To Give a Witness
This is a beloved East African tale told enjoyed by children and adults alike. The young winner of a mouse tribal contest is bragging to his grandpa about his brute strength and claims to be the strongest animal on the African plains. Grandpa reminds him of the strength of the elephant. As a result, the little mouse braggart begins 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 and the little mouse believes that he is the reason for their angst-filled departure. 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. When the little mouse awakes, he finds no elephant. 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 Job’s three friends. The Bible tells us that Job lost his whole family, fortune and health and grieved his losses while sitting on an ash heap. During his misery, he is visited by these friends. They, like the little mouse, made Job’s situation all about them. Eliphaz reasons that those who sow wickedness reap the same (Job 4:7-8). 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 formulas.
Job is not in need of a logical explanation. Suffering has pushed him far beyond cerebral thinking. This great sufferer does not need a diagnosis with religious “shoulds”. Job longs for genuine respect that allows him to feel acceptance and understanding. He cries out for such.
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. For Job, giving a witness means to witness his pain, offer him a safe place to vent and responding with understanding. 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 hurt.
Discussion Questions: What is the first thing we want to say to those who are in pain? Why do we feel the need to speak? What would it feel like to offer silence instead?
See more devotions from Amy and our other Young Adult writers, or find our how you can become a writer yourself at our By Young Adults for Young Adults devotion page.