By Evelyn Eng
“Why not me? Love me.”
In My Best Friend’s Wedding, Julia Roberts plays Julianne, whose longtime best friend, Michael, is getting married to someone else. She does everything she can think of to get him to love her and change his mind. Just before he is to be married, Julianne asks Michael, “Why not me?”
“Why not me?” is the question I have asked God many times since my husband died. “God, you can heal—you are all powerful. Why did so many others, before and since, get healing and full recovery, but not my husband? Why am I left here without him to figure out this cruel world? Why not me? Do you truly love me?”
I wondered: Where is God when I have all these questions? Why doesn’t he answer them? Why do I feel so much distance from a God I once loved with all my heart?
God’s Ultimate Healing
I first struggled with the issue of healing when my father died of cancer. Initially God appeared to be providing a miracle through the prayers of many saints when my father unexpectedly survived his first round of chemotherapy. But just a few months later, the cancer had spread all over his body. It was only six months that we had to enjoy his presence, albeit mostly in the hospital. God, you could have healed, but you didn’t.
After much soul searching, wondering if we had picked the right oncologist, hospital, and treatment plan, I stopped second guessing myself. I realized then that God’s definition of healing is not mine. He took my dad to Heaven where there is no more pain or suffering.
Twelve years later, God took my husband to Heaven. And the lesson began again. I have been in total shock. It was too sudden. The family and I didn’t have time to prepare. Now as I learn how to grieve again, I realize I have more questions than answers.
Shock Gives Way to Reality
I have been through various stages of grief—shock and numbness, which is God’s way of protecting us. I have been numb for a long while. Now I am facing the reality—my husband is dead and will not return. I am widowed. Each day the reality sets in deeper and deeper.
There are times I find myself avoiding God and life. Watching television is a favorite pastime. Previously I was always too busy to watch television, but now it seems to be the best thing to do when I feel lonely. This mindless activity keeps me from thinking too much. That is what I need for now, not thinking about death or loss. The television drowns out the intense quietness of my home.
The couples we used to hang out with are not my closest friends anymore. In the past year I have made new friends, those who have also been hurt deeply because they’ve lost a loved one. Together we encourage and pray for one another and keep each other company during lonely times. We are a community of believers who are there for each other. These newfound friends understand. Some of us are coping better than others. When one of us has a bad day, another can help us through it.
I am still in the process of notifying creditors, banks, and others who need to know about my husband’s death. I still have copies of the death certificate to remind me of what I already know—he is gone, and he is not coming back.
I have relived his last week over and over again in my mind. I imagine in a dozen different ways how it could have been with him alive. So I ask, “Why?” I wonder why God chose not to heal this time. I ask him why we didn’t know a diagnosis sooner. I ponder a lot of questions.
So many questions can tire us out. Yes, I feel tired. A lot. Tiredness is a sign of grieving. But most days I force myself to go out and exercise at my local fitness center. If I don’t, I know I’d stay at home and sleep all day. Or spend a lot of time crying, not that it’s all bad. I could just curl up in a ball and not do anything. But I choose to move forward.
Clinging to Hope
Why bother trying at all? Because, despite all the grieving, I cling to the hope that only God can give me. Where else can I turn? And even though I struggle with all these questions and all these “what ifs,” I know God wants my whole heart back, or whatever part of it is left. He wants to be my first love. He’s always wanted that.
The difficulty of loving God when he doesn’t do what we want is my biggest faith challenge. Mary and Martha chose to believe in Jesus when he arrived too late, days after Lazarus’ death. I, too, choose to believe.
Yes, I know my loved ones are in Heaven. Is that comforting? Yes, it brings me comfort most of the time. But it is easy to forget that in the daily reminders of my husband’s absence right now.
There are days I can focus on the eternal perspective. I believe without a doubt that my husband is in Heaven. I do want him there, and I know he is in a place where I will be one day, in God’s timing. Yet I wish he were back here with me.
I try not to be self-centered, but sometimes I just live for today, and I’m overwhelmed by the prospects. Is God there for me on those days?
Each of us will experience loss, both physically through death and perhaps in other ways—divorce, illness, mental degradation, and torn relationships. Is God still there? I hope so, and learning to lean on him is my only solution, even though the process may be difficult.
Disappointment with God
Do you love me? God, I know I can’t expect you to always do what I want. But why do godly people die prematurely?
It is so hard to understand. But is understanding even our right? When we become Christians, God never promised us a happy life or lack of trials and suffering. Yet when bad things happen to us, we ask, “Why?”
This past year has been the most difficult one of my life thus far. I realized I have never been as disappointed with God as I have felt this year. I have been in a fog of grief, losing my focus. Yet God, in his graciousness, has been patiently waiting for me to bring my questions to him, to talk with him, and to let him comfort me.
Finding Support and Acceptance
Going to a grief support group has been my survival. I spend each class crying. And others join me, crying for me and for themselves.
I pondered Psalm 139:16. This verse brought me comfort and assurance that my husband’s life was ordained by God. It made all the “Why?” questions make a bit more sense. Now I am at a better place of acceptance, of peace with God.
I am still trying to figure out why I am left here on earth. What is my legacy and purpose for the rest of my life? I know I am in the last season of my life. I want to ensure that I fulfill God’s purpose for me.
So I pray that this journey of grief gives me the hope I need to find my new normal. I am struggling daily, moment-by-moment, to put into action what I have claimed to believe all my life. God is good, and God loves me.
Daily I continue to adjust to being alone. I realize the journey never ends. I am learning to adjust, but my life has changed forever. Yet if God be for me, who will be against me? I continue to hope, even when I feel all alone. I choose to believe in God and to make my days count for eternity.
Evelyn Eng is a freelance writer.
Books About Loss
A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry L. Sittser (Zondervan, 2005)
A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis (HarperCollins, 2009)
When God Breaks Your Heart by Ed Underwood (David C. Cook, 2008)
Walking With God Through Pain and Sufferingby Timothy Keller (Penguin Group, 2013)
Aftershock: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicideby Candy Arrington and David Cox (B&H Books, 2003)
Several by H. Norman Wright:
Reflections of a Grieving Spouse (Harvest House Publishers, 2009)
Helping Those in Grief (Gospel Light, 2011)
It’s Okay to Cry: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Through the Losses of Life (Doubleday Religious Publishing, 2004)