I rarely cry over a complete stranger, but one of the times it happened was two years ago. He was four years older than me, and had just passed away after a year-long battle with stomach cancer.
I first heard about the Pakistani-American Muslim-turned-Christian apologist, Nabeel Qureshi, two years before his untimely death, when a friend introduced one of his books to me. As I began to read more about him and watch his videos, I found myself deeply inspired by his unwavering commitment to the gospel despite what it cost him. I was also heartened that God had raised such a brilliant and articulate person to reach the masses—in particular the Muslim community—for Him.
So hearing that he did not recover, but had passed away in his early 30s triggered many questions in my mind. Why now, when he was still so young and had just started a family? Why now, when he was at the peak of his ministry? Why him, when he was such an excellent example for our generation of a life dedicated to living passionately and faithfully for the gospel?
Perhaps those were similar questions the Preacher wrestled with as he observed that the wise suffered the same fate as the fools (v. 14). And to add salt to the wound, he saw that all things and every one—wise and foolish—will eventually be forgotten (v. 16). These grim realities led the Preacher to the conclusion that he “hated life” (v. 17).
Most of us have probably felt this disappointment at some point of our lives. Perhaps we have been striving to live godly lives, but find ourselves battling a debilitating illness. Or we’ve been struggling to come to terms with the sudden death of a giant of the faith. Or perhaps, we simply can’t make sense of why those who squander their lives aimlessly seem to get by without any incidents.
In light of these scenarios, it is natural to wonder what benefit there is in pursuing wisdom or good since ultimately, we all pass away and are forgotten.
At the same time, the Preacher does acknowledge that there are benefits to being wise, going so far as to say that being wise is better than being foolish, just as the light is better than the darkness (v. 13). For in the light, you can see where you’re going and avoid dangers or pitfalls, but in the dark, you can only stumble around carelessly (Proverbs 4:18-19).
Consider the times we’ve stopped to take heed of and apply the wisdom of the Bible versus the times we’d acted recklessly in the way we handled our relationships and resources. We can probably agree that the former way of living more often than not, enabled us to avoid heart-wrenching consequences, and assured us of security and safety (Proverbs 3:23-25).
How then should we reconcile the benefits of living wisely with the depressing conclusion the Preacher seems to arrive at: Since we all eventually die anyway, why bother (v. 14)? As the rest of the Bible tells us, we should bother because of this simple fact: life does not end here on earth.
And that is probably what kept Nabeel going in spite of his “fate”. Despite the pain he felt and sadness he expressed about having to leave his loved ones behind, his steely faith kept him laser-focused on proclaiming Jesus through his regular vlogs on his YouTube channel—till his very last breath—knowing that a far greater eternal reward awaited him.
—By Joanna Hor, Singapore
Questions for reflection
- Think of a time when you’ve done your best, but in the end, your efforts seemed pointless. Even though you didn’t get the result you wanted, what are some benefits of acting wisely that you experienced along the way?
- When you feel hopeless, or that even your best isn’t enough, what’s a verse or biblical truth that reminds you of the hope we have to live for? What is a practical way you can keep this verse handy?