Have you ever been curious about starting a journal? And if you have, have you wondered exactly what a journal is and what purpose it can serve in your busy life? A journal has been described as a record of one’s thoughts, beliefs, desires, experiences, and observations, and what they mean to that individual. In and of itself, writing those things down can be both therapeutic and enlightening. If that isn’t quite the encouragement you need, what if I told you that journaling could also be a way to experience God?
I know that got your attention. If you are a Christian, you have a built-in longing for that, whether you know it or not. Sometimes, when we don’t recognize that longing, we tend to misdirect it to activities that have no lasting, life-changing value. Over the years, I have learned that dedicating time to God with journaling not only grows my intimacy with Him, but I also find that things begin to work according to His sovereign pattern. That time has now become what I call my “sacred space,” where I am as much in God’s presence as any other time spent in worship.
If that sounds good to you, here are four areas where journaling can become your sacred space.
I once led a Bible study entitled “The Battle Plan for Prayer,” inspired by the film War Room and presented by its creators, Alex and Stephen Kendrick. In one video session, a speaker presented a figurine of a man kneeling beside a chair, hands folded, head down—the customary posture of prayer that we know. The speaker explained that this posture is a more recent invention, that in Bible times, prayer was often conducted standing, face lifted toward heaven, open hands raised.
Quite a paradigm shift, isn’t it? That is my point. Sometimes we need to reevaluate what we think prayer should look like. God instructs us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), but He isn’t especially particular about the method. Consider the Psalms. Many are prayers, written down. God gives us one qualification for effective prayer. Proverbs 15:29 says the Lord “hears the prayer of the righteous.” Being clothed in Jesus’ righteousness is all we need for our prayers to reach heaven. God doesn’t mind if they are spoken, thought, or written down. My journal is filled with many prayers of varying topics and lengths, for others and for myself. When God answers them, I record that in my journal to remind me of all He has done.
Most everyone has likely heard of a “gratitude” journal. A gratitude journal is simply making a daily list or written evaluation of things for which you are grateful. Did you know that this idea is Biblically based? 1 Thess. 5:18 says that “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” But why, you might ask, does the Creator of everything need our thanks? He doesn’t. God doesn’t need anything. He asks us to give thanks for our benefit, not His. Acknowledging His provision in the present gives us confidence in that same provision for the future.
Gratitude can instantly change our perspective. Writing it down gives it power. There is nothing I believe about words more than the power of them. The Bible says that the tongue, our words, contain the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). That’s a pretty bold assertion. I marvel that with three words, “Let there be,” God created everything, and with another three words, “It is finished,” Jesus conquered death. When we give voice to our gratitude, in whatever form that takes, we are shifting our focus from ourselves to Him, and when that happens, God shows up. One thing to remember is that journaling is writing freely, without concern for any of the disciplines of writing. Simply start with, “I am grateful for” and list several things for which you are grateful and why. Even if you don’t particularly feel thankful in the moment, once you begin writing, you will. You will also have the added benefit of feeling God’s pleasure in you.
The Bible is literally “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). When you study it, things happen. Journaling can be a productive way to study the Bible. In my own recently begun study of the Gospels, I approach each chapter with the question, “What does this tell me about Jesus’ personality?” and then I journal about any observations extracted from the text. Some other questions I’ve addressed this way include, “how does this scripture apply to my life?” and “how might I apply this over the next week?” You get the idea. When I sometimes look back over my entries weeks or months later, I am pleasantly surprised to discover my own spiritual progress.
In a journal you can also document important truths or new revelations that you hear in teachings, sermons, videos, books, songs, etc., and why they stood out at the time. Often, I use my cell phone to capture whatever it is so I can journal about it later. Depending on the circumstances, I’ve texted myself, made a recording, or taken pictures of, say, a slide show. Sometimes the busyness of life or just the passing of a few days can give us amnesia when it comes to those jewels. Journaling preserves them. On several occasions, I have even been able to refer back and use them to help someone else.
On many occasions, I have poured out my pain before God in writing. I guess you could say I’m in good company because King David did that too. So can you. Important to remember when you journal through pain and loss is to be completely honest and transparent with God, holding nothing back. Give Him your anger, bitterness, fear, unbelief, whatever it is. Don’t be afraid of how you think He might react. He knows everything you are feeling already—even more than you do—so if He hasn’t struck you with lightning by now, it’s because He never intends to hurt you! He wants you to trust Him with your deepest and ugliest so He can heal those areas. God works in the light, not in the darkness.
Journaling in conjunction with scriptures that affirm who you are in Christ also provides healing. If it’s difficult to think of many affirming scriptures off hand, do a simple Google search of “who am I in Christ?” and it will yield plenty to work with. Write out a few in your journal like the examples below, and then expand on what you believe it means to you, whether it’s a few sentences or a full page. If you need help with additional insights into the text, an Amplified Bible, Life Application Bible, Study Bible, or a Bible commentary can provide that.
How to Start Now
I am … a joint heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17).
Sample journal entry:
Everything Jesus has also belongs to me. When God looks at me, He sees the righteousness of His beloved son, Jesus, and therefore I am entitled, because of what Jesus has done, to the same inheritance. The very same! How much He must love me to do that.
Here are few for you to try:
I am … the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13).
I am … given strength for weakness (2 Cor. 12:10).
I am … chosen of God, holy and dearly loved (Col. 3:12; 1 Thess. 1:4)
The wonderful thing about journaling as a whole is that it can be anything you want. You can make it your own. That fact doesn’t change when you use journaling as a way to experience God. He will honor the time you spend with Him whatever that is.
I’ll end with a story of myself at the age of about 10, staying for a week with my Grandmother who lived in the city. One afternoon she called me in for lunch, and I sat down to a tuna fish sandwich. I had never eaten a tuna fish sandwich before, but I was certain I did not like it, and I told her so. Now, if you can picture a plump Italian grandmother in a house dress with arms crossed, you can imagine what happens when food is on the table. I ate the sandwich. And I’ve loved tuna fish ever since.
The point is, of course, that journaling is food for your soul, but you need to “taste and see” (Psalm 34:8) to experience it. In time, I promise you, journaling will speak for itself.
Have you started listening to our podcast yet? Here’s a quick episode to get you started, and be encouraged: What is a Grit and Grace Life? – 001
You’ll also like How to Pray: for Beginners, How to Read Your Bible: For Beginners. Not Sure How to Answer the Question: “What’s Your Why?”, If You’re in a Hard Season, It’s Time to Speak Life, Why We Can Look at the Dark Parts of Life With Hope, and Have You Ever Said It? “I’m Not Good Enough.”