Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline

Introduction

Journaling has become an increasingly popular spiritual practice across many Christian traditions. For Evangelical and Charismatic Christians in particular, journaling can be a powerful way to grow deeper in our faith and strengthen our relationship with God. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the biblical and historical foundations for journaling as a spiritual discipline, outline key practices and tips for journaling, and highlight the many spiritual benefits that regular journaling can provide. Whether you are new to faith journaling or looking to revitalize your current practice, it is my hope that this post will inspire and equip you on your journey!

Key Takeaways:

  • Journaling helps us process thoughts, emotions, and spiritual insights.
  • Journaling grounds us in God’s truth and perspective found in Scripture.
  • Journaling aids in discernment and decision-making.
  • Journaling cultivates gratitude, praise, and intimacy with God.
  • Journaling promotes holistic self-care and wellbeing.
  • Journaling creates space for the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts.
  • Journaling chronicles our spiritual journey and God’s faithfulness.
Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline

The Biblical Foundation for Journaling

While the modern practice of journaling is not explicitly described in Scripture, there are numerous examples of God’s people recording and reflecting on His works in their lives. In the Old Testament, the Psalms are essentially the journal entries of King David and others, expressing the full range of human emotion and documenting God’s faithfulness through all seasons of life. Psalms 102:18 (NKJV) says, “This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD.” By journaling our spiritual insights and experiences, we create a record of God’s personal work in our lives that can encourage future generations.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul frequently wrote letters to churches not only to teach important theology, but also to share transparently about his ministry, encourages believers, and impart wisdom from the lessons he learned. Paul told the Corinthian church to follow his example as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), modeling a reflective practice that assessed his thoughts, emotions, and relationship with God and others. As we journal, we follow in the footsteps of biblical figures who sought to document God’s work in their lives and passed on their spiritual wisdom.

Journaling in Church History

Throughout Christian history, many saints and leaders have kept journals and spiritual logs to deepen their walk with God. Some prominent examples include:

  • John Wesley – The founder of Methodism journaled extensively throughout his life, both to chronicle his spiritual journey and evaluate his daily thoughts and actions against the standard of God’s Word.
  • A.W. Tozer – The influential American pastor and author journaled daily to process sermons and sharpen his spiritual insights. His journals later became published books that impacted thousands.
  • Mother Teresa – The Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Catholic nun journaled private conversations with God that displayed her profound yet intimate relationship with Him.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer – The German theologian and pastor wrote deeply reflective letters and papers during his confinement in a Nazi prison that were later published as books about living out the Christian faith.
  • Henri Nouwen – The Catholic priest and professor authored over 40 books based on his personal journals and letters covering spirituality, loneliness, and our human need for community.

The longevity of journaling across centuries and Christian traditions displays its power as a spiritual discipline for all seasons of life.

The Spiritual Benefits of Journaling

Now that we have covered the biblical and historical foundations for journaling, let’s explore some of the core spiritual benefits that making journaling a regular habit can provide:

1. Journaling helps process thoughts and emotions

Life is filled with mountaintop moments of joy and victory, as well as valleys of difficulty and sorrow. Journaling allows us to process the full range of thoughts and emotions that we experience in the ups and downs of life. As we tangibly express our feelings, we can then invite God into those emotions to speak truth, healing, and perspective. The Psalms are a great example of honestly processing human emotion before God.

2. Journaling grounds us in Scripture and God’s truth

One of the key purposes of journaling is to ground ourselves in the truths of Scripture and see life through the lens of God’s perspective. We can journal about scriptures God highlighted during our quiet times, writing down meaningful verses and insights He reveals through His Word. During seasons of confusion, journaling creates space to process our circumstances through the filter of God’s truth rather than our limited human understanding.

3. Journaling promotes discernment and wise decision-making

Writing down our thoughts and prayers concerning decisions helps us discern God’s will and make wise choices. By journaling, we can take time to seek the Lord’s direction through His Word, listen for the Spirit’s promptings, and review our motives before acting. Even after making a choice, journaling about the outcome and lessons learned can refine our ability to hear and follow God’s voice.

4. Journaling cultivates gratitude and praise

Journaling helps us regularly count our blessings and intentionally reflect on all that God has done. Gratitudesurfaces joy in the Lord, combats negativity, and reminds us of God’s faithfulness when hardship comes. By journaling praise reports and moments of thankfulness, our hearts become oriented toward worshipping God for His endless gifts, grace, and care over our lives.

5. Journaling facilitates processing pain and grief

Painful experiences and seasons of grief can threaten to drag our spirits down into despair. Using journaling as a spiritual discipline allows us to authentically express our inner turmoil before the God of all comfort. As we journal, we are reminded we have a High Priest who intimately understands our suffering. This releases emotions, giving space for God’s light to break through the darkness.

6. Journaling promotes holistic self-care and wellbeing

Journaling helps us tune into our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state, promoting self-awareness and holistic health. Tracking thoughts, moods, stressors, sleep patterns, and more can help identify needed lifestyle changes and areas for God’s healing. Journaling prayers, gratitude, Scripture, and spiritual insights also fills our hearts with joy and peace that overflows into bodily wellness.

7. Journaling creates space to hear the Spirit’s voice

Carving out quiet time to journal invites the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts. Through journaling, we posture ourselves to receive divine insights, revelation, conviction, direction, and comfort straight from the Spirit. As we regularly journal, we become better attuned to the whisper of God’s voice across all of life.

8. Journaling chronicles our spiritual journey

One of the greatest rewards of journaling is being able to look back to see how God has shepherded our spiritual journey over seasons and years. Documenting lessons learned, moments of intimacy with God, answered prayers, and spiritual highs and lows allows us to clearly see the work of the Holy Spirit transforming us into Christ’s image. This fuels enduring faith and hope as we are reminded of God’s unlimited power and unending faithfulness.

Tips for Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline

Now that we have covered the many spiritual benefits of journaling, let’s explore some tips and best practices for making journaling an enriching part of our everyday walk with God:

Pray before you begin

Invite the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and speak to your heart before writing each journal entry. Dedicate your time of journaling to the Lord.

Journal consistently

Set aside time to journal every day to make it a habit. Journaling first thing in the morning can be very powerful. If you miss days, don’t get discouraged but get back to it! Consistency helps cultivate self-awareness, growth, and listening to God’s voice.

Find a journaling method that fits you

Journaling can be done in a notebook, on a computer, recording audio entries, in a gratitude journal, through art journaling, and more. Experiment to discover what feels most authentic and sustainable.

Journal about a variety of spiritual focus areas

While journaling can include writing about daily events, be sure to also journal about emotional processing, scriptures, prayers, spiritual insights, praise reports, discernment of God’s voice, sermon notes, and more. Variety will bear the most spiritual fruit.

Release perfectionism

Journaling is an imperfect spiritual practice. Don’t get caught up in needless editing or forcing entries that feel inauthentic. Focus on transparency and showing up consistently. God receives our journaled reflections as a sweet aroma regardless of perfect grammar or eloquence.

Balance structure and spontaneity

Journal entries can be free-flowing thoughts or follow more structured spiritual reflection questions. Vary your approach while ensuring your entries regularly include key elements like scriptures, insights, and reflections.

Consider journaling before bed or upon waking

Journaling as you fall asleep or first thing in the morning when thoughts are uncluttered can provide fresh perspective and spiritual direction for the day ahead.

Occasionally review and reflect on past entries

Looking back on previous entries allows you to see growth, pinpoint seasonal patterns, and observe God’s faithfulness through various seasons of life. This fuels enduring faith and gratitude.

Meditate on a scripture before writing

Centering our journaling time on a scripture passage grounds our writing in God’s truth and primes our hearts to hear from Him. Lectio divina is a great journaling warm up.

Set a timer rather than word count goal

If your journaling time feels pressured or stale, set a timer for 15-20 minutes rather than aiming for a certain word count. Write freely until the timer goes off. Removing arbitrary writing goals allows the Spirit to guide your journaling.

Journal creatively

Consider incorporating creative elements like doodling, coloring pre-drawn images, gluing pictures, and more. Creativity engages another part of our brain and may surface fresh insights.

Journal in community occasionally

While journaling is often a solo spiritual practice, occasionally journaling together with a trusted small group or accountability partner can spur thoughtful spiritual reflection and bonding.

Maintain journaling through all life seasons

Our desire to journal may waver during busyness, stress, fatigue, or grief. Press through to continue journaling in every season, allowing it to be a source of comfort and strength when you need it most.

Conclusion

In closing, cultivating journaling as an intentional spiritual discipline can profoundly deepen our walk with Christ across the seasons of life. Whether we are riding high on the mountain or walking low in the valley, journaling creates space for our hearts to encounter the living presence of God. By regularly opening our inner world before God in writing, we begin living out the beautiful invitation of Psalm 27:8 (NKJV): “When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.” May our journals become sacred conduits where we express our raw humanity before God, and hear His gentle whisper in return. As we write, may the Holy Spirit inspire breakthrough, growth, healing, wisdom, purpose, and abundant life.

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