Darkness may not be the way to deal with stress

It’s called “Coffin Academy.” It’s the latest craze in South Korea and despite its name, it’s not a school for morticians.


Coffin Academy is a business seminar for the highly stressed worker. It costs $25 and lasts 4 hours. During your time you write letters to friends and family saying goodbye and you even get to write the words for your own tombstone. Then you attend your funeral.

Then the going, uh, leaving, gets tough. You climb inside a coffin and lie comfortably on your back. The lid is closed. You listen to the pounding of a wooden hammer as it makes its way across the lid. And you lie in the very dark and very small space for the next ten minutes. Claustrophobics need not apply.

Why do you do this? “It’s a way to let go of certain things,” says Jung Joon, creator of the seminar. “Afterward, you feel refreshed. You’re ready to start your life all over again, this time with a clean slate.”

Koreans need refreshment and a clean slate. Stressed out workers there have the highest suicide rate in the developed world.

Coffin Academy and similar seminars are part of a growing trend to meet that need. The Kyobo Insurance Company made it mandatory for all 4,000 of its employees to attend just such an event. Quit the company or lie inside a coffin for ten minutes. Which would you choose?

After all, Koreans aren’t the only ones with anxiety. Many a worker worldwide deals with worry, sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed. What will happen to the economy? What will happen to my job? What does the future hold for me? What about my family?

Jesus offered his seminar on the mountainside some 2000 years ago. He gazed at the highly stressed worker of his day, overwhelmed with worry. He began to teach. His suggestion was not to close one’s eyes in the dark but rather to look around at all the signs of a God in heaven who loves his people.

“Therefore I tell you,” Jesus said, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” – Matthew 6:25-27.

Had he sat down at the top of Skyline trail, surely he would have pointed out the eagle and the nuthatch. How can such survive an Alaskan winter? But they do.

God sees them through a dark and cold time and is with them on the other side when life blossoms anew and they can again take wing under the Alaskan sun.

And never forget. You are more valuable than they.

Charles Cupp is a minister at Kenai Fellowship.


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