The spiritual practice of journaling has been around since the beginning of time, yet never seems to lose value. Journaling serves as an incredibly life-bringing and helpful tool to deepen personal relationship with God.
Now, some people choose to write, as I often do, in a physical journal. Others may keep a journal online or on their computer. Whatever your style, or if you’re just looking to start, I want to share some reasons that I think practicing journaling would be valuable to you.
This isn’t some super-spiritual practice that only people who really love God do; journaling may not be for everyone, but I’ve seen how incredibly powerful it’s been in my own life. There are seasons of life that journaling might serve you well, others it may not. There’s no sort of grandiose expectation that everybody has to journal all the time. I want to offer some ideas, suggestions, and questions that you might want to explore and use on your own as you pursue journaling.
Let’s get into it! So what purpose does journaling serve? What does it mean to “keep a journal”, and how can you get the most out of it?
1. When we write our thoughts, reflections, and our prayers down, it helps make them more concrete.
Sometimes we could be struggling with some vague anxiety or some discomfort over a particular decision that we're trying to figure out, and it stays in this sort of “cloud” of unknowing until we actually write it down. Once it’s written, we take a step back and realize, “oh, that's why I've been upset!” or, “that's why I was confused by that conversation!”
The process of writing makes things concrete and allows us to focus better on what God is speaking to us in that situation. It then allows us to gain a bigger perspective, and move forward in decision-making with greater wisdom and understanding.
2. A journal helps us stay focused on speaking to God directly.
We live in a world throwing more and more distractions at us. When was the last time you just sat in the quietness? At times, when I’m just praying without using a journal, I grow tired, distracted, and at times even fall asleep! So, actually writing it down helps to stay focused and really allows you to invite God into each moment as you write, ponder, pause, and reflect. Your focus is on the words you’re writing, and writing out the responses you feel led by the Lord.
3. Keeping record - looking back helps us to remember what God has done, and gives us confidence that He’ll do it again.
It’s great to keep a spiritual record of what's been going on in your life and how God has been moving. Perhaps there's some learning that He wouldn't want you to miss.
We want to move into the future wisely, and it can be helpful to have a record of what God has done in our lives so we can go back and remember. These reminders of what God has done for us in the past really fill us with faith that He can do the impossible again.He can take any situation and turn it into good.
This happened many times with God's people; the Israelites would be one example in history where they were able to recall the things the Lord had done in their lives, and then make better choices in the future. Conversely, there were times when God's people forgot the ways that He had responded on their behalf, forgot his mercy toward them, and ended up making some really poor choices.
4. Journaling helps you understand and solve problems
As you write, and you read back what you’re feeling and experiencing, you’re allowed to see a bigger picture of what’s going on in your life. It may even bring new revelations, as you write down things you didn’t even know you were feeling, but make perfect sense.
God moves within you, and through that, wants to continue to restore your identity within Him. As you write, you allow a space to just breathe and release worry, anxiety, frustrations or anything else you may be feeling. From there, God can equip you and show you ways of resolution and harmony.
5. Journaling helps you grow spiritually
It’s incredibly important that we are honest with God, and a journal is a safe place to do that. When we are honest with God, we offer Him our truest selves.
God longs to connect with us, and through journaling, it strengthens our relationship with him as we choose to converse and include him in every up and every down. You might also want to go back to some certain episodes in your life and record your life, the feelings you had, and what came out of it.
I love Psalm 145. It urges us, as God's people, to bring our true selves to him. In verse 18, it says, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth”.
Some tips to get started:
Choose a journal format that works for you. Sometimes I pick one that seems to be representative of a season in life, but you don't need to be that specific. A 3-ring binder or a spiral-bound notebook will work just fine.
it's important for us to be honest. It's not always easy for some of us. Our own interior world is something that's quite mysterious and it can be difficult to reflect and to think about what is really going on in our lives. But press in.
Summarizing what we talked about above, here are some topics you might want to write about. You might write about all four of these every time or none of them, or in a different direction. It offers a good starting place, but let yourself wander and go on your own unique journey.
Record your life
Express your true self
So whatever you do, whichever way you do it, and whatever kind of journal, I hope you'll pursue a very practical and concrete way to deepen your relationship with God by being honest about what is current, and write it down!