Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline (Part 3)

Cup_of_Coffee.GIF(You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.)

 
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:

Dear Father,

 
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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline (Part 3)

  1. This post was very beneficial to me.  I was re-reading some of my journal entries and found a common thread.  Why? Why? Why?  Why did I say that?  Why did I do that?  Why did that happen to me?  Why are my children acting this way?  Why does God want me to be here, or there?  That helps me because I see I didn’t ever stop to listen and try to "hear" God’s answer.  And why do I always have to know why anyway?  I never thought about it but it sure helps to find this thread.  Gail

  2. I think one of my biggest fears is that I’ll go an entire day without thinking of where I am in relation to God and what He has done and is doing for me. I have a minimal relationship with my father and it is usual to go months without seeing him. That being so, it isn’t hard for me to go days or even weeks without thinking about him, as terrible as that is. I know how easy it becomes to fall into the whole out of sight out of mind thing. I say this just to reinforce the power of journaling daily. Sometimes when i sit down to write in my journal I find that I don’t really have anything to say, and those are usually the times that I look back over the last couple of days and find that I really need to deal with something.

  3. Jim, I also have gone back and read through my journals.  I find themes of pride, relying on others’ opinions of me to ground my identity, and other strong themes that have gone around the mountain so I am looking at the same view from a different vantage point.  At least there is some distinction between the phases, but it is a good opportunity for me to find my thorns.  And I thought it was interesting that you also have pieces of those reflections that are stronger with you than others.  I have a 3 page typed journal entry that I have gone back to when I am in doubt and disillusionment.  It reminds me that I have been there and back before, but that it is okay to ask those hard questions.  I think journaling is a really practical way of living out God’s call for us to "remember."

  4. Gail,I’m glad this was helpful to you.  I think it is interesting and helpful to see these patterns or common themes.  Sometimes, we may see what our children or spouses have seen all along. 

  5. Rusty,Good observation.  Journaling can certainly help to keep a person focused on the need to be attentive to God.You mentioned that at times you had nothing to write and later realized the need to deal with something.  At times, I have nothing to write and it bothers me.  I realize that I may be taking myself too seriously.  At times I need to just enjoy the day and that it is OK to be alive before God even when my brain seems to be stuck in neutral. 🙂  

  6. This is definitely off-topic. But I wanted to take a moment to say I hope you are having a great Fourth of July with family and friends!May God’s richest blessings be yours,-bill