If winds of change, doubt, or grief are swirling about you, how can you best embrace the lifelines of God’s presence, Word, and promises of hope and healing?
Bible Gateway interviewed Jan Harrison (@JanMHarrison77) about her book, Life After the Storm: God Will Carry You Through (Harvest House Publishers, 2015).
What was the storm you endured that is the reason you wrote this book?
Jan Harrison: The personal storm leading me to write this book was the sudden death of my 27-year-old, son, James, while he was living and working in Africa. He died very quickly of untreated acute pneumonia.
How does the Bible form the foundation for a person to weather personal storms?
Jan Harrison: A personal foundation built on the truth of God’s word and the strength of His promises will equip us to withstand the overwhelming pressures and trials we face in life. The Bible is filled with examples of people who suffered intense trials and storms. If we will become familiar with God’s character and his great love for us, as expressed in his Word, we will cultivate the inner assurance of His presence with us in the storm and confidence in him to take us through. In order to trust him we must know him. To know him personally we must learn to listen to him speak to us through his Word and then apply it to our lives.
What’s the common thread that stretches through Bible stories, from Noah to the apostles, and how does that apply to us today?
Jan Harrison: The common thread that stretches throughout the Bible from Noah to the apostles is God’s plan for salvation. He provided the way for mankind to be reconciled to him through Jesus from the very beginning. His love is so great and his heart so deep he continually demonstrates his desire to save and redeem what is hopeless and lost. Because he never changes, ”Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13:8), the same thread weaves through our lives today. Salvation is through the cross of Christ and restoration through the life of Christ in us. He uses our lives and our storms as opportunities to demonstrate his power to redeem and resurrect all who trust in him regardless of how hopeless or lost.
What Scripture verses remind you of God’s power during a life storm and how have they helped you?
Jan Harrison: Scripture verses for life storms are the surest way to find clarity and strength. As questions spun around in my head, the truth of God’s word surfaced in my heart. I began to speak words of Scripture out loud because I knew, “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). My faith was strengthened as I focused my thoughts on his Word.
“Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20. No matter what the day, or this season in your life holds, Jesus tells us he’s with us all the way through and even beyond this present life.
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 When Jesus says never, he means it. He is loyal to me!
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27. Jesus knew life’s situations and circumstances would threaten to overwhelm us with doubts and fears. He did not say we would have enough peace to survive. He gave us his peace. He had peace in the face of rejection, betrayal, abuse, false accusation, hatred, and cruelty. He had peace when the weight of the sin of the whole world was put on him. He had peace when he hung on the cross and bled and died the death I deserved. He gives us nothing less than his peace.
“My God in His loving kindness will meet me; God will let me look triumphantly on my foes.” Psalm 59:10. My God is personally involved in this threatening life storm and he meets me in it and takes it up on my behalf.
“In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56:11. God’s power reigns. He over rules the motives and activities of men.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6. The storms of life will knock you off course but keep looking to him and trust his word and work to show you the next step. When you look back you’ll see he led you on a straight path.
How does the Bible fit in to what you describe as God’s survival kit for the storm?
Jan Harrison: God’s survival kit must have a used Bible! Without it we have no guide for how to survive. In fact, we have no clear directions for how to live. We need to be familiar with the Bible to know the Maker’s instructions for eternal life, and to know the full and abundant life he has provided for us. The Word of God is life and it’s through the word that we receive salvation. Once our eternal survival is established, the Bible will reveal every single necessary element to not only survive, but thrive in this world. Get your Bible and become very familiar with it and you’ll not become a storm casualty.
What lessons do you draw from Matthew 7:24-27?
Jan Harrison: Jesus is using two contrasting building sites as the object lesson in this teaching. Two men have built their lives on very different types of foundations.
The first man builds his house on the rock. Jesus calls this man wise because he hears and acts on His word. “The rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against the house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.” Matthew 7:25.
This man’s foundation was established on the Rock of Ages. The life and word of Christ will stand forever. Nothing can change or erode or ruin what is established in him. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” Matthew 24:35.
This man is considered wise because he not only attends church, Bible study, and prayer meetings, but he applies the word of God to his life. He walks in obedience to the truth revealed to him through the Scripture and his choices and decisions align with Gods word.
By contrast, Jesus warned against the man who hears His words, and does not act upon them. He calls this man foolish. His building site is not secure. He “built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.” Matthew 7:27.
Sand shifts and changes. Sand is unstable and unreliable. A life built on the sand is constantly shifting the standard and redefining the truth. It hears the words of Jesus but doesn’t take them seriously. Maybe he decides they’re old fashioned or will cost his reputation or standing in the eyes of people.
Notice the rains descend and the floods rise and the winds beat against both houses. Storms are a part of everyone’s life. No one gets a free pass or is immune from trouble in this life. But Jesus clearly describes the difference between rock and sand for your building site. This is a good time to re-evaluate yours. Will you be safe and secure regardless of the storm conditions or will you be battered and at risk of collapsing under the trials and pressures of life? The only way to be sure is to take Jesus at his word. Build your house on the rock.
What role does the Bible play when a person desperately asks “why?” during a storm?
Jan Harrison: When the unplanned and unexpected disruptions to life threaten, the first question we often ask is “why?” The Bible teaches us to have an eternal perspective and reminds us over and over that God’s will and work are not confined to this present time. Life for the believer is not limited to days, months, or years. Life in Christ is eternal. What is a mystery today will be clear in the light of His presence. “We walk by faith and not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7. Read chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews and underline the number of times the statement, “by faith,” is made. Careful study of this chapter will prove God’s Word is not bound to this lifetime. Our limited understanding and unanswered questions do not negate His truth. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Jan Harrison: There is no time like today to begin to take God’s Word to heart. Your church background or lack of one has nothing to do with it. Your education or intellectual capacity is not an excuse. The Bible is God’s personal love letter to you. Read and reread His words expressed to you through the Holy Spirit and allow them to be used to establish and strengthen your inner man. He’ll open your spiritual eyes and ears to understand the Word. He’ll speak tenderly and personally and draw close to you.
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.
Bio: Jan Harrison is an author, speaker, and Bible study teacher who has inspired thousands of women for over 15 years. She experienced the promise of “life after the storm” when her son, James, died unexpectedly. Jan serves on the board of With Open Eyes, a ministry co-founded by James and his father to accelerate the gospel in Africa. She and her husband, Frank, have three grown daughters and reside in Charlotte, North Carolina.