One of the spiritual disciplines that Don Whitney wrote about in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is journaling. I have long heard that journaling was good for the soul and have even encouraged others to do it. But secretly (or not so secretly) I hated doing it. It seemed a waste of time. Every time I went to do it, I didn’t know what to write. What if I wrote something that others would see later and I either misunderstood a situation and expressed my thoughts wrongly, wrote about something embarrassing, or something like that? I had nothing to say, and so I would start a few times but it never stuck. Sometimes I would use my journaling to write out my prayers, but that never stuck. Nothing worked.Eventually I went to the internet to see what I was doing wrong, but none of the sites I went to really helped. They all said that there is no wrong way to journal, as long as I did it. I could draw pictures. Why would I want to draw pictures? I could write about my day. Looking back at my day or looking forward to my day? Yada, yada, yada. Nothing really worked for me.
However, a few weeks ago, I started doing something that has actually gotten me into journaling. I am enjoying it more than ever and there is so much added benefit to it. It doesn’t take very long, but it takes a bit of effort (enough to keep it challenging, but not too difficult to just give up). Whereas before I had a difficult time coming up with a sentence, I now am writing about a page a day. If you have difficulty keeping a journal, perhaps this will work for you as well.
What I decided to do was combine two practices into one. The first is to write about something interesting (good or bad) that happened the day before and if I know of something coming up during the current day, to write about that as well. It’s only about two or three sentences usually. Hardly ever is it more than six sentences. The second part is that whole “daily Proverb” thing that people are apt to do. I will cease writing for a few moments while I read my daily Proverb (since today is September 3, I read the third chapter of Proverbs; tomorrow being the fourth day of the month, I will read the fourth chapter, and so forth). I will read through the entire chapter, highlighting verses that stick out to me. I will then choose a verse or a group of verses (if the thought runs over, like Proverbs 3:5-6) and I will write out that verse/group in my journal. From that point, I will meditate on the verse and write my thoughts out.
For instance from August 31:
Still having trouble with my sermon. I’m not sure why I’m having such a block. Hoping to resurface the driveway today and tomorrow. I’m wanting to get action as days go on.
Giver her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. Prov. 31:31
Wives often have a thankless job. They work hard and keep the family going. Yet it is so often overlooked. Two times Lemuel speaks of the gates: here & in verse 23, referring to the husband. Perhaps her husband is being called to publicly praise his wife.
That’s all I wrote, but taking the time to read my Bible, meditate on it, and write out my own thoughts keeps those thoughts from being fleeting thoughts. It causes me to share those thoughts with myself in journal form (and sometimes text or tell them to others), but to continue to develop those thoughts throughout the day simply because I took time to write them down.
This has made all the difference in the world to me in my journaling. Maybe everyone is right, there’s no wrong way to journal, at least on the broad spectrum. However, I have found there are wrong ways for me to journal, and I am glad I seem to have found the way that works for me.
If you’d like, I’d love to read your thoughts on journaling and how you do it. You don’t have to share any of your entries, but just a description of what you usually do when you write.