SUFFERING: THE ATHEIST’S BOOMERANG
A favorite attack of atheist on the existence of God is the problem of pain. If God is all-powerful and all-loving, then why doesn’t He intervene and stop suffering? Doesn’t He have the power to stop it? Does He love us enough to keep us from painful adversity? For example, John Templeton, an early preaching associate of Billy Graham, said he completely lost his faith in God because He saw a picture in Life Magazine of a crying African mother, in a famine stricken land, holding her dead, emaciated child because of a lack of rain. Mr. Templeton wondered, “Why couldn’t God send them some rain? All she needed was some rain!”
Then, in the Craig-Hitchens debate on the existence of God, Mr. Hitchens was moved to tears in describing the wretched suffering of Elisebeth Fritzl. She was imprisoned by her father, Josef, at age 18 for 24 years in a small, squalid dungeon beneath his house. Why? She was repeatedly raped for over 2 decades and bore 7 children from this horrible, incestuous nightmare. Mr. Hitchens tearfully cried out, “Where was your God? Oh, how she must have cried out to your God and yet He did nothing!”
First, I would challenge Mr. Hitchens (author of God is Not Good), what hope would atheism offer Elisabeth Fritzl’s suffering? None! Atheism is a hopeless end and all pain is pointless, while Christ offers an endless hope and an empowering faith that transcends pain and this world. “In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).
All suffering can be overcome by true believers in Christ, who endured the torment of the cross (Phil. 4:13). “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:16-18). In heaven, God promises to make it all up to us, regardless of how much we have suffered (Ja 5:11). He will right all wrong in the end. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4). When He dries our eyes of tears, they will stay dry (R. C. Sproul).
The short-sighted, blind atheist sees this short, physical world as our be all and end all. God says it is not. It is a short-term place of character development, which pain is allowed to test and refine our character. This fallen world (Gen 3:17) is means to choosing a better world with God forever. This world is full of terrible adversity, but it is also full of overcoming it by faith, hope and love from our Mighty Friend above. Paul, who suffered much but overcame it all by Christ, said, “I do not consider suffering of this age worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed” (Rom 8:18).
With the perspective of eternal hope in Christ, who overcame the horrible suffering of the cross to save us, the atheist’s objection boomerags showing its empty philosophy and shrivels to a mere quibble.