One of the beloved hymns Elvis Presley chose to record has these lyrics — lyrics that have been stuck in my head all week:

“Where could I go, oh where could I go?

“Seeking the refuge for my soul

“Needing a friend to save me in the end

“Won’t you tell me?

“Where could I go but to the Lord?”

The song was written by James B. Coates early in the 20th century. The story is he was ministering to a dying neighbor, an elderly African-American man, and Coates wanted to make sure he was prepared to die … spiritually.

Coates asked him, “Do you know where you will spend eternity?”

The man weakly answered with his own question, “Where could I go but to the Lord?”

Intrigued by his answer and being a music teacher, Coates developed the quote into lyrics.

As I’ve contemplated the hymn, I’ve thought about how difficult were the lives of the Israelites when God sent his son to them. The average lifespan was about 35 years, and there were no prescriptions for pain relievers. There was no such thing as keeping a person comfortable while he or she died. Many screamed until breathing stopped.

With the excellent countryside acoustics, whole villages couldn’t escape the groanings of the dying. The mortifying struggles of sickness and dying were in the air.

When I visited the Holy Land, I was near the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. In the distance, I could hear children playing. Had I known Arabic, I could have understood the words of their glee. I’ve realized the people of the villages had to hear the “broadcasts” of the seemingly endless moans of the sick and dying.

Had one of the ancients taken a survey to see who was mortal, not a single person could have said he or she wasn’t mortal. All shared the same plight — life was hard and then you died. In that setting, the people began to hear about a man who didn’t seem mortal. He could heal eyes, make the lame walk, cure diseases and raise the dead. The story was he was immortal and at times every person he passed by was healed. Everyone wanted him to pass by him or her. Bring your aura by here.

That, in fact, became a song. Kumbaya means “pass by here.” May your essence and healing come our way.

Things have changed in modern times. Life expectancy has more than doubled and there are pain relievers for pain that’s a 10 on a one-to-10 scale. However, if you queried every single person of the 2 billion people on planet Earth to see if he or she were immortal, all would be mortal.

We share the plight of the ancients in that we still can’t get out of this world alive. We need to find one person who is eternal and can bridge us into immortality.

John 3:16 is the world’s favorite verse because it puts into concise words the answer to our all-inclusive mortality problem. Here is John 3:14-16 in the Worldwide English New Testament:

“The Son of Man must be lifted up. Then everyone who believes in him will not die, but will live forever. God loved the world so very, very much that he gave his only Son. Because he did that, everyone who believes in him will not lose his life, but will live forever.

The joy the ancients experienced when Jesus spoke the following words should be shared by us moderns as well:

“Don’t let your (mortal) hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room (for all believers) in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am (immortality)” (John 14:1-3, New Living Translation).

Encore:

“Where could I go, oh where could I go?

“Seeking the refuge for my soul

“Needing a friend to save me in the end

“Won’t you tell me?

“Where could I go but to the Lord?”

Facts correspondent Buddy Scott is director of His Love Counseling Services in Lake Jackson.

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