Editors Note: This is a new series on spiritual growth designed to help our readers understand how to grow in Christ.
- Dave wrote the first post in this series on the blessing of the spiritual disciplines.
- Joey Cochran wrote the second post in this series on the four functions of prayer.
- Chris Poblete wrote the third post on the practice of private prayer.
- Chris wrote the fourth post on the practice of corporate prayer.
- Matthew Fretwell wrote the fifth post on finding the silence of God.
- Brian Hedges wrote the sixth post on how to lead family devotions.
- Chris in the seventh post in this series shares from Hudson Taylor about the importance of having a personal devotion time.
- Brian Hedges wrote the eighth post on how to nurture biblical love in the local church.
- Bob Hoekstra wrote the ninth post on answered prayer promised in Jesus’ name.
- Chris wrote the tenth post in this series on humility.
- Brian wrote the eleventh post in this series on how to receive criticism.
- Charles Spurgeon shared the twelfth post in this series on how to find joy in deep distress.
- Brian wrote the thirteenth post in this series about waiting on the Lord.
- Madison wrote the fourteenth post in this series on evangelism.
- Today Mathew Sims writes on journaling.
We are uniquely a people of the book. God has spoken to us and he chose to preserve those words in a book, not just orally. Throughout the life of the church writing and reading has played an important part of our spiritual formation. I have for the most part found reading and writing come easily to me, but I have not found that journaling has. However, as I have struggled to keep a journal throughout my Christian life the words I have written have been formative in my maturation as a disciple.
Remember What God Has Done
Crucial to that Spirit-wrought process of transformation is our remembering what God has done. We do this in a variety of ways. We rehearse the promises of the God daily. We share our faith with others. We participate in a community of faith. We gather together on Sunday to respond to God’s call to worship and to hear the gospel preached.
We do all this, but we also must disciple ourselves. Remember is foundational to this self-discipleship. Moses commands Israel,
“4 ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates’” (Deut. 6:4-9).
I have found much benefit in having a place to write down what God has done for me. There’s something about seeing these tangible actions of God written in your hand. When the darkness rolls in, you can return to these and rest in them. They are from you, for you. Michael Hyatt says,
“Life is often happening so quickly I usually have little time to stop and reflect on where I am in the Bigger Story. Journaling helps me to discern the difference between the forest and the trees” (“The 7 Benefits of Keeping a Daily Journal”).
God Hears You
If you’re going to journal, I recommend including some room for prayer. I like to keep a list of friends and family. Long term prayers, and short term prayers. Spend some time developing these categories and add and subtract them as you journal. As you continue pressing forward in prayer, it will be helpful beyond words to see just how many times God has answered your prayers. Tim Challies shares some helpful tips to organize your prayer journal.
Keeping You Healthy
Most practically, journaling has some serious health benefits. As I was struggling with depression, I was reading and researching on natural, everyday ways to combat it. I found four things extremely helpful in that research: exercise, routine, writing, and service to others. I performed a quick google search for benefits of journaling as I was preparing to write this article and several articles (here, here, and here) mention the health benefits of journaling. Here are few regularly mentioned:
- Journaling relieves stress.
Journaling is cathartic. Have you ever had a long day at the office and just needed to vent, but didn’t have the right person to vent to? Journal it. Have you ever felt alone? Journal it and tie this back into what you know about God. Sometimes simply writing what’s stressing you out helps relieve the stress. LifeHacker says,
“In fact, there’s so much data about the mental and emotional benefits of journaling that counselors, social workers, and therapists often encourage their patients to do it. This study from the journal Advances in Psychiatric Treatment is a great experiment, and a solid summary of current research on the topic. In the piece, the researchers noted that 15–20 minutes on 3–5 occasions was enough to help the study participants deal with traumatic, stressful, or otherwise emotional events. It’s been specifically effective in people with severe illnesses, like cancer, for example. In fact, the practice is so well regarded, there’s a Center for Journal Therapy dedicated to the mental health benefits of regular journaling, both in therapeutic and personal settings” (“Why You Should Keep a Journal (and How to Start Yours)”).
- Journaling helps you think through things.
We all struggle with making large decisions from time to time—whether that’s a new job, or purchasing a home, or what school to send our kids. Journaling these issues and the options will help you make better decisions.
Or if you are the creative type, write down thoughts on that new project you’re mulling over. It will ensure you don’t lose the idea. I can’t tell you how many times I was struggling developing an idea and flipping through my journal has provide a spark. PsychCentral describes,
“Typically we problem solve from a left-brained, analytical perspective. But sometimes the answer can only be found by engaging right-brained creativity and intuition. Writing unlocks these other capabilities, and affords the opportunity for unexpected solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems” (“The Health Benefits of Journaling”).
Leaving a Legacy
Last, journaling will allow you to leave a legacy. If you have children, you can share your journal with them later. Make it a point to be open about your sinfulness and about the grace of God which transforms sinners. Reading your struggles may help them down the road as they have similar struggles and life experiences. For this to have the most impact, it’s crucial you are open with them now. Share your failures. Repent when necessary. Give them grace right now.
As part of this, I recommend purchasing journaling Bibles. I prefer the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible—which leaves room to write. Use these Bible’s as you read through Scripture and make notes from the passages, write for your kids, share short prayers, and just do life on these pages. It’s something your kids will cherish and pass down to their children.