BreakPoint: Why Doesn’t God Always Heal?

Nabeel and Others Who Die too Young

Recently on BreakPoint, we wrestled with why God allows natural disasters. Today, we think through another side of the problem of evil.

It’s been about two weeks since Nabeel Qureshi, after a year-long battle with stomach cancer, went to be with the Lord.

This brilliant author, apologist and friend of many of us at the Colson Center was raised a devout Muslim. He loved to debate Christians, whom he often found unable to defend their beliefs. But it was in college that a knowledgeable friend challenged him to investigate the claims of Christianity.

Nabeel then encountered a God he’d never expected—a Heavenly Father who loved him and fully accepted him because of the work of Jesus Christ.

And as a result, Nabeel embraced a new mission—to share Jesus with as many as possible, especially to Muslims. He wrote books, spoke, debated. He was a walking, talking example of that rare type of Christian he finally encountered in college. One that was ready to give an answer to anyone who asked for the hope that he had found. Our prayers go out for his wife, Michelle, and their young daughter, Ayah.

Many of us spent the last year praying for Nabeel. Not only because we knew him and loved him, but because of the incredible way he was using the sizeable platform that God had granted him.

At Nabeel’s memorial service, his mentor Ravi Zacharias described the incredible story of his protégé this way: “This abnormally born, abnormally torn, abnormally scorned man is now abnormally gone. Gone at such an early age in life, so what I say to you is this: He’s not the only one who’s died young.”

When I learned of Nabeel’s passing, in fact, I immediately thought of Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French mathematician whose masterful apologetic work was interrupted by his death at age 39. Why would God allow someone so young and so influential for the kingdom to die?

In our answer, I think it’s important to acknowledge both what we can say, and what we can’t say. As my BreakPoint This Week co-host Ed Stetzer put it in our conversation on last week’s podcast, we don’t know the specific reason God made this decision about Nabeel’s life. Silly platitudes like “God needed him more than we do” are theologically backwards, and tossing around what I call Romans 8:28 bombs only dismiss the real hurt the death of a loved one entails.

And that tells us something we can say, that the world is, as Neal Plantinga put it, not the way it’s supposed to be. The loss that we feel points to that. Death is not only abhorrent, it’s an aberration from the way that life is supposed to be as God created it. And we sense that.

In fact, I’ll simply quote Nabeel here. He wrote, “Jesus is the God of reversal and redemption. He redeemed sinners to life by his death, and he redeemed a symbol of execution by repurposing it for salvation.”

This reversal transforms even death itself, which has been “swallowed up in victory.” Nabeel now knows more fully than any of us the meaning of the Apostle Paul’s words: “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” His departure is grief for us, but complete joy for him. He is with the Savior he met years ago while searching for Allah.

We should also remember that human life belongs to God. Our western illusion of control is just that, an illusion. We have no more claim on another person’s time here on this earth than we do our own. Whatever years we have are a gift, and the God who numbers our days is the only one who knows how many we have left.

And so like Pascal and Nabeel, we should be men and women on a mission. As Chuck Colson said—“living every day as if it’s [our] last, knowing by God’s grace and love, the Savior waits for [us] beyond the grave.”

Amen. In the meantime, we mourn. But we recommit to “lay aside every weight and run with endurance the race before us,” no matter how long or how short that race will be.



Why Doesn’t God Always Heal? Nabeel and Others Who Die too Young

As John points out, Nabeel Qureshi’s story is one of many that prove to be a powerful reminder for all believers. We should be “on mission” every moment of our lives, just as his own life demonstrated. Check out the resources below to read more about Nabeel and his amazing testimony.




Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity
  • Nabeel Qureshi | Zondervan Publishing | April 2016
God Doesn’t Give Us Answers, He Gives Us Himself
  • John Stonestreet, Ed Stetzer | BreakPoint This Week | September 22, 2017
Nabeel Qureshi (1983-2017)
  • Justin Taylor | The Gospel Coalition | September 16, 2017

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  • ah.1960

    I wrestled with this question myself when my 29 year old brother died of a brain tumor nearly 20 years ago. Bryan was a youth pastor at a small church with a promising ministry ahead of him. When he was diagnosed with the brain tumor, we prayed God would heal him. A month prior to his 30th birthday, the Lord took Bryan home. So why didn’t God heal him?

    During his funeral a college friend of his sang the song “Ultimate Healing.” I had heard it before but had never paid attention to the words. At that moment I realized that God had healed Bryan…far better than any of us could have imagined. I don’t offer this as a sugar coated sentiment that sounds nice but means nothing. Those of us still here still had pain and sorrow at his passing. But as a Christian, I now had an answer.

    Is the problem perhaps our perspective? Do we see “life” only in terms of this earthly existence. When we get to heaven I wonder if we will all shake our heads and wonder why we tried so hard to hold on to our earthly existence. Though well intentioned, I despise the plaques and garden stones at funerals that say “if only I could, I would pull you back down here to be with me.” Why would we wish for our loved ones a return to life with physical ailments? Sin? Heartache? “No,” they would say to us, “the real life is here. I’m not going back to you, but I look forward to that day when you can join me and know what real life is all about.”

  • hwclark

    Take a stand, instead of mouthing a lot of stuff that makes no sense at all. Is God all powerful or not? If he is, then what it is like on Earth, is exactly what he wants it to be. If not, then we are wasting our time and energy serving him. God did not have to let the serpent into the garden, but he did, because that is the way he wanted it to be. Death is not determined by how good or bad you are. It is determined by where god fits it into his plan. The scriptures say in Ephesians, that some were determined to be in Christ before the foundations of the Earth were laid. That being the case, that determination was already decided before the fall of Adam and Eve, and it was already determined that Jesus was going to die for our sins. Adam and Eve were imperfect, just like we are imperfect. They did the only thing they could do, and that was fail, and therefore need someone to provide salvation for them. God is in charge, and we don’t know what the plan in it’s entirety is. He does, and everything works toward the culmination of the plan.

    • Sam Benito

      “Is God all-powerful, or not?”

      Yes, but “all-powerful” does not mean “all, period” (as, for instance, Pantheists hold). If sin itself (with all its horrid consequences) was always part of God’s plan, then He is author of it–which notion ought to be rejected out of hand.

      In this regard, the remarks of C.S. Lewis’ are worth recalling: “The Christian idea is quite different [from that of the Pantheist]. They [Christians] think God invented and made the universe—like a man making a picture or composing a tune. A painter is not a picture, and he does not die if his picture is destroyed. You may say, ‘He’s put a lot of himself into it,’ but you only mean that all its beauty and interest has come out of his head. His skill is not in the picture in the same way that it is in his head, or even in his hands. I expect you see how this difference between Pantheists and Christians hangs together with the other one. If you do not take the distinction between good and bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But of course, if you think some things really bad, and God really good, then you cannot talk like that. You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary to His will. Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, ‘If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realise that this also is God.’ The Christian replies, ‘Don’t talk damned nonsense.’”

      (From Chapter 6 of “Mere Christianity”)

      • hwclark

        That is typical hogwash so one can claim some part of salvation as being done by themselves. You nor anyone else had any choice in what attributes you were endowed with by your creator. You did not get to choose your race, nation of origin, parents, mental attributes, strengths, weaknesses, and not even your being born as a whole person. What God built into you is all you have to make any kind of choice with. You could have been born into a lost tribe of people in deep, dark, Africa with no hint of any kind of religion at all. All men are not created equal, other then in the preamble to the constitution. Every time fanatics run into real logic, they have to come up with a new perspective that will not fit into their original thinking. As for God being the creator of evil, he only created all other beings, as something less then himself. If he alone is totally righteous, then every other being misses the mark, and falls short of the glory of God. That is exactly what Adam and Eve did, and all of their offspring after them.That is the evil that pervades this world. The inability to be equal to God always causes problems, if left to run it’s course.

        • Sam Benito

          I don’t often hear Lewis’ writings referred to as “hogwash”, but then I suppose everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Still, this is the first time in recent memory I have heard anyone allege that the mere denial of Pantheism is an ipso facto affirmation of works-salvation. Interesting take.

          “All men are not created equal.” Not in terms of privileges and conditions, true. But in terms of dignity and value to God it would be hard indeed to defend, biblically, that all are not created equal.

          “Every time fanatics run into real logic . . .” I may be slow on the uptake, but who are the “fanatics” you are referring to?

          “If He alone is totally righteous, then every other being misses the mark . . . etc.” So are you saying God’s mere creation of beings like, but less than, Him inexorably guarantees that there will be sin in the universe?

  • Just One Voice

    What divine timing!

    There’s no recent death to speak of in my circle of family & friends. Yet, on my way to work this morning, I was overcome with my perception of general unfairness of life (tons of money going to people who just waste it, honest & sincere spouses being mated with cheaters, great jobs going to people who have little work-ethic, etc)

    So many good words here and in the comments” “Jesus is the God of reversal and redemption”–Nabeel Qureshi “We should also remember that human life belongs to God. Our western illusion of control is just that, an illusion.”–John Stonestreet “When we get to heaven I wonder if we will all shake our heads and wonder why we tried so hard to hold on to our earthly existence.”–ah.1960

    Thanks for the refreshing words!