I suffer from myopia. This is a condition where my eyes can see objects that are close to me very clearly but objects that are further away are blurry. One of the things that I’ve realized is that I should never take my glasses off. Why? Because, when I do, I can get into all sorts of trouble.
When I was a kid I starred in a play at church about people in first century Israel. Before the performance the director asked me to remove my glasses. Since we had rehearsed the entire time with my glasses on, I was not prepared to take them off. As a matter of fact, it made me nervous to do so. Later that evening, when I had to walk across the stage, I tripped over the sets as well as my own shoes because I couldn’t see past a few feet from my face. I wasn’t focused on what was beyond my limited vision.
A friend of mine who is an atheist once told me, “Why would a good God allow someone to just suffer and die? I can’t believe in a God like that!” He went on to describe a story about a child dying of cancer in the worst way imaginable, who suffered so much pain before passing away in his parents’ arms. To hear stories like that, to watch loved ones go through that, and to go through it ourselves is absolutely heartbreaking! And for a lot of people it’s very compelling to doubt God in the face of suffering.
But here’s where atheists and skeptics make a huge mistake. They can’t see past a few feet from their lifetime.
Friends, we have about 90 years on this earth before we die. A lot of us fill these years with great experiences like love, children, and great careers; but we also experience pain, suffering, and loss along the way. For atheists, after their 90 years is done, it’s over. There is no more existence. That means that the 90 years they have on this earth is the only thing that matters. Now, imagine tragedy, suffering, and disease invading that lifetime; it feels like the only shot they had has been stolen and is now gone.
Christians have a different view on life. Yes, there is a 90-year stretch, but that’s just the warm-up for the main event! In actuality we get this lifetime plus eternity. Once you realize eternity awaits you after this life, suffering and death takes on an entirely different meaning. To know that Christ has freed us from death and that the suffering and death of the physical body is not the suffering and death of the immortal soul, to know that eternity dramatically overshadows this lifetime into almost nothing, means that suffering is a “momentary affliction that is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
So, when you’re engaging your atheist friends who say, “I can’t get behind a god who would allow evil in this world,” ask them to try on your glasses. In other words, ask them to evaluate suffering through the Christian framework. If they can’t do that then their issue is not that evil undercuts God’s existence or that suffering somehow invalidates the idea of God being good. The real problem is that atheists are making eternal judgments without seeing eternity clearly. They’re forcing elements of their worldview into our worldview and then rejecting it because they don’t see how it makes sense. Of course, they don’t see! They haven’t tried on our glasses!
If people really want to evaluate a robust system of beliefs they must adopt the entire framework for those beliefs, by stepping inside it, and looking around to see if it really makes sense. If skeptics and non-believers would at least do that, if they would genuinely evaluate our beliefs by putting on our glasses, they would have a better perspective by which to hear the good news of the Gospel they so desperately need.