It’s the nightmare call every parent fears. For Charles and Janet Morris, the news of their son’s death came on a late Summer night in 2003. Nearly five years later, they sat down to speak with friend and counselor Dr. Dan Allender for a public discussion of their son’s overdose, the courage they’ve found in the intervening years, and the understanding they’ve gained that Jesus rescued their son — even through death.

Now twenty years after the incident, we are sharing this vulnerable conversation that has been a profound resource for so many who have also been touched by similar tragedy and grief. Whether you have experienced the loss of a loved one or not, we pray this episode from the Haven archives will bring you hope.

More from Charles & Janet Morris

  • All week on Haven Today, we are revisiting content related to the struggles of grief, loss, and drug addiction — all pointing to Jesus. Listen in to hear Charles’ appearance on the air the day after his son died, as well as more from other parents relating their own unique situations.
  • The book Saving a Life by Charles and Janet Morris goes into greater detail the process they went through following Jeff’s overdose. You can get your copy here.
  • Charles and Janet’s other son also went down the path of substance abuse. This is his story of addiction and redemption.
  • Listen in to another conversation between a father and son overcoming addiction.

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The holiday season is often a time for families and friends to gather around the table to give thanks and celebrate the joy of each other’s company. But how do you give thanks and celebrate joy when there’s an empty chair that would have been filled by a recently deceased loved one?

We don’t often discuss grief during the holidays, but it is certainly the time when the loss of a spouse, parent, child, or friend is especially painful. Holiday grief is also something that’s experienced more often than we might like to think.

On today’s episode of the Great Stories podcast, Charles Morris returns to a conversation he had in 2007 with Dr. Norman Wright. A Christian counselor, Dr. Wright spoke to Charles not long after losing his wife to cancer. With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, we pray this raw conversation will be a balm and a resource for anyone facing their own empty chair this holiday season.

More on Grief During the Holidays

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Somebody died and it wasn’t from COVID-19.

Sometimes we miss the passing of an important person because of the death of another. JFK was assassinated the same day C.S. Lewis died. Last Friday, the famed civil rights activist and congressman, John Lewis, died. That very same day, after 93 years, James I. Packer, New Testament scholar and author of the bestselling book Knowing God, went home to be with the Lord.

J.I. Packer spent the first half of his life in England, born into a lower middle class family where they went to church but never said grace. As a young boy, he was chased by a school bully into the street where he collided with a bread truck. As he put it, “The truck got the better of the exchange.” Brain surgery saved his life but left him with an indented side to his skull.

In this short documentary, you can watch as Packer reflects back on his career and ministry, and what he’s found to be the most meaningful work he’s done.

He was told never to play sports. At age 11 he dreamed of a bicycle but his parents gave him a typewriter instead.

No doubt God’s hand was already on him. Showing academic promise, he was sent to The Crypt School, where centuries before George Whitefield attended. Along with studying classics, his faith grew fervent. He taught theology in Bristol.

The later half of his life was spent in Canada, where he helped found an evangelical seminary called Regent College. In the 70’s he wrote a bestselling book that perhaps made him even more famous in America. The book was Knowing God. My wife still has her copy that led her to a strong faith in Christ in her twenties.

On two occasions I was able to give him a lift home after he quit driving. One Sunday morning, our newly ordained son, Peter, was visiting with some of the younger pastoral staff at St. John’s—Packer’s church in Canada where God used him to help lead a revival. I was telling Packer about how our son had just been ordained. He asked for an introduction. He waited patiently for a good ten minutes and after the meeting was made, he encouraged and prayed over Peter. This father’s heart was warmed.

I heard another story where someone saw him walking in the street and said, “A friend of mine told me you know the New Testament. Could you explain Galatians to me?” Packer suggested they drive to his house for tea. They did and Jim Packer spent the next three hours taking him through the Pauline letter. More than a scholar, Dr. Packer was a believer who was always ready to help others.

The current senior pastor at Packer’s church wrote the following in an email to the congregation, “Despite his astonishing global ministry, Jim was down to earth, had a wonderful sense of humour, was humble and always approachable. I have been in countless restaurants, where Jim engaged the waiter in ongoing conversation to the waiter’s delight.”

The world will never know Jim Packer. But God did. And the Lord led one of his saints safely home last Friday, his wife next to him and a younger pastor, reading Scripture aloud.

We’re under God’s wings.

“There is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are possessed with full assurance that they have known God, and God has known them, and that this relationship guarantees God’s favor to them in life, through death and on for ever.”
J.I. Packer


As the leader of the Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” A former secular journalist, Charles has worked for United Press International, and as a press secretary for two former U.S. senators. He and his wife, Janet, have authored several books, including Missing Jesus. Charles’ latest book is Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus: The Real Story of God At Work.

A friend of mine in college had a drawing of a skull propped up on her dresser next to her mirror to remind her not to be vain. If that sounds morbid, it’s because it is.

Yet the Bible supports such morbidity. As the writer of Ecclesiastes records, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher. Vanity of Vanities! All is vanity.” (1:2).

Though mostly lost in American culture, there is a long history of Christians who have dwelled on death and it’s meaning and who have actively prepared for it. Jonathan Edwards, of course, was famous for his 18th-century sermon where he encouraged his congregation to think about life after death, by likening humans to spiders, dangling over hell and our graves, the web’s string ready to snap at any second.

And George Swinnock, a Puritan, wrote in “The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of Faith,” “Those who lie in beds of ivory must lie down in beds of earth. Some letters are made with large flourishes, but they are still ink like all the others. … Your life may be preserved for a while, tossed from hazard to hazard, like a ball by the tennis rackets, yet it will eventually fall to the earth.”

And again, Ecclesiastes: “For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. … All are from the dust, and to dust all return.”

Are we prepared to die? Who will save us from this inevitability? Perhaps, more importantly, where is our hope? If you haven’t thought about your own death, and how to march confidently toward it, I recommend reading Swinnock’s book, which has challenged me this past week.

One of the most important reasons to spend some time meditating upon death is because it helps us be grateful for the life that we are offered in Christ. He faced and defeated the spectre of death, so that if we believe in him, death to us will only be a passing into eternal life in joy at Christ’s feet. It will be something we need to prepare for, but not something that need bring us fear. Where is your hope?