When he was just five weeks old, Sam Evans lost his mother to a heart attack due to viral meningitis.
“[She] basically just died on my father’s lap,” Evans recounted during an Oct. 26 TAB Media Amplify podcast. “I was told they were home with me [and she] wasn’t feeling good. She got out of the bath, got dressed and came out. [She] was telling my dad how tired she was, laid her head on his lap, and just stopped breathing.
Pain and brokenness
“That story has led to so much pain and brokenness in my life,” said Evans, who is married to Amplify host Maggie Evans, “even when it’s a story that I do not remember. It’s only something I’ve ever heard through words of family members and friends.”
During high school, the trauma and grief that Evans had never worked through concerning his mother’s death “grabbed hold,” he recalled.
His mother, Sherri, died on May 4, 1993. During a choir performance on May 4, 2010, when Evans was a junior in high school, he couldn’t find his bow-tie for his tux, which made him late. When he saw through a window that the choir was getting on stage, he said he emotionally collapsed.
“I don’t know why a bow-tie and a chorus performance led into this moment where I then felt all this weight and guilt that I was the reason my mom died, that I had to make up for the fact that she wasn’t here,” Evans recounted.
Later he recognized it probably was spiritual warfare and that he had a panic attack.
But then nightmares about his parents being murdered began four to five times a week. This led to Evans doubting that God was with him, and seriously questioning whether God cared about and loved him.
He thought then that “if I do the right things, even for the wrong reasons, I’ll get there eventually,” Evans said, though he felt “numb” and had no idea how to fix the “brokenness.” It also was disconcerting that he was so upset over an event he couldn’t even remember.
The dreams about his parents’ deaths continued. He was losing sleep and finally, during the last day of a church trip, he pulled his youth pastor aside and told him. They prayed about it and the nightmares stopped, Evans said.
During his freshman year of college the inner turmoil escalated. He went back to counseling where he learned he had “perfectionistic tendencies” stemming from his desire to make up for his mother’s death.
He also realized God still loved him.
‘It does get better, but it doesn’t go away.’
Though counseling has helped, Evans acknowledged it hasn’t always been easy.
“It’s been 10 years since I went to counseling for this. I would love to say that it stops, that I stopped having those thoughts, that it all got better. I mean, it does get better, but it doesn’t go away,” he said.
He now understands that he has a fear of abandonment, sometimes waking up and watching to make sure his wife is still breathing.
“Whether it’s waking up in the middle of the night and staring at our spouses or any other struggle, I think in that moment we have two options,” Evans suggested. “We [can] believe, ‘I’m not getting better, God is distant, I can’t be fixed or this has too tight a grip on me.’ Or, I think the better and right way is we have to recognize that, ‘This world is broken. What happened is out of my control.’
“And while I keep going through this life where I struggle with the same thing over and over again, I have to believe that it is through this suffering that I’m learning to trust the Lord more.”
Referring to the portion of Psalm 23 in which God promises to be with David, not to deliver him or even bring him out of the situation, Evans concluded, “In the midst of these struggles, I feel like this is what I’ve been trying to focus on — that I cannot love and trust God because He is my deliverer. I have to love and trust God because He is my God.
“Even in these moments where my depravity is so vivid, I have to remember that I am not the one who’s in control, that He is, and that He’s worth trusting.”