.  Grandpa corrects him by reminding him of the strength of the elephant.  The little braggart will not be outdone and decides to begin a quest to find the elephant and “stomp her to bits”.  Grandpa bids him well but reminds him that a storm is coming.  Along the journey the little mouse runs into many animals.  He asks each one if they are the elephant.  When they decline, he informs them of the great damage he is about to inflict.  And each time he makes these dramatic declarations, by chance, the thunder rolls.  The animals in question run away in fear and the little mouse believes that he is the reason for their angst-filled departure.  This only strokes his ego.

Finally, he finds the elephant and informs her that he is going to “stomp her to bits”.  Lazily, she fills her trunk with water and sprays the little mouse with such force, that he rolls down the bank, unconscious.  The elephant and the storm come and go while the little mouse lies by the water hole.  The little mouse wakes.  Finding no elephant and being very wet, he assumes that the storm washed the elephant away.  This was a very good thing for the elephant because had the storm not come the little mouse would have “stomped her to bits”.

The little mouse reminds me of the story of Job.  His name is associated with suffering.  The Bible tells us that he lost his whole family, fortune and health and grieved his losses while sitting on an ash heap.  During his misery, he is visited by three friends.  They, like the little mouse, make Job’s suffering all about them.  Eliphaz applies that those who sow wickedness reaps such (Job 4:7-8).  This can be true.  However, Job claims innocence.  Bildad assumes that bad things are a result of sin, period (Job 8:2-7).  And Zophar implores Job to repent (Job 11: 13-14).  All of this advice comforts only the three friends because it takes Job’s situation and plugs it into their familiar formula.

They ignore is honest plea of innocence and Job’s godly life lived.

Job is not in need of a logical explanation.  Suffering has pushed him far beyond cerebral thinking.  Job speaks from the depth of pain that rules his heart.  This great sufferer needs a focus that does not diagnosis his misery with religious “shoulds”.  Job would benefit best from a genuine love and respect that allows him to feel acceptance and understanding.  Job calls out for such a witness as he asks simply to be heard:

Earth, do not cover my blood; may my cry never be laid to rest!  Even now my witness is in heaven;  my advocate is on high.  My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God.  –Job 16:16-18

Often Christians assume that giving a witness means to speak of what should be or sharing their opinions about God or religion.  But this text and situation gives a different feel to the word.  For Job, giving a witness means to witness his pain, offer him a safe place to vent and speaking only words of understanding.  There are no spiritual laws to recite or sinner’s prayer to repeat.  To give a witness means to make the visit all about Job.  What a spiritual challenge to set aside all things with think we know and sit in silence with those who suffer.