Journaling Part I
I always wanted to be a “journaler.” Throughout most of college though, my entries were sparse at best. Inevitably, I would start out with something like: “Lord, I am so overwhelmed!” and then as I reached the end, I would gain clarity in my heart and once again determine to write more frequently. But I failed often. And so, the cycle continued. So why is an entire row on my bookshelf dedicated to my [filled] journals? And what do they contain?
1. Journaling allows me to interact with the Lord and Scripture in a very practical way. You could say it is one way I meditate on truth in the morning and throughout the rest of the day. I remember one particular time (before journaling was a part of my daily routine); an older woman asked me how my time with the Lord was and what I was learning. The clock had not even reached 8:00am and I had to open my Bible in order to recall to mind what I read that morning – only a couple hours before! I knew I needed to create a way to engage my mind and heart more thoughtfully with the text, so journaling became that avenue.
2. Journaling causes me to shepherd my heart. Sometimes I have been in conflict and other times I have been overwhelmed by decisions that lay before me. Regardless of what burdens my heart, when I retreat to journaling, I am able to move from my emotions into truth. Writing out my raw feelings at a given moment (something I might not readily admit aloud) helps me to acknowledge my sin and see the folly of my unbelief. Once I name the “wrong-thinking,” I can repent of my sin and correct it with truths. As one friend has put it, “What you know trumps what you feel,” and journaling is an avenue for me to move from the latter to the former.
3. Journaling is a means to record and remember the providence of God. My journals sit on my shelf for a reason – so I can refer to them often. By nature, I am forgetful. One day I can be riding high on God’s promises and the next I am sinking into discouragement and disbelief. Lamentations 3:21-23 says, “But this I recall to mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindness indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” In addition to storing up Scriptural truths, it has proved valuable to me to periodically review my journals (sometimes systematically and sometimes randomly) in order to remember the vast ways the Lord has shown His lovingkindness to me. And this "recalling to mind His faithfulness," is the perfect entrance into giving thanks and praise to the Lord.
4. Journaling affords me the ability to share tangibly with other gals how I shepherd my heart. This is more of a secondary reason, but a great use nonetheless. In group settings I do not always articulate the thoughts of my heart well. But when I can refer to my journal, even in its raw form, I can more easily translate to others the specific ways the Lord is working in my heart. I also use it as a tool to teach other girls how I spend time with the Lord.
5. My journals serve as a sort of legacy to those who will follow me. As I have considered those who have gone before me – especially if they were to be called home to eternal rest with our Savior – I can imagine nothing more comforting and encouraging than to read of their relationship with the Lord. I would hope if someone were to read through my journal, they would see a clear picture of someone who loves Christ more than anything, but wrestles with the presence of sin and battles daily with unbelief. They would read the confessions of a sinner who has been made a saint by grace alone along with the exultations of one in awe of a God who would condescend to us. I’m not under the impression that I have anything brilliant to leave behind, but I hope that someday, someone might read them and they might be encouraged to keep pressing on in this life.
Just because I had the general desire to journal (mostly because of the profit I foresaw), does not mean I always awoke with a motivation to put my pen to paper. Journaling did not always come easy to me. It required the resolve to put myself to the task while simultaneously trusting that it would prove to be a means of grace.
If you don’t yet journal, here is a final plea from John Flavel in his book, The Mystery of Providence: “Ah, sirs, let me tell you, there is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would but sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what signal manifestations and outbreakings of His mercy, faithfulness and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through. If your hearts do not melt before you have gone half through that history, they are hard hearts indeed.”