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Tony Evans on wife's legacy, navigating grief, and trusting God 'even when He's confusing'

Tony Evans on wife's legacy, navigating grief, and trusting God 'even when He's confusing'

Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas and founder of The Urban Alternative. | Courtesy of MM Public Relations

NASHVILLE — For Pastor Tony Evans, the past year has been riddled with tremendous loss, uncertainty and grief. 

“It's been a tough year,” Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, told The Christian Post during a sit-down interview in Nashville, Tennessee. 

“I lost my brother, lost my sister, lost my sister's husband, lost my niece of a sudden heart attack at 39,” he said. “I lost my father, and I lost my wife. My daughter Priscilla had lung surgery due to some growth irregularities that needed to be removed. My oldest daughter Chrystal has a growth in her leg that's suspect. We've had a lot of challenges this year.”

Yet through it all, Pastor Evans stressed, he can confidently say: “God is faithful, even when He’s confusing.”

“We’re trusting in Him day by day, in spite of the challenges and the loss,” he shared. “Sometimes you have to learn to trust God in the dark when there is not clarity, when He becomes inscrutable. You have to have enough foundation before that happens to weather the storm when that happens.”

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Trusting God when it doesn’t make sense, Evans said, is a “decision of the will.”

“It's often not supported by the emotions, because you're not feeling what you're trusting,” he explained. “It’s a decision to act like God is telling the truth, to act like God knows what He is doing. That’s what we choose to do and continue to choose to do day by day.”

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“It’s important to not give up on God when life appears to have given up on you. It's easy to trust God when everything is right, blessings are flowing, prayers are being answered, needs are being met. That's the fun part of the faith. But sometimes, you have to trust God when you don’t see the benefits, the blessings, and all the frills of the faith.” 

Lois Evans, Pastor Evans’ wife of five decades and founder of Pastors' Wives Ministry, passed away on Dec. 30, 2019, after battling biliary cancer.

She was honored with the Heroine of the Faith award at the NRB 2020 Christian Media Convention in Nashville on Feb. 28, recognizing her for “loving the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and for loving others as yourself.”

Reflecting on his wife’s legacy, Evans emphasized, “There's no part of my life and ministry where her footprints aren’t felt.”

“Lois committed her life to Christ when she was 9. At 15, she told the Lord that she would serve Him in whatever capacity He called her to, so she kind of dedicated her life to service. We met at 18, and I saw her heart for the Lord and for ministry and we kind of connected around that.”

In addition to “helping me through school, mothering our four children, and leading them to the Lord,” Evans said Lois assisted him both in starting their church and The Urban Alternative, a media ministry whose radio broadcasts are today heard by millions each week on more than 1,400 radio outlets across 130 countries.

“She was there, every step of the way, to foster the Word of God and the name of Christ, whether it was counseling women, leading music, or growing our ministry,” he shared.  

“There’s no part of my life and ministry where her footprints aren’t felt. Her absence leaves a big hole in our lives in our family and in our ministry.”

And Lois remained faithful to the very end, Evans said, adding, “Even in death, she just kept calling up the name of Jesus. She was ready to go. In fact, she said, ‘Let me go’ because it was clear that healing wasn't going to occur.”

“She was ready to make that transition. And so we had to piggyback on her faith in the midst of transition and learn to trust Him even when it was the hardest thing to do.”

In her final days, Lois caught several glimpses of eternity — sacred moments her entire family witnessed. 

“She saw her mother and father and she said, ‘Why can't y'all see them?’ She also said, ‘The voices are telling me that my time is near. Let me go. I'm ready.’ She let us know that what was hard for us, she was well prepared for,” Evans remembered. 

While his wife’s supernatural experience “kind of blew your mind,” the pastor said it called to mind Acts 7:56, where Steven, as he was being stoned to death, “saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God.”

“Evidently there's this Twilight Zone, this space between time and eternity when you're in transition, that you get to see what's headed before you, making it easier to leave what's behind you,” he explained.

Even in his darkest moments, the influential pastor said he finds solace in “knowing God’s character — that He is benevolent and He is good.” 

“I have to look at 49 and a half years of marriage, where He was good,” the No More Excuses author said. “Not the bad year and a half. Because if I only look at that and let that define me, then, of course, I might question the goodness of God even if I didn’t want to question it.”

“But when I look at all the good that has been done in His kindness, the good days far outweigh the bad days, no matter how horrific. I have to keep going back to that and not let this season define my history.”

It’s this mentality, Evans said, that sustains him as he continues his work and ministry without his partner. 

“Sometimes, it’s harder than other times,” he admitted. “But we press on. We’re called to keep living, keep serving, keep preaching, keep proclaiming, keep witnessing.”

Recently, Evans became the first African American to have both a study Bible and a full-Bible commentary with his name. The theme of both books, the pastor told CP, is “advancing God's Kingdom agenda.”

“The ‘Kingdom agenda’ is defined as the visible manifestation of the comprehensive rule of God over every area of life,” he said. “It is where God gets the final say. If God has the final say in every category, then that means He supersedes our history, our backgrounds, our race, our class, our culture. All that must be now subservient to His authority in every area.”

Courtesy of MM Public Relations

“When that happens, when it applies to the individual, the family, the church and our civic engagement, then His will is done on earth as it is in Heaven.” 

At 70, Evans told CP he has no plans to retire and will continue to dedicate his life to advancing the kingdom of God. Like his wife, Evans said he prays his life reflects Paul’s words to Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

“I'm still in the game,” he said. “You can't go to the sideline just because your teammate is not there with you. You've got to keep going because you know, you have to one day stand before the Lord too.”

Pain and sorrow in this life is a “guarantee,” Evans said. “It's appointed that man must die, so we all have to bleed.” 

It’s of the utmost importance, then, to “make sure you are fighting a fight worth fighting,” he stressed.

“In other words, we spend a lot of time fighting the wrong things, things that don't matter,” Evans contended. “We argue and fight each other over things that are insignificant. Make sure you're fighting a beneficial thing, that you're finding something that's worth the time, the effort, the energy, the sacrifice.”

“Be able to come to the end of your days and say, ‘I did what I was put here to do. I didn't live a wasted life.’ Live a life that allows you to anticipate the words, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant,' because you did what you were put here to do.”

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