Life After the Storm - Part 2 (Transcript)

Dr. Dobson: Well, hello everyone. I'm James Dobson and you're listening to Family Talk, a listener-supported ministry. In fact, thank you so much for being part of that support for James Dobson Family Institute.

Roger Marsh: Welcome to Family Talk. The listener-supported broadcast division of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute. I'm Roger Marsh. Thanks so much for listening today. During the next half hour, we're going to be concluding a two-part program featuring Dr. Dobson's conversation with author and speaker Jan Harrison.

Now Jan and her husband, Frank Harrison, have four children and both serve on the board of a global missions' organization called With Open Eyes. With Open Eyes was birthed from the mission work of Jan and Frank's son, James. In 2010, the Harrisons got a call that James, only 27 years of age, had passed away while serving in Africa.

The Harrisons of course were shattered. The following days, weeks and months, were the hardest that Jan ever walked through. She found comfort in knowing that Jesus had promised that he would never leave or forsake her. And yet she learned to lean on those around her when she couldn't bear the weight of her own grief alone.

In 2015, Jan published a book that she wrote entitled Life After the Storm: God Will Carry You Through. In this book, Jan shares how when the storm strike, you can depend on God's spiritual supplies, his promises, his Spirit, his ever present help, and the treasures of his word. Today, Dr. Dobson and Jan Harrison will conclude their conversation about her book.

Jan will offer some practical tools for dealing with grief and then share the hope that she found in Jesus Christ, even during her darkest days. Let's jump right in.

Jan Harrison: It is profound, but it was very simple. These were in the days immediately following James's death. And our pastor was there and he looked at me and he said, "We're not going to tell you how to grieve, because grief belongs to you. And this is your relationship and nobody knows, but you and the Lord, what all is involved here." But he said, "I want to say this. There is nothing you can do that is wrong."

Jan Harrison: And over those months, after the initial period of time, and we settled in to now husband and wife and grieving and loss and dealing. We dealt very differently. Thankfully because both of us were hanging on to eternal truth, though we comforted each other, neither one of us depended on the other one to be the comforter. That's really why we aren't a statistic.

Dr. Dobson: Another way of describing that Jan, is that you allowed each other to grieve in your own particular way, and didn't demand the same response from your spouse that you were feeling.

Jan Harrison: Right. And it didn't come at the same time. Sometimes if he would want to bring something up and I would think, "I'm feeling okay right now, do you have to go there?" I would think, "But it's surfacing for him right now." And I think he did the same for me. God just gave us the grace to grieve together, but separate. And we still do. He has been gracious with me and I have been gracious with him.

Dr. Dobson: It's now been five years. Have you turned a corner?

Jan Harrison: The summer of right before the fourth year, we went on a family vacation. We take one, everybody in the whole family, children, their spouses, their children. And I remember when I came home, it was just an especially sweet time. And when I came home and I was looking back thinking, wonder what was so good about that? I realized for the first time I had come to peace with our new normal. And I say that, and then just last night, for some reason, this time I said, "I wish James was coming."

Dr. Dobson: There's still an empty place in your heart, isn't there?

Jan Harrison: It always will be.

Dr. Dobson: An empty chair.

Jan Harrison: And it should be. It's okay.

Dr. Dobson: When you have lost someone, there's something called the attack. I don't know if you've ever heard of that concept before, but you come to a plateau where you feel like you're dealing with it. And you feel like you're getting over the grief and then you're in a grocery store and you see something, or you run into somebody out in the business world and it's suddenly back.

Dr. Dobson: It's the attack, because you really haven't totally conquered it yet, but the Lord understands those processes as well. Now, when we started the program last time, I talked about your having broken this subject into three categories in your book that I think is good, but I want you to explain it. And you called the first one, "Storms Will Gather".

Jan Harrison: Yes.

Dr. Dobson: Elaborate on what you were saying.

Jan Harrison: Well, it's that reality that there will be storms. And I don't know why that shocks us as we've already said, Jesus forecast them, and predicted them and told us we would have them. He knows what's out there. So, it seems to me, if we know we're going to have a storm, that we would get ready. We would store our provisions and we would become prepared.

God loves us. He didn't put us here to go through trouble, but leave us without the tools necessary to survive. So if you're not, it's hard to get supplied when you're in the storm. And so no day is better than today, than to start to stock your supplies for survival.

Dr. Dobson: How do you do that? How do you prepare for something you haven't yet experienced?

Jan Harrison: Well, the first thing you need to do is engage in that relationship, that personal relationship with the Lord. It's not going to carry you through to be a member of a church and to be on a church roll. And it's not going to carry you through just to go and sit and listen to a sermon once a week. You need to become actively involved just like you do in your own interpersonal relationships, it takes two.

And God is there for us and so you need him, you need Jesus. He said, "I have overcome the world. So in me, you have the power to do that." You need to know his word. That is a supply. That is a powerful supply. It is your guide. It will tell you where to go and what to do. It's how I had that knowing that he was always there, even when he didn't speak because I knew his word and I knew, he said he would never leave me or forsake me.

He gave us his spirit and his spirit gives us light, and it witnesses to our inner being. This isn't crazy. This isn't just hoping for a better day. This is truth. And I know it's truth. He gives us the body of Christ. People that stepped up and stepped in on our behalf, when that storm struck because of some of Frank's connections in Africa, there are some women there that were very well-connected, Kenyan women.

They were business women, and they happened to also be born again believers. And one of them actually attended his autopsy just in order to witness its accuracy. She did that as just an act of love and of care. In fact, we have so many questions, things we don't know but we know that because she was there. I think Frank asked her when he saw her, have you ever done something like this before? And she said, "No."

Jan Harrison: Another one of them went and shopped to buy clothes, so that he would be properly dressed when his father arrived. And she bought a pair of khaki pants and a blue Oxford cloth shirt and a red tie for his body. So that when his father came he would be dressed like a Western young man. When I went to Kenya myself about 10 months later, I had the opportunity to meet these women for breakfast to just tell them thank you.

Thank you for stepping in, and thank you for gifting us in a way that we could never repay you. And that was her response. "It was my reasonable act of service unto the Lord." That's the body of Christ.

Dr. Dobson: Well, the first category is "Storms Will Gather", they're going to go. I mean, don't be surprised by them they are inevitable. The second category is, storms strike. Explain that one.

Jan Harrison: They happened and you're in it. And if you're supplied, you will be far better able to weather it. They happen to everybody it rains on the good and the evil. So, as believers, it's our opportunity to test God's word and we will find him true. You will find him true to who he says he is. I really hope that this book will be a reference tool.

For some people, there are parts that don't necessarily apply. So what they are finding I'm told is that they can use parts, but then it prepares them to walk with someone else. It equips them to be a stronger member of the body of Christ. It helps them to know how to pray. Recently, a group asked me, okay, tell us what to say and what not to say. Just those words that sometimes come blurting out.

I told our girls, we were leaving to go to the memorial and I circle up and I said, "Okay, y'all just get ready," because people are going to say stupid things. And they don't even mean it. It's not on purpose. So I said, "In Jesus' name, we're not going to receive them as an offense, and we would just, after it was all over, we would just marvel."

I think I shared in the book about a person, probably a few months later who saw me in the grocery store. And she was so unsure of what to say, that she did a U-turn with her grocery cart. I knew it was... And I thought, okay, don't take it as an offense. She simply does not know what to say.

Dr. Dobson: Who helped you the most Jan?

Jan Harrison: Our pastor was awesome. It's not like he lingered around a lot, but our church family was very much there for us. But another thing he said, and it was so clear but he looked at us eyeball to eyeball. And he said, "Okay, now listen. James was in London. James was in Charlotte. James was in Kenya. James is in heaven. Heaven is as real as all of those other places. So you know where he is. So what's the problem?" And it just gave me such a...

Dr. Dobson: That's good.

Jan Harrison: ... An ability to place him. But these were the two things that the girls and I came away with after we downloaded on all of the crazy things people said and did. We said, "If you know them you say, I love you and I'm sorry."

Dr. Dobson: And I'm praying for you.

Jan Harrison: Yes.

Dr. Dobson: You have a phrase in your book that I think is good, but I want you to explain it. "You need to move from what if thinking, to even if thinking."

Jan Harrison: I think we get really hung up on all of the what if problems, all of the scenarios and possibilities that could happen, whether it's for miscarriage, or whether you've been in an adulterous relationship. What if he does it again? What if my child drops out of college? What if all of those things, and they can hold us captive. And I loved the portion in Daniel, where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego...

Dr. Dobson: I was going to tell you that just as soon as you stopped. That's one of my favorite verses.

Jan Harrison: And they say, but even if, even if our God is able and that just fans faith inside of me to just remember that the what if go ahead and run it out there. Because even if...Our God is able.

Dr. Dobson: Let me put flash on that story. Because there they are in the fiery furnace. Everybody knows what happens to a person who's put in a furnace.

Jan Harrison: Right.

Dr. Dobson: And yet Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said, "Our God can take care of this. This is okay. But if not, we will serve him anyway." You talk about faith, that's the best explanation of it I've seen.

Jan Harrison: And those are just the traits that when we have those, God calls them back to us.

Dr. Dobson: The third category is "After the Storm". Are you in the post-storm era now with regard to your son?

Jan Harrison: Yes, I am in the post-storm era. It is a spacious place that God has enlarged my heart to allow him to use me and to use us and to use the storm, to encourage and offer hope to other people.

Dr. Dobson: And what do you mean by spacious place?

Jan Harrison: By a spacious place I mean, that suffering stretches you. It stretches your spirit. It stretches your faith. I'm using the word stretches where sometimes people would say tries it and it does try it. But in the trying, God enlarges our capacity to see him work, and to allow him to fill us, and to allow him to demonstrate his strength where we know we are so weak.

Jan Harrison: So the spacious place is when you come to that acceptance, that God will use this, and you are being asked to release it and surrender it and let him take it.

Dr. Dobson: Yeah. And you also are able to have empathy for other people who are hurting in the same way that you have heard.

Jan Harrison: Yes. Paul told us that we have been comforted so that we can comfort others in their affliction. And it even goes on at the end of that verse and it says, "Our comfort is abundant in Christ." So after the storm, I started to realize not only was I comforted, but I had an abundance of comfort. That means I had more than enough, I had an extra measure. I had enough for me, enough for my family, enough to give.

Jan Harrison: Because he gives abundant comfort. And if I would allow him, it's almost like the more I was willing to give comfort, the more comforted I became.

Dr. Dobson: Yeah. All right. Let's close with this. We're almost out of time. Did you ever at any point along the way, especially early on, get angry at God and blame him for the fact that this happened?

Jan Harrison: I never got angry. I did ask the questions, why?

Dr. Dobson: Why?

Jan Harrison: And where were you? What about all those prayers prayed? What about the deliberate act of surrendering James to you Lord and telling you we would trust you, with all of our children, with our lives? We trust you Lord to do what is best. You don't just want good for them. You want best for them. And I love that, that God showed me you can ask him the questions.

Jan Harrison: He wants to minister to us in those places. But he also has shown me and showed me as a result of all of that, that I can take your very worst news. And I can use it to give good news to people every single day. That blesses me, that heals me until all things become clear one day.

Dr. Dobson: The title of the book is Life After the Storm: God Will Carry You Through by Jan Harrison. It was published by Harvest House and Jan, if I had to boil it all down to one phrase or one word, it would be peace. It is that you can have peace in the midst of the storm.

Jan Harrison: Absolutely. I came to give you peace, that's what Jesus said.

Dr. Dobson: Thank you for being our guest. You're continuing to write, aren't you?

Jan Harrison: I am. I am learning and growing and excited about the next project.

Dr. Dobson: And you're speaking and you're available to speak.

Jan Harrison: I am. My heart is to just minister, to help people make those steps towards hope, to trust God, to know that he will carry them through and that he will give them a spacious place.

Dr. Dobson: God be with you.

Jan Harrison: Thank you.

Roger Marsh: You've been listening to Family Talk and the conclusion of Dr. Dobson's heartfelt conversation with author Jan Harrison. As we mentioned in the program the past couple of days, Jan's son passed away at the age of 27 while doing mission work in Africa. And she has used what she learned from that devastating situation to encourage others.

She wrote a book about her experience called Life After the Storm: God Will Carry You Through. And if you'd like to learn more information about that, or to listen to today's broadcast again, go to our broadcast page at That's

Now today's program is centered on the heavy topic of loss. And if you're in a difficult season right now, you might think about getting a copy of Dr. Dobson's best-selling book When God Doesn't Make Sense. When you think about that title, that might describe your situation right now very well. In this book, Dr.Dobson offers assurance of God's constant care, even when human suffering is beyond our comprehension.

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Well, Mother's Day is just around the corner. Sunday, May 9th is the second Sunday in May and that of course is Mother's Day. Mothers are very important people in our lives. Well, that is why Dr. Dobson has dedicated so much of his work to encouraging and offering advice to mothers. It's so important to celebrate mothers, but you know Mother's Day can be a hard time for a lot of people.

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