Multi-platinum recording artist, author, wife and mother- these are just a few of the roles of Birmingham’s own Sara Evans, who is on tour with her new studio project Stronger. Evans took time out to share with Christian Family how her faith in Christ keeps her strong. Referencing the new album’s lead single “A Little Bit Stronger,” Evans explains, “People ask me all the time, ‘How do you encourage people when they are going through something hard?’ The main thing I always say is, ‘Trust that the Lord is in control.’ I love the verse, ‘Be still and know that I am God,’ because He truly is in control. He truly does love us.” Evans says she can attest to God’s presence and comfort in her own life even in the most difficult circumstances. A highly celebrated country star with accolades like female vocalist of the year and one of PEOPLE magazines most beautiful people, Evans life has not always been easy. At the age of eight she was hit by a car and severely injured. Later in life, she faced a very public divorce. Evans seeks to encourage all those she meets to stand strong in God’s grace. “Try not to be self destructive. Try to stay the course, persevere, continue to pray through it. Keep yourself in the Word.”
Evans, the third of seven children, grew up in Missouri and attended a small country church. “We always went to church. We were always involved, but never to the degree where I felt I really had a personal relationship with God.” By the time Evans moved to Nashville to become a country music artist in the early 90’s, she had developed a deep seeded fear. “I was terrified of dying. I remember being in a hotel room one night and I just got the Bible out in my hotel room and started reading,” says Evans. “I remember being very, very afraid. If I start reading the Bible, what am I going to find out? What am I going to have to commit to?” But Evan’s kept reading and found peace. “I started with Matthew and I just couldn’t put it down. I read in my hotel room that whole night and then I went out and got my own Bible. I really couldn’t put it down for six months. ” Evans began attending Belmont Church on Music Row and at age 21 accepted Christ as her Savior. “For the next few years, I was so hungry. I could not get enough of the Word,” remembers Evans. “That was a very precious time in my life. I really grew and was becoming very close to the Lord and great friends with the Lord. And that’s sort of where I’ve been since then.” Evans admits staying in the Word requires discipline. “Like in any relationship, I have not always been the best as far as my walk with the Lord. Sometimes I have been overwhelmed with my career, overwhelmed with busyness, stress, disappointment, stuff like that….but every time I go back to the Word it’s amazing. That’s what keeps me grounded.” Evans seeks to spend time with God daily. “Some days are shorter than others but I try to spend a long time, especially praying- praying over our children, my career, praying for my family, for my friends.”
The importance of prayer is particularly evident in Evans’ book projects with publisher Thomas Nelson. Evans, with co-author Rachel Hauck, has released two novels so far with a third due out early next year. Through tough challenges, the books’ main character Jade grows in her faith and in her communication with God. “Jade is a lot like me. She gets flustered. She gets mad at God. She feels bad and then she prays. She’s constantly in prayer and asking for forgiveness, and asking for help. I’m constantly praying, ‘Thank you Lord. Thank you that we made it through this. Thank you that this show went well. I don’t deserve all this. Please watch over my kids.’ I’m constantly in this dialogue with the Lord.”
The importance of prayer is also evident in Evans’ song writing. “Pray for You,” a song she co-wrote and included on her Greatest Hits album, focuses on the prayers of a mother. “I’m always asking my mom to pray for me,” explains Evans, “and that gives me such comfort to know that my mother is at home, asking the Lord to watch out for her daughter, and I know the Lord hears those prayers.” Evans and husband Jay Barker also emphasize prayer as a family. The couple’s blended family includes 7 children, ages 5 to 13. “Jay and I both believe that it is extremely important for the kids to hear us praying and for them to pray.” A Christ centered marriage is paramount to Evans. “I would never have dated a non-believer. Jay and I are totally like minded in our spiritual beliefs and our relationship with the Lord and in our walk,” says Evans of Barker, best known for his National Championship win as quarterback for the University of Alabama. The couple met through minister Joe Beam, who had counseled each of them individually when they were going through divorce. “Jay came up to Nashville and took me out on a softball throwing date,” remembers Sara. “We went and got cheeseburgers, and I fell in love with him probably that night.” Barker, who has been a radio sportscaster primarily on Birmingham’s WJOX since 2003, brought his bride home to the Magic City almost three years ago. It’s a place she can’t say enough good things about. “It’s incredible. I’m home for good- forever… The people have been so welcoming. I have a group of friends I feel like I have known my entire life, and I totally believe that is straight from God.” Evans says the only part of her career that she doesn’t like is not being home with her family. Fortunately, they will be able to travel with her for much of her current tour and she knows without a doubt, God will keep her strong.