Maybe you’ve never thought of journaling as a spiritual discipline.
It’s seemed like something only for the most narcissistic of introverts, or cute for adolescent girls, but impractical for adults. What, me? Journal? I’m much too occupied with today and tomorrow to give any more time to yesterday. You might be right. Maybe your idea of journaling is too heavy on navel-gazing and too light on real-world value.
But what if there was another vision? What if journaling wasn’t simply about recording the past, but preparing for the future? And what if, because of God’s grace in our past and his promises for our future, journaling was about deepening your joy in the present?
Perhaps no single new practice would enrich your spiritual life as much as keeping a journal.
No Wrong Way
A good journal really is what you make it. It can be a document on your computer, or just a good old-fashioned notebook. It can be formal or very informal, have long entries or short ones, and be a daily stop or just where you pop in on occasion. It can be a place for recording God’s providences, peeling at the layers of your own heart, writing out prayers, meditating on Scripture, and dreaming about the future.
The goal is not to leave an impressive catalogue of your stunning accomplishments and brilliant insights for future generations to read and admire. Die to that before picking up your pen. The goal is the glory of Christ, not your own, in your ongoing progress in his likeness, for the expanding and enriching of your joy.
Even if many of the Psalms do read like divinely inspired journal entries, nowhere does Scripture command that we keep a journal. And as Don Whitney observes, “Jesus did not live and die for sinners to turn us into journal-keepers” (Spiritual Disciplines, 251). Unlike other spiritual disciplines, Jesus left us no model for journaling; he did not keep one.
Journaling is not essential to the Christian life. But it is a powerful opportunity, especially with the technologies we have available today. Many throughout church history and around the world have found journaling to be a regularmeans of God’s grace in their lives.
With the eyes of faith, the Christian life is a great adventure, and a journal can be greatly beneficial in ripening our joy along the journey. There is always more going on in us and around than we can appreciate at the time. Journaling is a way of slowing life down for just a few moments, and trying to process at least a sliver of it for the glory of God, our own growth and development, and our enjoyment of the details.
Journaling has the appeal of mingling the motions of our lives with the mind of God. Permeated with prayer, and saturated with God’s word, it can be a powerful way of hearing God’s voice in the Scriptures and making known to him our requests. Think of it as a subdiscipline of Bible intake and prayer. Let a spirit of prayer pervade, and let God’s word inspire, shape, and direct what you ponder and pen.
To Capture the Past
Good journaling is much more than simply capturing the past, but recording past events is one of the most common instincts in it. For the Christian, we acknowledge these as the providences of God. When some important event happens to us, or around us, or some “serendipity” breaks in with divine fingerprints, a journal is a place to capture it and make it available for future reference.
Writing it down provides an opportunity for gratitude and praise to God — not just in the moment, but also one day when we return to what we’ve recorded. Without capturing some brief record of this good providence or that answer to prayer, we quickly forget the blessing, or the frustration, and miss the chance to see with specificity later on how “‘tis grace hath brought me safe thus far.” A journal also becomes a place where we can look back not just on what happened, but how we were thinking and feeling about it at the time.
But good journaling isn’t just about yesterday, but also about growing into the future....Read it all at the link.