About three years ago, I was given a Moleskine journal for Christmas. Since then, I have journaled semi-regularly and filled up not only that journal, but three more after that. I am currently on my fifth Moleskine (I’ve found that if I journal consistently, I go through about two journals a year; however, I don’t always journal every day).
My journal entries vary in size depending on the day. Some days they are only a paragraph, some days they are multiple pages. But my average entry is about a page. Usually, I start my entries by briefly recounting the previous day, highlighting anything of significance. Then I will muse a little bit about how I’m feeling and how I am doing spiritually. Short prayers are interspersed throughout and since I usually journal when I do my daily Bible reading, sometimes I offer a few thoughts about the passage I just read.
Yesterday, I was rummaging through some old storage boxes and I happened upon my stack of old journals. Naturally, I sat down and skimmed through a few of them. I was surprised by what I found, so today I want to share 4 brief reflections on the discipline of journaling and offer you 3 reasons to start journaling today!
1. God Answers Prayer
I’m sure you’ve heard someone tell you to start a prayer journal in order to keep track of the way God answers your prayers. While I don’t keep a journal specifically for prayer, the short prayers I offer up to God while journaling are easy ways to see evidence of God working in my life.
There were many things in my journal that I requested prayer for that were later answered. For example, a few months ago I asked for clarity and direction regarding seminary and now I am enrolled at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I asked for clarity and direction and God gave it!
2. I Worry Way Too Much
I was particularly guilty of this sin during my sophomore year of college, but little tidbits of anxiety and worry are sprinkled throughout almost all of my entries. This was a slightly discouraging realization from my skim-reading. I’ve always known I struggle with worry/anxiety, but seeing some of the things I have worried about in the past few years is sobering. Sometimes my faith is incredibly weak.
3. I Am Selfish
Most of my journal entries are extremely self-centered. While that is understandable since I am journaling, which is a personal discipline, I wish I spoke more about others in my entries – especially in my prayers.
4. God is Working on Me
This was by far the most encouraging thing that I garnered from my reading of old journals. When I first began journaling, my struggle with sin was more defeat than victory. My entries were packed with accounts of temptations, failures, and their guilty aftermaths.
However, the further I got in my reading (thus, the closer to the present I got), the more victories I began to see. I even sensed my writing tone change. My newer journals are much less melancholy and filled with a greater sense of God’s power. They are still filled with failure (as they will be until glory), but the Spirit’s work is much more pronounced.
This tells me that even if I don’t always feel like it, God is working within me and progressively changing me more into the image of Christ.
Now, from these four reflections I want to encourage you to begin the discipline of daily journaling. I think there are 3 main reasons to begin journaling today:
1. It Shows You that God Hears
As I mentioned above, actively writing down prayers and then going back later to read over them reveals all the ways God answers your requests. We as humans tend to forget how much God blesses us and responds to our needs. Something as simple as writing out your prayers can do wonders for your faith. Who knows, maybe skimming over your old journals and discovering an answered prayer will be a much-needed boost to your faith!
2. It Shows You Your Sinfulness
If you practice consistent journaling, you will inevitably vent within its pages. But that’s okay – that’s part of the point of journaling, it gives you an outlet for how you are feeling and a mode to express prayer to God for what is troubling you. But no doubt, when the situation has resolved itself and you have time to look over your emotion-fueled writing, you will be able to see the situation with a clear head and notice where you may have been wrong.
Besides that, your own writing might reveal to you later in life just how self-absorbed you tend to be, how short your temper is, or just how much control the sin of lust has had over your life. Some sins take time for us to see in ourselves and journaling can be a means of revealing that sin. It definitely was for me.
3. It Shows You that God is Active in Your Life
I think this is the biggest one. As humans, we are objectively awful at seeing the big picture. Our own nature and the speed of the world around us tend to give us tunnel vision that is focused on the here and now. And sometimes, it's really hard to see God in that. I wrote some time ago about how God is constantly working within us to accomplish His will. However, between the loads of homework, or responsibilities piling up at our jobs, or the three different kids with three different schedules, we can't always see the ways God is working in all of it.
I know for me personally, sometimes I think I was put on the slow escalator of sanctification. I look on either side of me and it seems as if other Christians are zooming past me on their way to Christlikeness while I'm left in their holy dust.
But as I pondered the entries in my old journals, I saw just how much God has changed me in the past few years. I see vast improvements in my habits, struggles with sin, and relationships – things I have recently been down about. Reading my old journals helped me see the bigger picture and gave me much-needed perspective and encouragement.
That same perspective and encouragement can be yours if you make a habit out of daily journaling. Be on the lookout in the next few weeks for a few tips I have for starting out!
Have you ever journaled before? Do you do it daily? Weekly? How has yournaling impacted you personally? Let me know in the comments below, or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter! And don’t forget to hit that subscribe button. You’ll get these posts delivered right to your inbox (most of the time)!