In my newest release, Then Sings My Soul, the main character, Jakob, has lived through 94 years of tumult and suffering. As a young Jewish boy who escaped Russian pogroms of the early 20th century, he witnessed many loved ones die for or because of their faith.
As with many of that generation, Jakob grows up keeping his faith relatively quiet, stuffed within him, covered and safe by shrouds of doubt and anger, shame and fear.
I can’t give away too much more, so you’ll have to read the book to see how that does or does not change for Jakob as he nears the end of his life.
The idea of steadfast faith in the midst of trials and persecution influenced the main storyline thread in Then Sings My Soul. The book, Mudhouse Sabbath, by Lauren Winner, influenced it as well. A former Orthodox Jew who converted to Christianity, Winner writes that she, “found that her life was indelibly marked by the rich traditions and spiritual practices of Judaism. [In Mudhouse Sabbath, she] presents eleven Jewish practices that can transform the way Christians view the world and God.”
In one scene of Then Sings My Soul, Jakob’s older brother, Peter, tries to encourage him to keep the faith in his head going, even when he doesn’t feel it in his heart. One way the Jewish people have done that is by reciting a sort of liturgy called the Kaddish during seasons of mourning. Here is what Winner says,
“Even in the pit, even in depresssion and loss and nonsense, still we respond to God with praise. This is not to say that the mourner should not feel what he feels–anger, disbelief, hatred. He can feel those things (and shout them out to God; God can take it). You do not have to feel praise in the intense moments of mourning, but the praise is still true, and insisting upon it over and over, twice a day every day, ensures that eventually you will come to remember the truth of those praises.”
Whether at the beginning, middle or end of our lives, there is always a battle going on for our hearts...a battle for truth, a battle for hope, a battle for our loyalty to God. Often, we struggle to understand what in the world about following Jesus Christ is worth it anymore.
Reciting the truth like Jewish mourners do, choosing or even writing out our own psalm of praise, and saying it whether we feel like it or not can work to bring the head and the heart back together in times of uncertainty and persecution.
Dear friends, so much of what we fight in this world is unseen.
In faithfulness we can find joy once again.