I recently made a case for the priority of journaling. You can read it here. As I stated in that post, journaling is the single most important thing that I do in my walk with God. I believe that God will use it in your life too. However, spiritual disciplines are almost always hard to get established. It’s easy to get excited, give something a try and then lose interest when your life doesn’t change overnight. The truth is that there is no spiritual microwave. Growth takes time and spiritual disciplines take time to get rooted into our lives. It takes a while before real fruit is born. So here is some help to get you off to a good start with journaling.
1. Get a journal that you can get excited about.
I love to go into book stores and browse the shelves full of beautiful leather journals. Get something that inspires you. Get something of quality. There are rugged leather journals that look centuries old and there are beautiful modern journals that reflect the latest style. Get something that captures your attention. It will help call you into your journal. The funny thing is that my journal is ugly. It doesn’t inspire me in the least, but there were not as many cool options twenty years ago when I got started journaling. Mine is practical. It holds my pens and has some pockets for me to stuff things in so I keep it. Do whatever works for you, but get something you like. It will help.
2. Whenever you open your bible, open your journal.
Journaling isn’t limited to writing down notes about bible study, but meeting with God usually revolves around his Word. When you open the Word, have your journal open too. God speaks through his Word and you want to be ready to capture what he says to you. The interesting thing is that you often don’t know what God is saying until your pen starts moving. As you begin to write down notes or a thought or a verse that stands out, you will find that more thoughts and ideas will start to pour out of your pen. Take your journal with you to write down sermon notes at church, bible study notes at small group and personal notes from your devotional times. Your record of what God is saying will all be in one spot which will provide one of the great benefits of journaling. More on that later.
3. Begin with the goal of one page.
Momentum makes all the difference. It is hard to push a car off a dead stop, but once it gets rolling it becomes fairly easy. The same is true with journaling. The first words can be a struggle, but once you get started, the words will begin to roll off your pen. Begin with the goal of one page. This forces you to get the car rolling which allows the thoughts and ideas to come more freely.
4. Don’t edit.
One of my favorite books is Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Walden was born from Thoreau’s journal of experiences and ideas during two years of living in a remote cabin in the woods of Massachusetts. However, his journal wasn’t the final product. The editing of those journal entries came much later and were transformed into the final product. Don’t feel the pressure to have your journal entries read like a literary classic or bible commentary. Don’t critique it. Journaling is for you. Obsessing over grammar or spelling or spiritual depth will stifle your train of thought and hinder your ability to hear what God is saying to you. If you want to use your entries for some public purpose, edit them later. Focus on hearing from God.
5. Find a quiet solitary place.
Journaling, like it’s companion disciplines of prayer and bible study, requires that you slow down, get alone and find a quiet place in which you can hear God speak. I’ll use my journal to scribble down thoughts and ideas that hit me anytime and anywhere, but you need peace if you are trying to meet with God. Plan ahead. When can you find that time? Where will it be quiet? What is a good place? It won’t just happen. You have to plan for it and then make it a habit.
The bottom line is start writing. Let the pen go. Read your bible. Write down key thoughts or ideas that come to mind. Write out verses that impact you. Write down what you are going to do about the Scripture you read. Write down questions. Write out prayers. Write about your dreams and aspirations. Write about your plans. Write about your reflections on your day or the day before if it is morning. What choices did you make? What did you do? How did that line up with your walk with God? Write about what is bothering you. Write about the things that you are excited about. Think about the life that you are living and write about it. Write about the life that you want to live. Let your journal become a record of processing the work of God in your life.
7. Review it.
This is where the gold is found. As you write, a record of God’s voice and work in your life is being put on paper. This gives you an incredible opportunity to do several things. It allows you to go back and remind yourself of things that God has said or taught you. It allows you to go back and check your progress on things that you committed yourself to. It also allows you to go back and see the big picture of what God is working out in your life over an extended period of time. The benefit of this record will bring revelation, joy, conviction, thanksgiving and a lot more. Every few months try to get some extra time to look back and review your journal. You will be amazed at what you see.
8. Keep going
The most common error by those attempting the spiritual discipline of journaling is that they give up too soon. I hated journaling the first time that I tried it. I gave up after about two entries. Thankfully, I tried again and I now have a precious twenty year record of God’s work in my life. It’s worth it. Keep going.
Any questions about journaling? Ask in the comment section and I will answer.