Amelia Blake Garner
I may as well confess that I have a problem with preachers. I don’t like most of them. I don’t trust that the majority of them have a calling. I think that if you use God to make a living, you’ve missed the point. Building a ministry that becomes an empire seems to me proof that they didn’t grasp what Jesus was saying when he said his kingdom is not of this world. Spreading the Good News? I admire it. I have no issues whatsoever with motivational speakers or anyone who writes books, goes on speaking tours, etc., to share their stories. I am thrilled when their stories are about God and/or their spiritual journeys. But preachers/priests are claiming to speak with God’s authority. That bothers me. But this is not about a preacher, so please don’t invite me to your church. This is about an individual human being who took Jesus and his teachings so seriously that he risked his life to follow him.
I read the Bible from cover to cover. I won’t do that again. From now on, just the Gospels. Because once Jesus came along, that changed everything. Why revisit the Old Testament, full of primitive people and brutal stories? My complete feelings about spirituality are for another day.
I believe I first heard of Nabeel Qureshi when I watched a documentary called “American Gospel” – which lamented the Prosperity Gospel that seems to be so popular in the last few decades. I was intrigued by his story. This was in 2020 – when probably a lot of people were sitting around watching documentaries. I was disappointed to learn that even though I’d only just heard of him, he had died in 2017. I ordered his book, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity”, eagerly read it – and afterwards, was devastated that he was gone.
When I say “devastated” – I mean that I cried for days. I grieved as though I’d lost a family member. I have no idea why Nabeel and his story touched me so deeply. I still get choked up if I see a photo of him or think about him too much. I pray for peace of mind and comfort for his parents most of all. I do that often. I pray that Nabeel can somehow get the message to his family that he is okay.
I found his youtube channel – where he’d chronicled his journey and his illness. He and his wife were so certain that he would be healed of his stomach cancer that even when he died ( aged only 34), his wife, Michelle, believed he would be resurrected. I mean literally rise from the dead. He did not. They had such a deep faith – and it seemed so unfair to me that his healing was not granted by God.
This was a young man who was raised by loving, devout, Muslim parents. Even as a child, Nabeel was already seeking God. He was born with this fire within him. By becoming a Christian, he not only risked permanent alienation from everybody and everything he loved – he also faced the real possibility of being murdered by Muslim extremists. He began speaking in public, and his conversion was having an impact. He urged everyone to love one another, despite religious or ideological differences. It rang true because he was literally practicing what he was preaching. He had taken a leap of faith greater than most of us will ever be expected to take.
I say that it seemed unfair to me. These are the kinds of things that make us question God. Why didn’t God answer prayers for his healing? I have prayed many times for healing for people who still suffered and died. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some comfort now that I didn’t have when I read and heard about Nabeel’s story.
If you’ve read my other posts, you won’t be surprised that my comfort is my Spiritism beliefs. I know now that nothing is ever for naught. No effort is ever wasted. No knowledge or experience is ever in vain. What’s more, there is a reason for suffering. It isn’t always the same reason, but it’s not really a mystery. We can’t know the specific reason most of the time, but the soul who experiences it knows.
So the challenge has become to not focus so much on asking for healing or for specific things to happen in our lives – but to ask for spiritual assistance for whatever it is that we’re facing. Because it seems to be that the real growth is in how we meet the pain and disappointments that occur throughout our lives, as well as how we behave and how we treat people when things go well for us. We may not see the reward in this life. But that doesn’t mean that God didn’t or doesn’t care. We are spirits having a physical experience – so the experiences we have in this body, living on this planet, in this material life, is fleeting - but not useless. We came here for a specific reason that we may or may not entirely remember while we’re here. But we’ll recall it when this physical experience is over and we get the chance to review how far we’ve come and contemplate what we still need to work on. Knowing that we can try again doesn’t give us permission to check out when it's not going our way. We came for the lesson or the expiation or the mission that isn’t completed until our natural lives are completed. Yes, evil sometimes steps in and unexpectedly cuts the lesson or mission short. Perhaps we knew before we came that what would seem like an untimely death would be part of our experience. Perhaps not. It appears that souls make the fastest progress when we’re having a physical life – even though we learn and grow outside of our bodies, too. I have dear friends who are enduring physical suffering and I have to remind myself daily that although I still pray for their physical healing – I should not be disappointed if it isn’t granted. They may very well have asked for the suffering (before they were born) to either make spiritual progress or to make up for something they’d done in a past life.
I didn’t create the plan. But it seems like there is justice in it all. Nobody is abandoned or condemned to suffer forever. Everyone will have opportunities to progress.
There is a certain amount of surrender that is required – and I will probably be working on that for the rest of my life. I don’t have the all the answers. But I WILL have the answers about my own journey when this part of it is complete.
But getting back to the subject of this essay…
My feeling about Nabeel is that he was/is an extraordinary spirit who asked to be put in the position he was in. To us, it seems like he wasn’t given enough time to help make all of the positive changes we’d like to see in the world. But he bore his suffering with a grace that, to me, was astounding to behold. He probably inspired conversions that most of us will never know about. I know he inspired me.
I encourage anyone who will listen to find out more about Nabeel Qureshi. Perhaps his story will reach something in you as well.
The youtube channel where you can find the videos that Nabeel made: