A cause and a cure for misery: J.W. Alexander

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In a precious volume titled Consolation, consisting of discourses addressed to the suffering people of God, James W. Alexander tells us about the main ingredient that is needed to make life miserable. And then, thankfully, he explains what is needed to set things right.

Spiritual Quiet is favoured by Submission.

The first law of religion is submission. “Thy will be done;” and where it does not exist there is no piety, and just as truly there is no tranquillity. What a hideous sight to see a human creature in full rebellion against God’s providence; repining at his allotments; fighting against his dispensations, and cursing his judgments! But it is not more sinful than it is wretched; and hell is not only wickedness, but woe: the wickedness makes the woe, or rather is the woe. The true recipe for miserable existence is this: Quarrel with Providence. Even in the smaller measures of this temper there is enough to prevent tranquillity. And hence, when God means to make us happy, he teaches us submission — a resignation of every thing into his hands, and an acknowledgment that whatsoever He does is wisest and best. O how sweetly even afflictions fall when there is such a temper to receive them! “Shall we receive good at the hands of the Lord’, and shall we not receive evil?” “Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” Such dispositions tend to stillness of soul; and even amidst chastisement there is internal quiet.

God's Light on Dark Clouds - Theodore L. Cuyler

Theodore Ledyard Cuyler (1822-1909) was, like his Savior, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” which served him as he ministered to others in their grief, as we have noted before, including his The Empty Crib: A Memorial of Little Georgie. With Words of Consolation For Bereaved Parents (1868). Besides losing two infant children of his own, as he notes in his autobiographical Recollections of a Long Life, he lost a daughter at the age of 22:

Fourteen years afterwards, in the autumn of 1881, ‘the four corners of my house were smitten’ again with a heart-breaking bereavement in the death, by typhoid fever, of our second daughter, Louise Ledyard Cuyler, at the age of twenty-two, who possessed a most inexpressible beauty of person and character. Her playful humor, her fascinating charm of manner, and her many noble qualities drew to h he admiration of a large circle of friends, as well as the pride of our parental hearts. After her departure I wrote, through many tears, a small volume entitled God's Light on Dark Clouds, with the hope that it might bring some rays of comfort into those homes that were shadowed in grief.

His classic work of comfort for the wounded and the bereaved begins with a very personal and intimate insight that is shared from experience and resonates still (and is reminiscent of William Cowper’s God Moves in a Mysterious Way):

TO-DAY as I sit in my lonely room, this passage of God's Word flies in like a white dove through the window: "And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds; but the wind passeth and cleanseth [or cleareth] them." [Job 37:21] To my weak vision, dimmed with tears, the cloud is exceeding dark, but through it stream some rays from the infinite love that fills the Throne with an exceeding and eternal brightness of glory. By and by we may get above and behind that cloud into the overwhelming light. We shall not need comfort then; we want it now. And for our present consolation God lets through the clouds some clear, strong, distinct rays of love and gladness.

One truth that beams in through the vapors is this: God not only reigns, but He governs His world by a most beautiful law of compensations. He setteth one thing over against another. Faith loves to study the illustrations of this law, notes them in her diary, and rears her pillars of praise for every fresh discovery. I have noticed that the deaf often have an unusual quickness of eyesight; the blind are often gifted with an increased capacity for hearing; and sometimes when the eye is darkened and the ear is closed, the sense of touch becomes so exquisite that we are able to converse with the sufferer through that sense alone. This law explains why God puts so many of His people under a sharp regimen of hardship and burden-bearing in order that they may be sinewed into strength; why a Joseph must be shut into a prison in order that he may be trained for a palace and for the premiership of the kingdom. Outside of the Damascus Gate I saw the spot where Stephen was stoned into a cruel death; but that martyr blood was not only the "seed of the Church," but the first germ of conviction in the heart of Saul of Tarsus. This law explains the reason why God often sweeps away a Christian's possessions in order that he may become rich in faith, and why He dashes many persons off the track of prosperity, where they were running at fifty miles the hour, in order that their pride might be crushed, and that they might seek the safer track of humility and holy living. What a wondrous compensation our bereaved nation is receiving for the loss of him who was laid the other day in his tomb by the lakeside! That cloud is already raining blessings, and richer showers may be yet to come. God's people are never so exalted as when they are brought low, never so enriched as when they are emptied, never so advanced as when they arc set back by adversity, never so near the crown as when under the cross. One of the sweetest enjoyments of heaven will be to review our own experiences under this law of compensations, and to see how often affliction worked out for us the exceeding weight of glory.

There is a great want in all God's people who have never had the education of sharp trial. There are so many graces that can only be pricked into us by the puncture of suffering, and so many lessons that can only be learned through tears, that when God leaves a Christian without any trials, He really leaves him to a terrible danger. His heart, unploughed by discipline, will be very apt to run to the tares of selfishness, and worldliness, and pride. In a musical instrument there are some keys that must be touched in order to evoke its fullest melodies; God is a wonderful organist, who knows just what heart-chord to strike. In the Black Forest of Germany a baron built a castle with two lofty towers. From one tower to the other he stretched several wires, which in calm weather were motionless and silent. When the wind began to blow, the wires began to play like an AEolian harp in the window. As the wind rose into a fierce gale, the old baron sat in his castle and heard his mighty hurricane-harp playing grandly over the battlements. So, while the weather is calm and the skies clear, a great many of the emotions of a Christian's heart are silent. As soon as the wind of adversity smites the chords, the heart begins to play; and when God sends a hurricane of terrible trial you will hear strains of submission and faith, and even of sublime confidence and holy exultation, which could never have been heard in the calm hours of prosperity. Oh, brethren, let the winds smite us, if they only make the spices flow; let us not shrink from the deepest trial, if at midnight we can only sing praises to God!

If we want to know what clouds of affliction mean and what they are sent for, we must not flee away from them in fright with closed ears and bandaged eyes. Fleeing from the cloud is fleeing from the Divine love that is behind the cloud.

If you are seeking a balm for your soul, take up Cuyler’s classic, God’s Light on Dark Clouds. There is a profound wisdom and Scriptural comfort to be found here that brings light to dark places even a century and a half after it was written.