One day I sat down at the piano and started to play a couple of simple chords. I was hurting. I was frustrated – no, I was ticked. I’d had enough of some people. I felt very much like everyone else’s life around me – no matter their struggle – was easier than mine. Happier than mine. And I needed something to stir me from my tendency to emotionally wallow in the mud of my own dejection. Deep down I wanted to be close to Jesus, to press into His Spirit’s presence. I just needed a spark. I don’t know what you do when you get to this place, but when I remember who I truly am, I play music. And I hope to express something honest to God. The first words I sing or speak are usually not very poetic. Frankly, they’re usually not very nice either. But they are real. And these words came out that day:

            Where else can I go

            What else can I do

            But fall down to my knees

            And worship You

Fast forward a bit in time.

One day I sat and talked with a friend, and somehow the topic of new songs came up. I had a couple that came to mind, so I pulled out the guitar and began to play one. The working title was, Where Else Can I Go, which was also the first line of the chorus. About halfway through the song I looked up from my fingers on the fretboard for the first time and saw my friend. Shocked, I almost skipped a beat. Tears were flowing down their face. Freely streaming, eyes shut, mouthing the words along with me. They were silent, but the message was loud and clear. I became emotional as I sang the rest of the song. When I finished singing, my friend couldn’t speak for a moment. When they finally regained their voice, they spoke through the tears flowing across their lips.

“Thank you. We need that. We need those words so much.”

Because this is a close friend of mine, I know what they are going through in life. And it’s extremely difficult. Much more difficult than what has been weighing me down. Don’t get me wrong here: I don’t mean to diminish my pain by comparing it to someone else’s. That isn’t healthy and more pragmatically, it doesn’t work.

NO ONE GETS TO A PLACE OF HEALING OR RESOLVE THROUGH COMPARISON.

This is what I mean: sometimes God allows us to view the pain of someone else’s heart as a way of opening our perspective. Pain has a way of gradually narrowing, limiting and squeezing our perspective until all we can see is what we do not have. We need someone who is truly good and strong to lift our chin so we can see above our own inability to change things. And God will sometimes lift our chin by letting us see someone in a desperate place who is still expressing gratitude. My friend has been through the valley of the shadow of death, and those tears were not cheap.

THEY WERE THE EXPRESSIONS OF A TENDERNESS FOR JESUS THAT WAS WROUGHT IN THE PLACES OF PAIN.

In that moment, I said to Jesus again, “Yes, Lord. You are enough. I don’t need everything to change to my liking. I need You.” I was convinced that day that this was a song our church needed to sing.

In this life Jesus promises we will have trouble, but He will never leave us. Neither of these things are considered a “maybe.” It’s not a matter of if we will go through something that really shakes our world – it is when. And it’s not a matter of if Jesus will be with us – He always will. At the end of the day, we have to decide whether we’re going to live like Jesus is enough and say, “my heart is in Your hands” and trust that He is good no matter what.

IT’S NOT WRONG TO GO THROUGH A HARD TIME. IT’S WRONG TO GO THROUGH IT ALONE.

Peter was the first to speak up when Jesus asked His disciples whether they were going to leave when the going got tough. His iconic reply has been passed down from generation to generation, and they still ring with desire, loss and ruthless devotion. “Lord, where else can we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”

Jesus is the rock, the foundation, the cornerstone and He is immovable. But He is not merely a grand cosmic entity; He is my Father. So what does it look like to galvanize our commitment to stay His through the storm? We have to go beyond mere thoughts and turn this into a conversation with Jesus. Our thoughts are incomplete if not given voice. This is truly vulnerable because it is intensely human, weak from the start. And that’s what He is after. To our perfect, loving Father these offerings from our heart are intrinsically valuable. He wants to convince us deep down that He truly prefers to be near us.

He is with us in the fires of life, just as He was for the three Hebrew friends in the book of Daniel. The winds blow hard, but He uses it to strengthen our roots like trees. When I am afraid and weary as I go through the storms of my life, I can choose to see that He has always been a miracle-worker, peacefully walking on the waves as the seas rage around Him. And when I have no words to sing, there is always His name… the most powerful name ever uttered on earth and in heaven. Of course I want my problems to go away, but there is a deeper longing within me: I do not want to be alone. And the greatest news is that I don’t have to be. I would rather go through the valley of the shadow of death with Him than stand on the mountaintop by myself clinging desperately to my own fragile expectations.

If you’re going through a stormy season, I pray Where Else Can I Go is a song that will help you lift your chin and start a conversation with Jesus.

AntiochLIVE is releasing a full-length album titled, History’s Anthem, on June 8th. These tracks are a declaration of God’s faithfulness and goodness throughout history. The album is now available for pre-order, and you immediately get two songs, including “Where Else Can I Go”,  off the album when you pre-order. Check it out here

By James Mark Gulley – Worship Pastor