Ever since becoming a Christian, I have loved to write. I certainly do not think that writing is a fruit of the Spirit or something that is bestowed at salvation, but I do believe that writing is an excellent spiritual discipline to nurture and one that has great benefits. One way to develop this discipline is by journaling.
What is Journaling?
Very simply, journaling is the discipline where you record your thoughts, your day’s events, prayers, your Scripture readings, meditations, etc. These things are entered into a notebook, ordered by date and preserved. Your journal can be a simple spiral notebook, or a nice, leather-bound journal from, say, Borders or Barnes and Noble. The most important thing is that it is a journal that works for you.
Is Journaling in the Bible?
God does not command journaling. There is no instruction in the Bible saying, “Thou shall journal each day for twenty minutes.” But the Bible itself does contain journals–specifically, in the book of Psalms. The Psalms, especially David’s Psalms (over 70 were authored by David) are basically inspired journal entries. David wrote down his prayers, his questions, and his interactions with God. He recorded and preserved his observations on life and his thoughts on God’s character. These prayers and thoughts were later collected and placed in the canon of Scripture. They were, however, originally the thoughts and prayers of a man who desired God above all else and who was compelled to record his thoughts and meditations.
Also, journaling helps us fulfill explicit commandments in the Bible. The Scriptures instruct us to remember God’s works (Deuteronomy 32:7; Psalm 105:5). As we record God’s working in our lives, we can look back and be reminded of God’s grace and mercy and be encouraged by remembering the concrete ways in which God has been faithful to us.
The Bible also instructs us to think over, consider, and meditate on spiritual things (see, for example, Psalm 1, Colossians 3:2 and II Timothy 2:7) . Journaling enables us to sustain thought over theological issues, verses in the Bible, and personal questions. Did you know that very few people in the world can sustain a single thought for longer than a minute? With a pen and a journal, you can sustain a single thought for 15 minutes to an hour! Imagine the clarity of thought you can cultivate as you write in your journal. Imagine the depths you can go into the Scripture as you meditate on verses by writing in your journal! (Then, after you have refined your thoughts in the forge of your journal, you can present these thoughts on a blog or church newsletter for the benefit of others!)
Journaling can also aid you in your own pursuit of holiness by helping you understand yourself better: your weaknesses, the ways you are tempted, and how you find victory. With a journal you can bring Scripture to bear on issues in your life and apply them in solid, clear ways. A journal is a wonderful aid in helping you to practically apply the Word to your life.
Journaling also helps you set and maintain your goals and priorities. You can write down your plans, your goals, and aspirations; and as you continually come back to your journal, you will be reminded of exactly what you are pursuing. You can record your progress and evaluate your priorities to make sure they square with God’s Word. Your life will be directed with more purpose and you will avoid wandering aimlessly through your days.
I will close with an encouraging word from Donald Whitney:
Journaling is profitable regardless of how well you think you write, compose, or spell. Whether or not you write every day, whether you write much or little, whether your soul soars like a psalmist’s or plods from thought to thought, journaling will help you grow in grace (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney, 219-220).