I was totally living a lie. Even though I grew up going to church every Sunday as a kid, even though I knew right from wrong, and I said I was a Christian, there was absolutely nothing about the way I was living that reflected these things,” Zach Williams shares on his website, ZachWilliamsMusic.com.
Zach Williams, the music artist behind the song “Chain Breaker” knew he couldn’t keep the lie going much longer. Touring with the southern rock band, Zach Williams and The Reformation, made it easy to keep using the drugs and alcohol he’d first started in high school. After being diagnosed with Barrett’s Esophagus, an early stage of pre-cancer cell growth, he knew he had to change his lifestyle, but depression only worsened his drugs and alcohol.
The band was successful, touring in the United States and even Europe. But Zach was dying.
Not in Arkansas Anymore
Zach Williams admits his childhood was idyllic. He grew up in small-town America, near Jonesboro, Arkansas, with loving parents. His group of friends and family continually encouraged and supported him. His dad led worship and his mom sang on the praise team where the Williams family attended church regularly.
An exceptional basketball player, Zach was on his way to receiving a full scholarship from a Division I school until he began using drugs and alcohol. He still managed to land a scholarship at a smaller junior college, but that didn’t stop him. The partying continued with his teammates, and so did the substance abuse.
An ankle injury kept him out of his entire first season, and that’s when he discovered the guitar. His dad had always played, but Zach was never interested in it until he picked up his roommate’s guitar one lonely night. He taught himself to play and found what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
“Playing guitar felt so natural, and I fell in love with it,” Williams continues on his website. “I started writing songs, and sports took a back seat.”
After he finished college, Williams worked at his dad’s construction company and played music for anyone who would listen. He kept writing songs through a marriage and a divorce, and eventually he found himself on tour as the front man for Zach Williams and The Reformation.
That’s when Zach Williams knew he was living a lie.
A Turning Point
Zach’s new wife, Crystal, encouraged him to get help, but the rock and roll life and esophageal cancer diagnosis only intensified the substance abuse.
Late night talks with a bandmate and an invitation helped get Zach Williams to church, and it only took one visit for Zach to know it was their new home. Zach and Crystal jumped in right away—went to a small group, built friendships and got involved as much as possible.
“I knew right then that this was where my family was going to go to church. We started attending Central, and I immediately felt something changing inside, but I was still struggling to let go of some of my old ways,” Zach shared in a recent testimony.
Zach Williams’ next decision was a turning point. And it came in the middle of a short tour in Spain. He hadn’t been looking forward to it because he knew the temptations that would come with it—the partying, the drugs, the alcohol.
Half-way through the tour, on an eight-hour leg of the road trip, he took his headphones off, and the song he heard playing on the bus radio was “I Am Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave. He says God used it to speak to him—to confront him on how he was using the gifts God had given him.
And just like that, he decided to quit the band. He was done and wanted to start living differently. The breakup was messy, but Williams says he felt a freedom he never had before.
“Immediately, I felt like everything was going to be alright,” Williams told The Christian Post.
Once he got home, he confessed, asked for forgiveness and turned from his old ways. Zach and Crystal began their healing process, and in 2012, were baptized together.
“Not playing music anymore was really starting to affect me,” Zach said in his testimony. “I started thinking about this new avenue of life and where God was going to use my gifts and music. He reminded me it wasn’t about me anymore. God gave me these gifts, and I felt I had a strong testimony.”
From the brokenness—and the healing—Zach had lived through, came the hit song “Chain Breaker.” It was an overnight success and led three of Billboard’s Christian charts in November 2016. He collaborated with Jonathan Smith and Mia Fieldes and now feels the song is an anthem for his life:
If you’ve got pain // He’s a pain-taker.
If you feel lost // He’s a way-maker.
If you need freedom or saving // He’s a prison-shaking Savior.
If you’ve got chains // He’s a chain breaker.
“Jesus came and died on the cross so there would be a way for the chains of those struggles and addictions to be broken,” Zach writes on his website. “The first step is allowing Him to come in so He can set you free. It’s amazing what God can do in your life when you give everything over to Him.”
Zach Williams eventually became the campus pastor and worship leader of his church’s new campus in Jonesboro, and he has recently left his job there to tour and pursue music full-time. Since releasing his full length album, “CHAIN BREAKER,” in December, he has toured with Big Daddy Weave and was is currently on Chris Tomlin’s Worship Night in America tour.
To purchase “CHAIN BREAKER” and for the latest tour dates, please visit ZachWilliamsMusic.com.