Tool #6 – Journal
Although the Bible doesn’t command us to journal, several of its writers modeled this practice. Many of the Psalms represent David’s journaling as he wrestled with deep spiritual issues. Job struggles with the question of evil in his journal, the book that bears his name. Jeremiah’s journal, Lamentations, records his agony over Jerusalem’s fall. And Solomon pens his search for happiness in his journal Ecclesiastes.
Journaling’s simplicity and profound potential to create spiritual change eludes many Christians. If journaling is new to you, or if you’ve tried it and become discouraged, consider these practical benefits.
- Journaling softens our hearts.
Every farmer knows he must till the soil to soften it before he plants the seed. In the same manner we often need our hearts softened. Hosea said, “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts . . . “ (Hosea 10:12, NLT). When softened, our hearts respond more readily to the Spirit’s promptings.
- Journaling sifts truth from error.
As a child I remember helping Granny B bake biscuits. She let me sift flour through her aluminum can-like sifter. When I rotated the handle the sifter removed the lumps from the flour. Just as lumps were interspersed in the flour, sometimes we unintentionally mix “lumps” of lies in our self-talk such as, “I’m a rotten person,” “God is mad at me,” or “I’m worthless.” When we journal and put these thoughts on paper, it’s easier to sort out truth from error. Then we can counter them with God’s truth and experience a more biblical outlook on life.
- Journaling slows our pace.
My first driving experience at age nine on the Model-T ride at Palisades Park disappointed me. Expecting to burn rubber when I floored the gas pedal, I barely reached 5 mph. My dad later explained that a device called a governor kept the engine from running at full capacity. Many Christians run their lives at full capacity with life’s “gas pedal” pushed to the max. Journaling acts like a governor to slow our frenzied pace and force us to listen to the Spirit’s voice.
- Journaling builds faith.
Few of us will remember what God taught us last week, much less last year unless we write it down. Journaling builds our faith when we record God’s faithful acts. Then we can refer back to that record to remind us of his continued faithfulness. Psalms 77:11 says, “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” (NIV)
- Journaling releases pain.
I still remember the staccato hiss from my mother’s pressure cooker when she cooked fresh black beans. After she locked the main top into place she placed a small metal cap over the pressure release valve. This allowed the pressure to slowly release. Similar emotional pressure can build up inside us to the point that we want to explode at others. Journaling provides a spiritual pressure release valve for our pain that can prevent that explosion. David encouraged this when he wrote “. . . pour out your hearts to him . . .” (Psalm 62:8, NIV).
Journaling offers many spiritual benefits. If you want to try it, consider these six practical guidelines.
- Get a notebook.
- Set a consistent time in a quiet place.
- Make a commitment to stick with it.
- Date each entry.
- Write from feeling, not from fact. Don’t just record what happened in your life. Write down how your experiences affected your heart and emotions.
- Periodically review your entries to discover spiritual trends in your life.