If you’ve ever put on a pair of jeans that you haven’t worn for months, you may have been surprised by a difference in the way they fit—or maybe they didn’t fit at all! Gradual changes can escape your notice, which is why it’s important to track your spiritual journey. Sure, there are life-changing moments that produce immediate transformation, but more often change occurs gradually over time.
Journaling is an important discipline that can help you set spiritual goals for yourself and record the progress you’ve made toward those goals. It charts your course with God.
Eight Reasons Why You Should Journal
A journal helps you remember God’s works.
Recalling God’s past faithfulness is a powerful motivator. In the Old Testament, God’s people would erect standing stones to commemorate places where the Lord moved visibly in their lives (Genesis 28:18-21; 35:14-15; Exodus 24:2-4). The apostle Peter alluded to this practice when he called Jesus Christ a “living stone” and instructed believers to offer their lives as “living stones,” or monuments, to His goodness (1 Peter 2:4-5).
Journaling can be a dynamic way to inventory the progress you’ve made on your spiritual journey and to remind yourself of God’s faithfulness. By recording spiritual victories as they come, you can set standing stones of triumph around your heart, preparing yourself for the next storm.
A journal helps you grow in honesty.
They say the truth hurts, and often they’re right. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Think of your journal as a faithful friend. It might not always tell you what you want to hear, but its honesty unlocks the door to spiritual growth. Through the Psalms, we witness some of the most difficult moments of David’s life, written from his own point of view, and many of them read just like journal entries. He cries out to the Lord with words like, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1-2) Now that’s blunt! But David’s raw honesty is what opened the door for God to work in his heart. A journal helps you to face where you are, so you can get to where you need to be.
A journal helps you increase your awareness.
After an ordeal with cancer many years ago, my perception of life transformed from grainy black and white to high-resolution Technicolor. I began to see and notice things that I had never before stopped to notice. Everyday experiences were no longer lost in the shuffle of schedules and appointments. I began to observe a pattern in what God was doing in my life.
And when did my more acute observations begin? When I started to write down what was happening to me and when I took the time to reflect on them afterward. I think this is what Arthur Gordon had in mind when he wrote the following words in A Touch of Wonder:
A journal helps you track your progress.
Your spiritual journal is a place to record each date and time that you interact with the Lord. Without such reflections, you will not experience the motivating power of incremental success. Simply maintaining the daily discipline of journaling is an achievement worth recognizing!
A journal helps you regain momentum where you lost it.
If you don’t have a tool for self-examination, the devil will use your down times to destroy you. He will use your difficult days to put you in a spiritual funk. You need a place to go back and say, “Here we go again, Lord. Let’s start this again.” Through journaling, you become more aware of the kind of things that tend to bog you down.
A journal helps you reject bad habits.
Your journal will help you record your successes and failures, teaching you how to deal with the issues—to see them and face them, then reject them. It is a progress report of how you are doing in areas where you have been struggling. When you reread your journals, you may find that certain circumstances make you vulnerable to neglecting your time with the Lord. When you recognize what these situations are, you can prepare strategies to overcome them.
A journal helps you reinforce good habits.
Reflecting on the positive will underscore good habits and drive them deeper into your subconscious mind, so they will become more and more a part of who you are in Christ. In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp encourages us to become more aware of God’s everyday blessings through journaling, and she shares some of the commonplace blessings for which she is thankful:
- Morning shadows across the old floors
- Jam piled high on the toast
- Cry of blue jay from high in the spruce2
There is beauty and blessing all around us. Having eyes to see God’s grace at work in our world and our soul calls for intentional awareness.
The hardest part about creating good habits, like thankfulness, is mustering the discipline to continue. But once a pattern is developed, it becomes second nature.
A journal helps you reach your spiritual goals.
Memorable family vacations do not just happen, and neither does spiritual growth. Both require preparation and goal setting. Some of us would be embarrassed to account for the amount of time we spend on recreation compared to the time we give back to God. The Lord expects us to exercise personal discipline and take our relationship with Him seriously. (1 Timothy 4:8)
Your journal can also include an account of daily events,
a diary of personal relationships,
a notebook of insights into Scripture,
and a list of prayer requests.
Five Tips for Journaling
Purchase a journal. It can be an ornate diary from a bookstore or a simple spiral notebook from the drugstore. Your journal can take the form of your computer or smartphone as well.
Begin by putting the date and time at the top of the page. Remember, this is a record of your time with God.
Read a portion of Scripture and enter the reference at the top of the page under the date and time.
After your reading, ask God to give you something that you will want to write down. Spend time reflecting on God’s words and your own thoughts. Ask God to cause His Truth to intersect with your life in such a way that you are aware of what He is trying to teach you.
At the end of a month or six months or a year, go back and harvest your journal. Review what you have written and reap the blessings of your honesty and growth.
What else should I write about?
Journaling is deeply personal. There are many ways to do it, but you might consider focusing on these areas.
Write about your experiences.
You can write about the people you meet, the things you accomplish, the problems you encounter, your impressions about the way your life is going. Putting events into words is often the first step to uncovering attitudes and ideas that should be taken to the Lord in prayer.
Write out your prayers.
This enables you to be precise in your conversation with the Lord. If you struggle to stay on track when you pray, this could be a valuable tool for you.
Write down quotes from books you are reading.
These should be quotes that have particularly inspired you or challenged you. Include the page number in your entry and how the quote affected you. When you harvest your journal, you may be surprised to find that the quote speaks to your heart differently than before.
Write about your doubts, fears, and victories.
When you record your fears and anxious moments, later you can see how great a God you have, a Warrior who can conquer your fears and slay your anxieties.
In one form or another, well-written entries document the signposts along the path of your spiritual journey. The key is to get started. It may feel awkward at first, but over time you will establish a routine and a style for your entries. One of the best things about journaling is that you always know where you’re at, and your spiritual jeans will fit every time!
Some material in this article was taken from Prayer—The Great Adventure by David Jeremiah.
1Arthur Gordon, A Touch of Wonder (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1974), 165, quoted by Ronald Klug, How to Keep a Spiritual Journal (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press, 1993), 23.
2Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 45.
3Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 195.
4Luci Shaw, Life Path—Personal and Spiritual Growth Through Journal Writing (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1991), 34.
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It’s time to unpack all that God has given you! Everything You Need, Dr. Jeremiah explores 2 Peter 1:3-11 to highlight eight critical tools God provides to each of His people: diligence, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. When we use the equipment God provides, we can live confidently in His promise that we will never stumble.