All we can do is dance around the fire of God's love ... we cannot jump into it, or it'll burn us up.
Calvin jumped into it, and so did Augustine ... theologians jump in where angels fear to tread.
I think your friend has a good handle on it ... leaving plenty of room for all the dark stuff that happens, yet, years later, finding evidence of God's hand.
Calvin left us a legacy of "certainty" that doesn't stand up, either in Scripture or in experience ... but at the core of his work, we find an abiding faith in a very good God who is at work in ALL things for good.
I think pre-destination has to be taken in the largest sense possible - as Paul works with it and uses the terminology. But to examine it under the microscope of human suffering brings us to an impasse - which Calvin defended by saying, "Who of us can attack the character of God? Who of us knows anything?" But I think such a defense is unnecessary is we can see how much God suffers in the story, culminating in the cross. To live in this age, even for God, is to suffer.
The all-powerful "God of the Middle Ages," who looked and behaved more like an emperor than the God and Father of Jesus, the God of Genesis and the God of the Prophets, has left us a bad legacy, filtered through Calvinism. The God who is above everything, impassive and all-controlling, is NOT the God of the Bible.
Yet Calvin's point remains important - history, with all its dark materials, is undergirded by the hand of God.
Leslie Weatherhead (1893-1976), British theologian, wrote a fine little book entitled, "The Will of God" (1944) - wherein he details three dimensions to God's will: intentional, circumstantial and ultimate.
I think your friend has been dancing around the fire quite well.
Your comments seem equally appropriate and accurate.
We can only whisper the things of God that elude us; but of the things of God that we know for sure, we can shout to the highest mountains.