Apologist, husband, and father, Nabeel Qureshi, passed away September 16, 2017. It may seem that I am a little late in writing this, but I’ve honestly been having a difficult time processing all the thoughts that came with his life this past year, death, and entrance into a new life.
Nabeel was diagnosed with an aggressive stomach cancer in August 2016. I had read his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, maybe a year prior to his diagnosis. He was a man of strong conviction, intelligence, passion, and love. He spoke around the world and often in places that were hostile to his message: that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only way to salvation.
He was an attentive husband and deeply cared for his young daughter. He loved his family very much.
When I heard the news that Nabeel had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, my immediate thought was, Why, Lord? Nabeel was having a large impact for the gospel and was only in his mid-30’s. Surely this was just a trust test that God was bringing him through. He’d do some chemo, struggle a little, get better, and continue on with his life.
Well, that was my hope, but that was not reality. Nabeel had his ups and downs during treatment, but ultimately, the cancer took over and he died.
Attending Nabeel’s funeral was not what I expected. I realized, sitting there, that God wasn’t done using Nabeel yet. Nabeel may be gone, but the powerful impact of his life stayed hanging in the air.
I looked around at the people present and saw such a variety of individuals coming to pay their respects to a man that had influenced their faith. Nabeel’s life and testimony had strengthened my faith in the past, but I didn’t know his death would grant me peace and courage for a fear I hold.
In a blog post earlier this year, I wrote about my crippling fear of eternity. God has been gentle in walking through this fear with me and taught me a lesson at Nabeel’s funeral. On the front of the funeral program, it had a picture and the words, “Celebrating the Life of Nabeel Qureshi.”
And that’s what the funeral was: a celebration of the life Nabeel lived here and a celebration of the life he is now living in the presence of God. I’ve never experienced a funeral quite like this one and I believe that contains some reasoning as to why eternity has not been a welcome thought for me. The only reality I had of eternity was that time would essentially be nonexistent. Everything else seemed too abstract to even think about.
But this funeral changed that. The sting of a young man dying, while leaving behind a wife and daughter, was overcome with the certain hope that they will see him again. The songs we sang became songs of joyous triumph because we knew that Nabeel was not dead. The power of Jesus’ resurrection took Nabeel’s soul from here straight to God’s presence. He is now in a reality greater than ours.
When I miss Nabeel, I find myself wondering what he’s doing now. And that’s such an interesting thought… because he is doing stuff. He’s alive and interacting with God on a level I can’t really imagine at this point, but the reality that Nabeel is in that realm makes it more real for me. Heaven has grown in familiarity because he is there. I look forward to seeing him again and hearing about what he’s got going on up there.
I wouldn’t say Nabeel’s funeral “cured” me of my fear of eternity, but it gave me more perspective. I hope that my funeral is like his. I hope it’s a celebration of life and that it puts joy in the hearts of all who attend. I know there will be sadness because I’m not around, but there should also be a miraculous elation in the power of God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.