“Why Now” – “What If”

by Karen Emberlin


 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:16 (NIV)

 A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.

Job 14:5 (NIV)

Have you ever asked, “Why, Lord, did you take my husband now?”


“Could I have done something to prevent his passing?”

These two questions are clearly etched in my mind, they’ve been there for many months. My seemingly-healthy husband and I had no reason to believe anything serious was on the horizon. We spent New Years Day 2012 together with no signs of any problems. We retired for the night.  I, unfortunately, could not get comfortable, ending up tossing and turning.

Around  2 a.m. my husband and I agreed on my relocating to a recliner for the remainder of the night.  I would be more comfy, and hopefully he would get some rest.   Sleep finally came to me there in my chair.  Mere words will never be able to completely describe my shock to find, upon awaking at 8 a.m., that he had passed away at some point in his sleep!

Even though I have been told time and time again that remaining next to him in our bed all night wouldn’t have changed the sad outcome, I still wonder “what if” and “why”.  I most likely always will.  It’s human nature.

I do know this:  the Lord has been with me every day of this “journey” which began that sad morning 16 months ago. Without a doubt He has given me strength to move forward.  I have the promise and hope that I will see my husband again. However……the “why” and “what if” questions and thoughts still lurk  in the back of my mind–no matter how much I want them to leave.

Last week-end I  attended a retreat with 8 ladies from a Bible study group of which I am a member.

One of our discussion subjects was “Grief.”  It focused on the key verse  Psalm 139:16,  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (NIV)

I have read this verse countless times.  But this time, it was like God turned on a light bulb in my soul, helping me understand that in no circumstance can we either add or take from the days which are ordained for each of us (my husband)! January 2, 2012 was my beloved spouse’s time to go to heaven.  I could not have done anything to prevent it.

But even with this new understanding, my feelings of grief are not gone. I’ve made a lot of progress, but it will take more time, more tears, copious prayers, and letting go of the search for answers to these “why” and “what if” questions.  To continue my healing process, I must  choose to look at what plans the Lord has in store for me with a renewed perspective.

I anxiously await the time when my deep sense of loneliness will lessen, when guilt-free laughter returns to my life, and I can look forward with great anticipation to the future God has planned for me.

Our lives are like a piece of rich beautiful tapestry woven by the Lord. We cannot choose the colors and often times He weaves sorrow into the pattern.   In my foolish pride I sometimes forget He sees the upper side, and I, only the underside.

In time God will unroll the finished textile,  explaining the reason dark threads of sadness and sorrow are as necessary as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has woven.  I’d like to think that the sadness and sorrow, seen in the dark stitching, adds depth and a subtle beauty, in contrast to the bright and sunny threads.  God knows we have to experience both.

Lord, please help me and my dear Sisters to replace our questions of “why” and “what if” with truth from your Word. I pray that your presence will be with us, helping us to see that good can come and will come in You and through You. You are such an awesome God – We love you!


15 replies
  1. Dawn
    Dawn says:

    Karen: Thanks for showing me this site. you are a comforting writer. I needed your testimony today. Why today seems more lonely, I don’t know, but your words and God’s words helped me. Thank you

  2. Donna Cook
    Donna Cook says:

    My heart leaped as I saw ur story. That also was my last week with my husband,Carter. We had a beautiful New Years weekend at our ranch getaway , and on the long drive home I read him ” heaven is for real” and we talked about it all the way and how we believed it.That last week I had To leave him to go help a son who always has drama in his life . On Friday Jan. 6th 2012, I was headed home to him when someone called to tell me he had been killed in a wreck. An inattentive hiway worker pulled out in front of our truck and Carter avoided killing him by hitting a ditch and bridge, exploding in flames..that quickly, my whole life as I’ve known it for 42 years is shattered and over..I too have regrets, of not staying home that last week I would have had on earth with him . But ,God has sent me help in many ways. Finding this site thru Proverbs 31 ministeries is one. It’s 4 am and I can’t sleep.. Your testimony pulled me thru. Thank you and God bless and keep you

  3. Carol
    Carol says:

    I also ask myself the why and what if questions. What if I had insisted my husband go to the dr. when he started complaining of headaches – would it have made a difference in the outcome? Probably not as he had a particularly aggressive cancer we did not know he had. Why did God take him when he was such a dedicated Christian and leave me alone? Without God’s help I would not be able to make it through each day and especially each night. Thank you for being so open and honest in sharing your experiences. God bless you in every way.

  4. Carol
    Carol says:

    Dear Karen: My husband also moved to heaven 16 months ago but on January 3, 2012. I share your thoughts about “why” and “what if” and have asked myself….should I have done this…should I have done that. Over these many months, times of grief and unanswered questions come and go, and perhaps they will forever. I find peace in the scriptures you quoted, and thank you for sharing them with us.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      My prayers are with you as you continue to find “peace”. God is faithful and will be with us each step of this journey!

  5. Alayne Archer
    Alayne Archer says:

    I could have wrote this story, because my husband’s unexpected death was Nov. 5, 2011, just 18 months ago, and my experiences, questions, and guilt afterwards have continued to haunt me…….Without the Lord’s love, strength, guidance, and wisdom, I would have given up long ago. I am blessed to have close family and friends, (and a new adopted puppy)that have given me their love and support, but loneliness and sadness still pursues and persists…….The weekly grief support group that I attend(for 11 months) does really help, because the fellow widows and widowers can really understand the roller coaster days that we all go through. This website has also been so helpful to get other widows’ perspectives and support through communication of what we are all dealing with. God bless all of you and Debbie Kay’s “Hope For The Brokenhearted” website for the prayers that you help me verbalize. Alayne

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      The support of other Christian widows who can “understand” the roller coaster days has also been so helpful to me. I pray you will continue to find that support from this site. God’s blessings to you.

  6. Connie
    Connie says:

    I have just passed the 2 year anniversary of my husband Denis’ home going. I had the pleasure of being married to the ‘love of my life’ for 6 months. We were SO excited to love and serve Jesus together! Its been tough in all ways, but I have experienced God’s faithfulness over and over in being as He says in His Word; ‘The Defender of widows, and a Father to the Fatherless”, and now being my husband. This week in our small community a beautiful lady who loved Jesus so much, went home, leaving a husband and 3 children. So sad. I will be referring the family to this site for encouragement, especially today’s post, as I have been always encouraged by what God is doing to comfort us through himself and one another. My heart is always warmed by Jesus’ love here.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      I am so sorry for your loss and identiy with you about God’s faithfulness. Without Him, this journey would be impossible! I will be praying that the husband and 3 children who just lost their loved one will find peace in Him. We are pleased that you find encouragement and comfort from our site. Thanks for sharing.

  7. FlowerLady Lorraine
    FlowerLady Lorraine says:

    Beautiful and very encouraging to me this morning.

    Thank you very much. This journey is hard and lonely, but God has brought us to this place and our dependence on Him will lighten our load and brighten our journey.

    I loved what you wrote ** I’d like to think that the sadness and sorrow, seen in the dark stitching, adds depth and a subtle beauty, in contrast to the bright and sunny threads. God knows we have to experience both. **

    Have a lovely day ~ FlowerLady

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      Thanks, Lorraine, for your comments. Yes, God knows that we need to expierence both. I find I can learn so much when I reflect back and look at the things that have happened in my life to create the “underside” of the tapestry, but also have the hope of looking forward to what the completed “topside” will look like! God Bless You.

  8. Calli
    Calli says:

    Thank You Karen. Today was a rough day, the end of the month is Ken and my wedding anniversary, it would have been 37 years. It’s funny how little things spark memories. Today it was the early sunrise with the warm temps and smells of spring in the house. . . a morning to cuddle with “him”, but he wasn’t here. I’m a little over 5 mths. out of losing Ken, he was diagnosed with cancer and 27 days later he was gone. I’ve tried to not ask “why” because Ken asked me not to, he wanted us to ask “what”, what would God have us to do with this. I confess, I have asked the whys more than once in a heap of tears. I have also wondered about the “what ifs”, they haunted me for many weeks . I have found some comfort in accepting that God seemingly snatched Ken from this world, in His timing, and that it wasn’t “man’s” inability to discover Kenny’s cancer early enough for treatment. I still find myself, though, telling God often that I soooo don’t understand. My trust and faith have grown, but today showed me that I have so far yet to go on this grief journey. This road is exhausting, thank you for your encouragement in continuing to trust God .

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      I am so sorry that today is a rough day! I truly understand where you are coming from. Our 49th wedding anniversary came just a few days before the first anniversary of my husband’s passing – it was probably the most difficult week I’ve had. My trust and faith have grown too, but I still have a long way to go. Just today I saw a verse on a card which said, ” If you feel you have only a small amount of faith to plant….Plant It. In time it will grow so large it won’t leave any room for doubt! My prayers are with you as you continue this “unwanted journey”.

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