The Power of a Personal Journal, Part Two
Nineteenth century Irish author Oscar Wilde wrote, “Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.” Indeed, memories can be a wonderful or painful reality within us. Last week we saw that God wants us to remember His word, His ways, and His works. The problem with memory alone is that we can easily forget things and lose our grasp of the details of specific events and lessons over time.
We explained that a spiritual journal allows us to keep an insightful and precise record of our life journey. It’s been said that nothing is dynamic until it is specific. The spiritual discipline of journaling allows us to be specific in our reflections and lessons in our journey with Christ so that they become dynamic in their application to our spiritual development.
Why Keep a Journal?
Last week we looked at four reasons to keep a spiritual journal: Application, Expression, Evaluation, and Recollection. Now, let’s examine three additional benefits of a spiritual journal.
A journal sparks powerful motivation to trust the faithfulness of God and live with positive hope. Tracing the hand of God in your life from previous days motivates new gratitude, love, and surrender in the present moment. Many times my heart has been moved to spiritual excellence by reviewing the ways of the Lord in my life as I re-read my journal entries. Psalm 143:5 & 6 notes, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land.” Remembering, meditating, and musing are linked to spiritual motivation.
Journaling encourages your growth in godliness as you use this tool to devote your heart to Christ. To be “sanctified” is the idea of being “set apart” to God in our love and devotion. The discipline of keeping a spiritual journal sparks a deeper, more thoughtful faith and love, leading us to Christlikeness. First Timothy 4:7-8 says, “Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
When a journal is kept and passed on to one’s children or grandchildren it is a valuable element in preserving a spiritual heritage. Psalm 78:6-7 speaks of passing on the truth of God’s work, “that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.” Psalm 145:4 states, “One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.”
The Lord enabled me to keep a journal for each of my three children from the day they each were born to their high school graduation. Several times a year I would write about key events in their lives, God’s work within our family, and lessons we were all learning along the way. I pray these journals will provide spiritual encouragement to them for years to come.
In addition, I will someday pass on my own personal journal. While much of it is very detailed and raw, I pray that in the years to come it might bless them in their own journey with Christ through the ups and downs of life.
How to Journal – Three Key Elements
Download – This is my first step in the process of a journal entry. I “download” by writing openly about a variety of initial issues such as:
- Chronological or event markers – I note brief details of what is happening in life at the time.
- Initial praises or items of thanksgiving – I write out the overflow of my heart toward God for the current moment.
- Raw feelings – I log any strong emotions I might be experiencing about the present circumstances.
- Concerns or problems – I give basic details about any immediate difficulties or burdens.
- Relationship issues – I record my thoughts about relationships with family, friends, or acquaintances that are on my heart.
Upload – This is the core of my journaling. I upload biblical truth or other wisdom from my reading. This includes:
- Bible reading/insights – I incorporate verses from my devotional reading in order to respond to these later in prayer and application.
- Other reading – If key quotes or ideas from other reading have impressed me, I try to record these in my journal as well.
- Wise counsel or advice – If the Lord has used the input of a wise friend or mentor, I also try to make a record of this.
For me, these are entered via my laptop using a journaling program.* I will cut and paste Bible verses from my Bible program and type in other quotes or wisdom.
Reload – The final element of journaling involves response and preparation. As I “reload” for the coming day I incorporate the following:
- Biblical application – I try to type (or write) my personal response to all the insights from the “upload” phase, expressing prayers of praise or personal supplication.
- Personal commitments/aspirations – I also write out my prayers of fresh commitment, noting the desires that have been sparked in my heart in response to the truth.
- Personal prayers – I express other prayers about my spiritual journey; the coming events of the day, relationships, challenges, and impending decisions are also included.
- Prayer requests – Finally, I take time to intercede for family members, friends, ministry issues, and other pressing concerns. Most often I actually turn to my 29:59 Plan** for these requests after concluding my journaling on the other issues.
A Good Time to Start
Even if you have not kept a consistent journal in the past it is never too late to start. Every journey begins with the first step. I would encourage you to start today. Don’t be too rigid but simply journal as you are able. Find a format that works for you, whether it is in a specially bound journal or a simple notebook. If you would rather type, you can use any word processing program or order a computer program designed just for journaling.
In any case, I challenge you to begin the journey this week. You will experience many positive benefits, as noted in these two devotionals. I pray your life will be blessed as you treasure the Lord’s work in your life for His glory.
* I use LifeJournal2 for Christians, although there are other good options available.
** Available at http://www.pray2959.com/.
Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.