Journaling can be very helpful to a believer’s walk with God. I have kept a journal for many years and have been blessed in many ways through this discipline. I mentioned in the last post a few of the practical advantages of keeping a journal. For instance, the discipline can help one remember and clarify thoughts, feelings, and ideas. It can also help a person see patterns of behavior, some of which you may not be aware.
In particular, I have found that the journal helps me see themes that may be present in my life. Think about it. Are there recurring themes of anger, rationalization, and negative, destructive thought patterns? The purpose of discovering such a pattern is not simply self-exploration but the intersection of our lives with God’s redemptive work in our world. Perhaps there are entries which reflect that you are offended and angry quite regularly. As you read through the entries, ask yourself how a total stranger might perceive you upon reading the same entries. Would you be perceived as a negative, critical person? Why? Is the language used violent and caustic? Asking such questions can help you discover your tendencies and disposition. For instance, on Tuesday, August 2, 1988, while on a plane flying back from preaching in Grenada (I had been there with a group from our church), I wrote:
Some months later (October 23, 1988), I addressed again the issue of pride:
As the weekend approaches, I find myself becoming anxious…yet, I do not want to panic and throw the whole week into a tailspin as I am so prone to do. Create in me a clean and pure heart. Help me to be a faithful father, husband, and child of yours…keep me from trying to impress people with my importance or busyness. Help me to build and nurture those around me. May I always stay near to you my Father and my Lord Jesus.
Third, journaling gives the opportunity to reflect upon the day and week in light of our faith. Unfortunately, too many days and weeks are lived without reflection and thought. Consequently, there may not be a real awareness of how faith is or is not being integrated into daily life. So often weeks and months pass and there is not serious contemplation as to where we are in our spiritual journey. Keeping a journal allows a built-in time to review and examine the days and weeks in light of one’s faith in Jesus.
Fourth, keeping a journal may give important insight about the state of one’s spiritual journey. Reading journal entries from several years back can give insight into the past, the present, and the future. Thirty-four years ago (December 24, 1973) at age nineteen, during an agonizing "dark night of the soul," I wrote four pages of reflections on my early years. To this day these four pages remain significant to my self-awareness. Perhaps it is much like taking a trip on an unfamiliar highway in the middle of the night and then retracing the journey during the day. One can see the previously traveled route and become aware of what could not be seen before.
In the next post or two, I will make some practical suggestions for keeping a journal.
Pride keeps me from receiving the ministry of others. Pride often keeps me from listening to others. Pride keeps me from loving people. Pride keeps me from being human and it keeps me from being honest. Finally, pride keeps me from flowing to people.