The author of Ecclesiastes argues that God is unknown and unknowable, that good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people and there is no discernable rhyme nor reason to any of it. Life as a result is without meaning, beyond the meaning you can make for yourself. It’s rather existentialist in its orientation.
And if we assume, as that author did, that God has never deigned to interact with the human race, that he has not revealed himself through the Bible, then the author of Ecclesiastes’ point of view is certainly reasonable and accurate.
But I believe that God has spoken to humanity and that despite all the suffering, he knows you and cares about you, and wants to take care of you.
Does that mean you will have a life of roses.? Of course not, and obviously so. Our God is not a magic fairy sprinkling magic fairy dust over the world. Neither the biblical record nor life paint that picture of Him. Instead, He is real, and stands with us in the real world. While our lives may suck, or may be wonderful, most of us live lives that are a mixture, though mostly good.
The God we worship was there during the Nazi Holocaust that ended in 1945, he was there while King Leopold II of Belgium became responsible for the slaughter of perhaps ten million Africans in the Belgian Congo (between 1885 to1908, enslaving, torturing oppressing them while the world did nothing and turned a blind eye to it.) But he is also the God who counts the hair on our head and knows when a sparrow falls; so yeah, he knew what was happening. Sometimes God intervenes, sometimes not. He raised some to life, but he left most to rot; he healed a handful of blind people, but left the overwhelming majority in darkness, he healed some lepers, but left most to drop body parts.
The God presented in the Bible sometimes tweaks the world, and sometimes he rescues. But mostly he is just a sort of silent partner, crying or rejoicing with us.
Is there a reason that some of the people of God prosper, while others are martyred? Yes. Is there a formula that will get you in the prosperous group, maybe a ten-part step by step plan on how to avoid getting beheaded by ISIS? No. In fact, the author of Ecclesiastes explicitly points out that time and chance happen to all. There is no pattern, no commonality between those spared, those blessed, or those who suffer. There is no discernable difference in the actions between the family whose child dies of cancer and all those families who have children who never get it, or the ones who get it, but then get well.
I’d really like it if there was a pattern. But there isn’t. Some people write books and give seminars where they claim to have the answer. My charitable response is them they are mistaken, on the order of someone who looks at a taco an imagines they see the face of Jesus in it. Humans like to see patterns that are not necessarily there; we all see shapes in the clouds. But tacos are just tacos and clouds are just clouds. So my uncharitable response is that those who tell you how you can fix all your problems and guarantee success are simple charlatans out to separate you from your money and to destroy your faith because if you put your faith in the god they are peddling, you’ll sooner or later find that god is not there for you and really doesn’t exist.
I’d rather share about the God who is with us when we suffer; the God who never promised to relieve us of suffering, but instead, promised to be with us through it all. When we suffer and share our hearts with our closest friends, do we expect them to fix our problem? Is that what we ask of them? Don’t we feel better simply knowing we’re not alone? That they listen, that they hug us and assure us that they care and love us? The real God, rather than the imaginary magic fairy god with magic fairy dust, is the one who gives us purpose, who allows us to catch the wind that the author of Ecclesiastes says we’re chasing, who brings meaning out of meaninglessness, who gives hope to hopelessness, who assures us that he suffers with us.