FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Hoping and Healing

with Jimmy and Karen Evans | January 7, 2008
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It happens every day. High school sweethearts take the big leap into marriage only to find their expectations shattered. Today on the broadcast, MarriageToday host Jimmy Evans and his wife, Karen, share how God took their marriage from hopeless to hopeful when they began to love as Christ would.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • It happens every day. High school sweethearts take the big leap into marriage only to find their expectations shattered. Today on the broadcast, MarriageToday host Jimmy Evans and his wife, Karen, share how God took their marriage from hopeless to hopeful when they began to love as Christ would.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

It happens every day.

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Hoping and Healing

With Jimmy and Karen Evans
January 07, 2008
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Karen: I look at women today, and I just think, "What are you thinking?"  And I think that with women as they date, you know, add it all up, because this is your future, and we like to say, too, "You're not just marrying him, you're marrying his whole family."  You know, whoever you're marrying, it's the whole package, and that's what we like to say about the baggage that you bring in.  You know, whether it's how you're raised or how your own personal life was, it affects your marriage.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, January 7th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  So you don't forget, order before midnight tonight – no, no, I'm sorry.  If you thought you were getting a different bargain than you got when you got married, stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  Dennis?

Dennis: Thanks, Bob.


 If our listeners only knew what was behind that.

Bob: I want you to have it, here we go.

Dennis: Bob's introduction – he thought his introduction was better.

Bob: No, I'm sure your introduction is going to be better than what I had …

Dennis: Tomorrow you can do your introduction of our guests and the program tomorrow.  Will that work?

Bob: I think that will work, sure, okay, we'll do that.

Dennis: And, if you want, we'll have a straw poll on the Internet and let our listeners – no, we don't need to do that.

Bob: Who had the better introduction?

Dennis: We don't need to do that.  I really do want to introduce you to the best teacher on marriage and family relationships on planet earth.

Bob: Hnh, well, thank you.

Dennis: I really do.

Bob: Oh, you're not talking about me?

Dennis: I'm not talking about you.

Bob: [laughs] Okay.

Dennis: This teacher has instructed couples, husbands and wives, moms and dads, for many years.  He has inspired a book that's been a bestseller perennially, and he's a great applier of the truth to everyday situations to help couples work things out in their marriage relationship.  I would like to introduce you to the Holy Spirit.

Jimmy: I'm sure glad you said that, because I could never have lived up to that one.


Dennis: We do have some guests here in the studio …

Bob: … who know the Holy Spirit.

Dennis: Who know the Holy Spirit and His work firsthand in their lives.  Isn't that right?

Jimmy: Exactly.

Dennis: That's the voice of Jimmy Evans, who joins us, along with his wife, Karen.  Welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Karen: Thank you.

Jimmy: It's good to be here.

Karen: Really good to be here.

Dennis: Jimmy and Karen have been married since 1973, and they know the Holy Spirit's work, because as we are about to find out, they hit a wall early in their marriage.  But fortunately they went through that wall and came out the other side better people, better husband, wife, and a couple, and have established a Christian family that not only raised a couple of adult children but have two – well, soon to be three grandchildren, and have made a great impact in a lot of marriages and families around the country.

 He is the president of Marriage Today, which is a weekly television program seen in many of our Christian networks around the country, and they have authored a book called "Our Secret Paradise."  It didn't start out that way, though, did it?  It wasn't a paradise in the beginning?

Jimmy: No, it was a for few days, and then …

Karen: Hello.

Jimmy: We had the best of intentions, but it went south pretty quick.

Dennis: You said, "hello."

Karen: Well, because I was thinking it was a little longer than two days.

Bob: You made it at least through a week, right?  You had just become a Christian when you got married, is that right?

Jimmy: We were 19 years old, and I received Christ a week before we got married.

Bob: And, Karen, had you been a Christian prior to marriage?

Karen: Yeah, I was a progressing Christian.

Bob: I was going to say, because if you were dating this guy who just came to Christ …

Karen: My identity was so low that even having Christ in my heart, it was hard for me to get past my own self-esteem to realize his was not very good.

Dennis: Were you missionary dating at the time, then?

Karen: No, I didn't think of that.  I was raised a Christian after – in high school.  So the time that we met and were dating, you know, I was growing in the Lord, but I just didn't have the teaching.  No one had taught us, you know, this is what you look for.  We were just living, and so it was probably when we were first married that I really was turning my heart more to the Lord because of the pain of our marriage.  You know, it just became so painful that I – it was probably what really helped me turn to the Lord the most.

Dennis: How did you come to faith in Christ, Jimmy?

Jimmy: I had grown up in church around the Gospel, never responded to it, just kind of hung around church really because of the girls.  I mean, I went to church and church camp just to – there were cute girls there, and it was kind of a social thing, and Karen and I dated in high school, and Karen was a very pure person and a very good person.  I was not.  And a week before we got married, I had friends, and we were wild, and we did all kinds of wild stuff.  I had actually told Karen she was not as important as my friends and even after marriage not to come between me and my friends because I had grown up all my life with these guys.

 A week before we got married, they gave me a bachelor party and everything wrong happened at the bachelor party that would typically happen, but she didn't want to happen and I really didn't want it to happen, but it happened.  But the next morning I woke up …

Dennis: What kind of stuff happened?

Jimmy: I slept with a gal that was there that they brought – one of the entertainers of my bachelor party, whatever you want to call it.  I told my friends, I said, "Listen, I want to have a clean bachelor party.  I just want to get drunk and play poker."  And my friends said "Great."  And I said, "No girls or anything like that." 

 And so they – well, I got drunk, and we played poker, and then here came the girls and bad things happened.  I woke up the next morning, and I looked in the mirror, literally, and didn't like the person that I saw, and I had very high self-esteem.  Karen had low self-esteem, I had very high self-esteem, and I didn't like me, and, for the first time, ever, I was convicted of something that I had said or done.

 And that was the day that I made my mind up from that point forward, I was giving my life to the Lord, and it really wasn't about Karen.  I decided that regardless of whether she would marry me or not, and that day she told me she wouldn't because I told her what happened the night before.  That day, when I received Christ, because I told the Lord right then, "I'll never do that again.  From now on, I'm serving you." 

 And the first thing I ever heard the Lord say to me is "Never see your friends again."  And so I was the captain of a baseball team, and so that day I drove across town, I put all the baseball gear out of my trunk on the yard there, on the lawn, and they all gathered around me talking about the bachelor party the night before, and they said, "Wasn't it great?" and I said, "No, it wasn't great," and I said, "I really regret everything I did last night, and I've given my life to the Lord, and I'm leaving here to go tell Karen what I did."

 And, of course, they were all terrified, because all their girlfriends, they were all friends with Karen, and you know how that works.  I went and told Karen what I had done.  She told me she'd never marry me, slammed the door in my face, and so it took a few days, but Karen …

Karen: No, it was that night.

Jimmy: That night – well, you can tell the story, but we made up, obviously, and we got married.

Karen: Yeah, but my make-up stores are a lot better than what you're saying.

Bob: Well, I want to hear from your side of things.  I mean, when your intended, a week before the wedding, shows up and says …

Karen: I had already moved out.  I was living on my own, and I was supporting myself, and so I was pretty independent, anyway, even though I didn't have any self-esteem, and I remember he came to the house – actually, he had called me the day before and said that nothing happened at the bachelor party.

Dennis: So he lied to you?

Karen: Oh, yeah.  And then the next night he called, and actually it started kind of coming out, and he called and he kind of said, "I need to tell you that this is what happened."  And I said, "Oh, well, we're not getting married."  I was furious.  I hung up, and I said, "We're not getting married."

Dennis: So you told her over the phone?

Karen: Oh, yeah.

Dennis: You what?

Karen: He said he can't remember, but I remember.

Jimmy: I was too much …

Karen: I'll help him with his memory.

Dennis: Barbara does that to me a lot.

Karen: It's like a blank out.  Okay, so, the next thing I know, he's come over to the house, my duplex I lived in, and he's beating on the door, and he says, "Just let me in."  I said, "Hm-mm."  And he said, "Let me in."  And at this point I'm hearing crying – "Oh, my gosh.  He doesn't cry."

Bob: You'd never heard him cry before.

Karen: Oh, no, he was like macho James Dean, he was so cool.  And so he was really, really a broken man.

Dennis: Now, let's kind of square this away, too.  You were how old at the time, Jimmy?

Jimmy: Nineteen years old.

Dennis: And you were how old, Karen?

Karen: Nineteen.

Dennis: So we're not talking about a pair of 25-year-olds.  We're talking about somebody fresh out of high school.

Karen: Oh, yeah, because we graduated early, actually.  And we didn't – our parents are great parents now both of us.  But we weren't raised in the normal, you know, environment to know how to relate.  I mean, we were just finding our way on our own, and so – anyway, so he was broken, and that just kind of – it hit my heart because I'd always seen the good side of him, even if nobody else could, I could see it.  I don't know how, I guess God showed it to me, and even though my parents did not like him and did not want us to get married and prayed in their Bible studies that we wouldn't get married.

Jimmy: They used to bring guys over to meet Karen while I was there in the house.

Dennis: I know her parents, and I could see them doing that.

Karen: Yeah, oh, my dad did not like him.

Dennis: Your dad is a protector, and I can imagine he was trying to protect his daughter.

Karen: He did not like him.  And so, anyway, apart from my parents, I decided I didn't want to get married to him, but his brokenness is what touched my heart, and I'd never seen him broken before, and, you know, I could tell that God had gotten hold of him, and I don't even know how, because I was so young in the Lord myself, I just knew something was going to happen.

 He, at that point, said, "I'm not going to see my friends again.  It's just going to be you and me," and I was shocked, because it was right.  His friends always came first, and then – so, you know, that was really the turning point.  His heart broke, he was most repentant.  I mean, I've never seen him that repentant, and his conscience was different.

Dennis: The turning point was that night?

Karen: Mm-hm.

Dennis: So you moved from saying "No" to marrying him …

Karen: We went on with the wedding.  Now, remember, like I said, my parents didn't really like him, so the wedding was real simple.  It was in my parents' house in the morning and, I mean, it was just like the preacher and the parents, that's it.

Dennis: Did your parents know about this escapade here?

Jimmy: Oh, no.

Karen: They know now because of the seminars but, no, they didn't know.

Bob: You know, if your daughter called you and said, "Here is what's just happened, and I told him I'm not going to marry him, but he really seems like he's a changed man," you would not say, "Well, okay, let's go on with the wedding next week," would you?

Jimmy: No, I told my father-in-law recently, I said, "You know, all of your instincts while we were dating were right," because I wasn't a good young man.

Karen: No, I like it the way you say – you say you would never let your daughter date you.

Jimmy: No, I really wouldn't.  I wasn't righteous.  I was a rotten guy.

Bob: You know, here's the thing we've got to – in the midst of all of this remind our listeners of – these folks have a vibrant ministry to married couples today, and I think listeners can forget when they see Jimmy and Karen Evans today on television talking about marriage, they can think, "Oh, well, that all sounds good, but do they really know what they're taking about?" 

 You really know what you're taking about.  It's out of the pain of your first five years of marriage that this whole ministry exists, isn't it?

Jimmy: Mm-hm, it really is.  And we genuinely loved each other.  We met when we were 16 and fell in love, and we genuinely loved each other but didn't know how to love each other and that's what, really, our testimony of how, really, the Holy Spirit, how the Lord taught us how to relate and how to love each other, healed us because we were both very wounded, and that's where the ministry comes from.

Dennis: There's really two great lessons, and we're about to talk about the second one, but we dare not skip over the first one that for single people you really need to know the spiritual address of the person you're dating.

Karen: Absolutely.

Dennis: Not just that they've shown up at church, that they've got a Bible, and they know how to pray out loud and have some God talk, but that they really know Christ, are following Him and are committed to Him.

Karen: The character is everything.  I mean, you need to know the heart of a man if you're a woman, and they can say all the right things, but their heart can be bad.  I mean, it's just, to me, is a huge character issue, and that's the thing I could see about Jimmy.  In spite of what he was doing on the outside, I also saw him in the environment of his home.  He was always loving and respectful to his mother and his father.  He was always kind.  You know, he had a compassion that would come through in the midst of his machoism, and there was something redeemable with him. 

 There was just something – and I think that with women as they date, you know, you're exactly right.  I look at women today, and I just think, "What are you thinking?"  You know, "Add it all up, because this is your future," and we like to say, too, "You're not just marrying him, you're marrying his whole family."  You know, whoever you're marrying, it's the whole package.

Bob: Were you thinking at the time, "I'll marry him, and I'll fix him, and things will get better."

Karen: Not him, he's too strong.

Bob: So you were thinking, "I'll marry him, and this will be life?"

Karen: Yeah.

Bob: And that was okay?

Karen: Mm-hm.  Well, because, honestly, alone, one-on-one, we had an absolute wonderful relationship.  It was when we added the outside mix, and that's what we like to say about the baggage that you bring in, you know, whether it's how you're raised or how your own personal life was, it affects your marriage.  You know, and I think it's so important to do research on the history of your relationship that you're in – their past.  Because it's going to affect our future, I don't care who you are, if you haven't dealt with it.

 And so that's something that we really, really spent a lot of time dealing with with other people is, you know, a lot of times you try to judge a person by what they do today when really it's something that they're just living the life of what happened to them in the past.

Dennis: Right, and carrying that baggage into a marriage relationship after a couple of years, it gets heavy.  It finally reached a crisis point in your relationship where, Jimmy, you pointed at her, and you screamed at her?

Jimmy: Yes, we had been married for, I guess, two or three years, and thought we knew the Lord.  We went to church every Sunday, we were very dedicated to the Lord.  I was a very dominant person, and Karen had no self-esteem.  We really – you know, you marry your emotional match.  We married based on who matches us emotionally, and Karen had no self-esteem, and I thought, you know, I was kind of God, Jr., really.  I had very high self-esteem, very dominant, imposed my will on Karen and the marriage.

Bob: We call that "pride," by the way, not just healthy self-esteem, we're talking …

Jimmy: You all just cut right to the chase.

Bob: We're just talking sin.

Jimmy: I was trying to make it sound …

Dennis: No, taking a bow when it thunders is pride, okay?


Jimmy: Okay, that was me.  I didn't know you were watching, but I was really dominant, and I was verbally abusive, and when Karen – the Holy Spirit was healing Karen through the Word.  Well, as she began to be healed, she began to stand up to me and not in a bad way.  She began to stand up to me in a healthy way.

 But I was a very chauvinistic person, and I didn't like that.  I didn't like to be talked back to, I didn't like to be stood up to and challenged.

Dennis: That wasn't who you married.

Jimmy: Not at all, that's exactly right, and she was just standing up and kind of protecting her space, which I had always dominated, and the worst – really, the worst fights we ever got into was about golf, ultimately, about her objecting to me playing golf so much, but it was her standing up saying, "I don't want you to talk to me like that.  I don't want you treating me like that."

 And so that's when I just kind of erupted.

Bob: Do you remember what precipitated the meltdown on that one night three, four, five years into your marriage when he said, "Pack your bags and get out of here?"

Karen: Even though I had low self-esteem, I'm also very stubborn.  It doesn't come out except, you know, it's like push, push, push, and then, all of a sudden, it's like my heels are in, I'm not moving.

 And so it was so cute, because that night, I remember, it's a typical fight that we'd have over absolutely nothing, just like all fights.  You never can say what they're really about, and he just said, "That's it.  You're out of here.  Pack your bags and get out."

 Well, my mother had always said, "If you ever leave, you're not coming here."  So I remember thinking, "Well, I don't know where I'm going, because it's not going to be to my home."

Dennis: But Jimmy pointed his finger at you and told you to leave.

Karen: Yeah, and so I go to bed …

Dennis: Were you supposed to take the kids with you and leave or just you leave?

Karen: Well, you think past that heated moment that you're not really …

Dennis: So he didn't have the logistics down how this was going to be handled.

Karen: No, we just wanted to be mad.  And so I go to bed, and he stays in the other room and sleeps, whatever …

Dennis: Okay, stop right there.

Karen: Okay, okay.

Dennis: You reflect in your book about what you were thinking as you sat there looking at the blank TV screen.

Jimmy: Mm-hm.  Well, I was – that morning, I had read my Bible, and Jesus said when the Holy Spirit comes, He'll lead you into all truth.  And so when Karen went into the bedroom, and she was in there crying, and I was sitting in the living room, because we realized this can't go on anymore; we're damaging each other, this is horrible.

 When I sat there that night, it literally was like – I asked the Lord, I just said, "Lord, teach me how to be a husband, because I don't know."  And that was a breakthrough because I had never admitted I didn't know anything, I was so arrogant.  And literally, it was like scales fell from my eyes.  It was like the next moment I could see what a jerk I was, and I had never seen it before.  I just thought I was great.  I thought that she didn't understand me.  I really thought I was a great guy.

 The next moment, as I just sat there, and the Lord was dealing with me, I could see that I was wrong, and I went in and told Karen that night for the first time ever in our relationship, "I'm wrong."  Since the night that I repented of what I had done at the bachelor party, the next night, years after we were married, that I admitted I had ever done anything wrong.

 And that began the healing of our relationship.

Dennis: Karen, when he walked in to admit he was wrong, did you have a hard time believing him?

Karen: Well, actually, I thought he was walking in to tell me some more about how wrong I was.  So I was already prepared to, you know, get stubborn again and just listen to him rant and raving.  So when he came in, and he actually bent down at the side of the bed on his knees – that's broken – and …

Dennis: You mean he knelt?

Karen: Yeah, I was shocked.  And so he knelt, and he was crying.  I remember, he was broken, and he just said, "I will do whatever it takes.  I will quit golf, I'll quit everything I have to quit to make sure that our marriage, you know, you're the most important thing."  I'd never heard him say that before.  I was never a verbal, "You're the most important person."

Dennis: And at that moment, healing began.

Karen: Mm-hm.

Jimmy: Mm-hm.

Bob: And I think it's important to say it began.  It didn't happen instantly, it wasn't like the next day and everything was fine.

Karen: No, no, no, no.

Dennis: You know, I think people – this is where people make Christianity into a bit of a myth.

Jimmy: That's right.

Dennis: Where, instantly, some switch is thrown.  All the past hurts and scars and wounds, they're still perhaps open, have to be dealt with, and trust has to be established and a track record.  But I think the message here is real clear, in both illustrations, both when you repented at 19 and came to faith in Christ and submitted to Him and began your journey.

 But then, again, a second time when you got on your knees, and you humbled yourself.  That's the beginning of when a marriage ultimately can become what God wants it to be.

Jimmy: That's right.

Dennis: When we submit our wills to Jesus Christ.

Bob: Mm-hm.  You know, I'm thinking about the couples who attend our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences.  They hear very clearly at these conferences, practical biblical help for their marriage, but they also hear that if you're trying to build your marriage on a foundation that you've created, you're going to have problems.  You've got to make sure your marriage is centered in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

 And this spring we're going to be hosting these conferences in dozens of cities all across the country, and I want to encourage our listeners to go to our website,, find out more about when a conference is coming to a city near where you live, and then contact us this week or next week and plan to attend one of these upcoming conferences. 

 If you register this week or next week, you can save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee.  This is something that we do for FamilyLife Today listeners at the beginning of our conference season.  All you have to do is go on our website,, there you can get more information about when one of our conferences is coming to a city near where you live or a city where you'd like to travel to attend a conference, and then you can register online, if you'd like, for an upcoming conference, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and register over the phone.

 If you're registering online, and you want to take advantage of the special offer for radio listeners, you need to type my name in the keycode box on the registration form.  Just type the name "Bob" and that way we'll know you're a radio listener, and you'll be able to attend one of the upcoming conferences, again, at a discounted rate.  You'll save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee.

 If you call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information or to register, just mention that you're a FamilyLife Today listener.  You're one of Bob's friends, and they'll make sure that you get the special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners.  Again, it's good this week and next week, so we need to hear from you as soon as possible.  Some of these conferences are starting to fill up.  A few of them are near the point where they're starting to sell out, so let me encourage you to go to our website or give us a call – 1-800-FLTODAY, that's the phone number; or online at and plan to attend a Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference this spring, and if you get in touch with us this week or next week, you can save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee.

 Now, when you get in touch with us, you can also get a copy of the book Jimmy Evans has written called "Our Secret Paradise," and a lot of what you've shared with us today is found in this book.  It's the lessons you've learned not only from what the Scriptures teach but from what God's taught you in your own marriage.

 We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and you can order those online, if you'd like, at, or you can call to request a copy at 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll make arrangements to have a copy of the book sent out to you.

 Now, tomorrow Jimmy and Karen Evans are going to be back with us.  We want to talk about what happens when couples get locked up in conflict and what you can do to help unlock the problem.  I hope you can be with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock,


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