Better . . . is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun. (4:3, niv)
The big issue we all face is death. How can we find meaning and joy in living when we know that all pleasures and achievements end at the grave? Now the Teacher adds another degree of difficulty. Life itself has problems. The longer one lives, the more one sees of pain, cruelty, and unfairness. “I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter” (4:1). Oppression comes via poverty, violence, illness, corruption, disability, and natural disaster, often compounded by injustice (8:9-10).
How can life make sense given the existence of undeserved, random suffering? The Teacher responds with: “eat, drink and be glad” (8:15). This is part of a well-known saying, already used to introduce the Teacher’s disillusionment with pleasure (see May 20). In its actual context, it is a reminder to appreciate life’s good things, even when experiencing the bad. Other ways for dealing with suffering are to comfort each other and trust God to eventually make all things right. This threefold strategy doesn’t “solve” the problem of evil, but it is a realistic way of getting through a bad day without losing hope.
Our Father in heaven, give us our daily bread so we may enjoy this day, and deliver us from evil so we will not be overcome with despair. Amen.