I can hardly remember a morning growing up where I did not witness something. Every morning without fail, I saw my mom reading her Bible and drinking some coffee. Every morning. But, not only was she drinking her coffee, she was writing in a spiral-bound notebook. I only once looked in one of these notebooks. They contained innermost thoughts, expressions to the Lord about what was on her heart, something that was clearly meant for her and God. My curiosity ceased, I didn’t need to know everything that was written, but I knew the heart behind it. Journaling is an ongoing discipline in my mother’s life, and it left a powerful impact even as a child.
What Is Journaling?
Journaling is recording your thoughts on paper or electronically. When I talk about it as a discipline, I mean writing about the work and wonder of God. I mean reflecting on daily events, relationships, things we are learning from the Bible, prayer requests, all to grow in holiness. It doesn’t need to be perfectly edited or accurate on every little point of theology; at times, it can look more like word vomit on a page.
Help for Reflecting
Journaling forces us to slow down. This is especially true when we write with a pen or pencil. We have to be intentional in forming each letter. It is a practice that can be helpful, especially for those who are worn out. If you are feeling frantic, anxious, and tense, journaling can be a great discipline to slow down. It also aids in other practices. As we write about Scripture, we help our Bible memory. Journaling can also be helpful for us to slow down, think, and meditate on the truths of Scripture. Joe Thorn in his book, Note to Self, writes reflecting on Psalm 100
Why the call for joy? Why can all of creation sing and serve its Creator with gladness? Because he really is God. “Know that the Lord, he is God!” At times you have found yourself wondering, “Is this real? God, the Bible, Jesus, Satan, sin, and salvation—is it all real?” You don’t admit that to those around you, but there are times when you question it all. And in his grace God confirms by his Word and Spirit that it is true. He is God! And the reality of your theology gives you joy.
What you believe is not a religious game, or a manmade crutch upon which you lean for a little assistance. Rather it is the divinely revealed truth that makes you who you are and gives you cause to rejoice. You can rejoice not only because he is God, but because we are his people, and as such he protects us and provides for us in all ways necessary for us to know him more fully, enjoy him more deeply, and make him known more widely.
And you can rejoice because his love remains over you now and always. It never dries up, runs low, or fades out. His love endures forever. Because of all this, and so much more, you can know the joy the psalmists describe in their songs. You just need to return to these truths. You need reminding.
On God’s Work
Journaling is also helpful for us to reflect on God’s work both in our lives and in this world. It helps us to remember His faithfulness with personal examples. These examples can be both good things that have happened and how difficult situations have been used by God to shape us. In 2 Corinthians 11:22-33, Paul lists the many difficulties that he has experienced in his life and uses that to rejoice in his weakness and God’s strength.
Help for Understanding
John Calvin begins his colossal work, The Institutes on the Christian Religion, by quoting Augustine “learning I write and writing I learn.” There is something about writing that causes us to slow down. It also causes us to think about our thoughts. Our thoughts might seem to make sense in our heads, but once we get them down on paper, we are forced to have them make sense. It is during this working out process that we can learn as well. You know this to be true if you ever have taught someone before. It is not enough to know it yourself, you need to be able to communicate it to others. We don’t always have an opportunity to teach others, and some things are so intensely personal that it is just hard. When we journal, we create opportunities to make our thoughts clear.
Help for Prayer
Journaling is a way for us to bring our prayers from our heads to our pen. We think about what we are writing, what we believe about God, and what we are wrestling through in a given moment. It allows us to spill out our hearts before the Lord. For some of you, writing your prayers will be much easier than silent prayer. Sometimes you can get more distracted in your thoughts than if you write them down. It will also help to be able to look at what you have prayed for and how God has answered prayers. The book of Psalms is a prayer book to the Lord. As Psalm 62:8 says, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”
Help for Creating A Heritage
If you are a parent, there may be things that you have gone through, and you are quick to watch out for your kids so that they don’t make the same mistakes. Sometimes, though, we can forget what it was like to go through what they are going through.
If we are regularly journaling our thoughts and reflections, it will help us to come alongside others. If you are a student, you can write things now to remember when you have kids your age. If you are an adult, you can write things now to relate better to others in the future. You can better enter into the struggles and pain of others. In this way you are modeling after the Psalmist who says “Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD”
Help for Monitoring Goals and Commitments
Journaling can also help you as you apply some of the Disciplines we are talking about to your life. You can write down commitments or make a schedule of what disciplines you are doing or want to incorporate. It can also be an indicator of what God is doing through other disciplines.
What About You?
This is a terrific time to start journaling. Write down what God is teaching you. What are the struggles in your life? God may use it to reorient your heart and to come alongside others lovingly.
For this post, I was influenced by David Mathis’ book Habits of Grace. I highly recommend it.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 102:18.