Title: God’s Light on Dark Clouds
Author: Theodore L. Cuyler
Publisher: Banner of Truth Trust (Reprint), 2008; 134 pp. $10.00
Many years ago, when I was still in seminary, Raye Jeanne and I received a phone call telling us of the death of one of our family members. As we reflected on the event, I said to Raye Jeanne, “we are now entering the phase of life where we will be burying people.”
How true that statement proved to be. We have buried all our grandparents, save one, three of our four parents, and numerous friends and many of their family members. And our experience has hardly been exceptional.
As my father is wont to say, “death impacts one out of one people.” That is, everyone is effected by death, and everyone faces the reality of his own death. No one escapes.
How shall we respond to death and how might we prepare for death?
Theodore Cuyler was a pastor in the mid-19th century in Brooklyn who was well-equipped to answer those questions, both as a Christ-exalting pastor and as a father who buried three children.
This small volume is a compilation of 22 essays in which he deals with the topic of death in a variety of ways. Yet for all the various facets of truth relating to death, He continually comes back to one theme: God is sovereign over death and all forms of trouble, He is using these circumstances to lovingly conform His children to Christ’s image, and in all things He is trustworthy.
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 are 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. [pp. 2-3]
Having sent several children ahead to heaven, Cuyler thinks and writes often of it — not just as a great expectation, but as a framework for finding joy in trouble here. In the essay I personally found most helpful, “Trusting God in the Dark,” he writes,
…when we reach heaven, we may discover that the riches and deepest and most profitable experiences we had in this world, were those which were gained in the very roads from which we shrank back with dread. The bitter cups we tried to push away contained the medicines we most needed. The hardest lessons that we learn are those which teach us the most and best fit us for service here and glory hereafter.…Let us be assured of this, that, if the lesson and the rod are of his appointing, and that his all-wise love has engineered the deep tunnels of trial on the heavenward road, he will never desert us during the discipline. The vital thing for us is, not to deny and desert him. [pp. 30-31]
This is a very helpful book — in places very quotable and particularly helpful. I have marked my copy significantly and noted multiple passages to copy for later quotation. Yet I don’t give it highest marks (three stars instead of four) because in a few places I find myself scratching my head over his application of a Biblical passage (e.g., his essays “Burning the Barley-Field,” and “The Angels of the Sepulchre”) or an applicational comment that just falls short of truth or reality (e.g., “The impenitent heart has never been moved by sermons and never been brought to repentance by an sense of gratitude for God’s mercies.” Does he really believe that?)
A good and helpful book on a topic that is common to all of us; just be discerning as you read (something I also often say of the Puritans).