I often see the loved ones of people I have served as funeral director around town. I have developed a special rapport with some of these people in the course of planning the funeral. Whenever I get the opportunity, I always ask “how are you doing?” I ask this question in a sincere manner, not as the “how-are-you’s” we have become so accustomed to. I usually get an honest answer.
I believe the reason for their honesty is the intimacy of our relationship. They have seen that I care about them; and they know I have seen them at their most darkest hour.
But what happens to them outside of the environment of the funeral home where open grieving is allowed and expected? What happens to them when a person unlike myself asks them the same foreboding question, “How are you doing?”
An illustration in the book, Someone You Love Is Dying: How Do You Cope? By Charles A. Corr, Ph.D., depicts person in a deep hole in the ground, covering their head. A voice asks the person “How are you doing?”. The person in the hole replies, “I’m okay. I’m fine.”, in spite of his/her desperate situation. A lot of times grieving persons will do the same thing. As the poem, “He Who Rescues Me” by Jennifer Alvey implies, sometimes we may even feel as if God has forsaken us. Many times, in addition to pushing our source of support (church family, friends, relatives, pastors) away, we also tend to push God away. God is the only one who can bring healing to our wounded hearts.
In Genesis 37, Joseph had a great tragedy befall him. His brothers, jealous and full of spite, sold him into slavery. For a time, he found himself in a pit, as they discussed whether he should live or die. Instead, he was sold into slavery. I am sure it wasn’t always pleasant. Then, In chapters 39-40, Joseph found himself falsely accused of attempted rape and was thrown in prison. He was yet in another dark pit. All the while however, he was under the ever watching, all-knowing eyes of the Lord. God delivered him out slavery, prison, and placed him in a position of authority in Egypt. His wounds, although many, were healed.
Although we may feel at times as if God has forsaken us, He has not. Look at the story of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, and compare it to the story of Peter, who denied even knowing him. One succumbed to the guilt and condemnation of sin; while the other went on to be the first preacher on the Day of Pentecost. The difference between the two is Judas called out to no one for help; Peter did call on God and repented. He was restored.
We need to remember when we are in that dark pit of grief and help comes calling, we must respond. Sometimes we need the help to get out of the pit. God is calling to you, friend, to deliver you out of your pit of despair and sadness. While the journey will be painful and unpleasant, you will be healed and restored. You will be lifted up to a higher, more peaceful place with God.
Jeffrey K. Johnson is a licensed funeral director/embalmer in Louisiana with over 10 years experience, and is president of Hearts that Heal ministries.