For a good part of my life I have journaled. Admittedly, sporadically at times. More so in recent years. Being an introvert, it’s one of the ways I have learned to navigate the terrain of my heart, to process my thoughts. Often, my journaling takes the shape of direct prayers. I invite the Lord—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—into the mess of my everyday. Though in one sense, all of my journaling is a form of prayer. After all, my God is intimately acquainted with all my thoughts and desires. He knows me better than I know myself.
So journaling, then, is not like writing in a diary. It’s not a rote account of the days events. It’s the deliberate unveiling of my soul—to myself in the presence of God. It’s a spiritual discipline. I rarely go back and read what I’ve written. That would be like recording myself praying out loud and listening to the recording later on. It’s not about capturing information; it’s about giving expression to the process of what is going on with me spiritually.
For some, spiritual journaling is way outside of their comfort zone, and might seem to be a strange idea. Perhaps because it sounds too “touchy-feely.” Or maybe because being that vulnerable and honest is difficult. I understand that. That’s not me. I’m almost the opposite—at some point, in some way, words have to emerge to give expression to my internal goings-on. Deeper conversations with trusted friends and family is part of this. And so is journaling.
If you’ve never thought of journaling or the idea sounds weird or uncomfortable, I have two suggestions. First, if you have regular times of reading Scripture, write down a few thoughts/questions/feelings that arise when you do. Put it in point form. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be articulate and profound sounding or even neat and tidy. Be honest. Be yourself.
Second, write out a prayer to God. I know this sounds entirely lacking in spontaneity. Maybe you’ve never thought much about the value of pre-written prayers. But there’s plenty of them in the Bible, including the entire Book of Psalms. Perhaps read a psalm and then write it out in your own words. But, again, be honest. No one else is going to know what you’ve written. Unless you choose to share it, what you’ve written is between you and God.
When we engage with God in a new way, we might be surprised how we hear him speak in new ways. We need to get out of our comfort zones because by staying in them our expectations of God never grow and are never challenged. Our comfort zones become a box in which our spiritual lives become stagnant and unfruitful. God is too big for all our boxes. Making use of a new spiritual discipline is way of acting on and experiencing this reality. Spiritual journaling is one of those disciplines.