Many of the godliest, most influential Christians in the history of the church have made it a practice to keep a spiritual journal. Also known in older writings as a “diary,” a journal is a document where people record information that relates to their spiritual lives and reflect on it. The content may range from meditations on Scripture to musings on an event in life and how it relates to Scripture. So, on a given day, one might write his or her thoughts regarding Romans 8:28. Alternatively, he or she might describe something that occurred and ask, “Why did this thing happen to me?” and perhaps conclude without an answer but rest in the truth of Romans 8:28. A journal for others is a document where they write prayers, keep sermon and Bible study notes, record theological musings, or just preserve the memories of some of the happenings of the day and their spiritual significance.
Nowadays, a journal can be written by hand, typed into a computer document, or transcribed by voice recognition software. It might take the form of a simple spiral-bound notebook, an elegant leather-bound volume, or a collection of computer-generated printouts. A journal might be as public as a blog or as private as a digital file that never gets printed. Some pour out their thoughts in long torrents; others can be content with as little as a sentence sometimes. There’s just no such thing as “official” journaling.
Why Christians Keep Journals
There’s no biblical requirement for Christians to keep a spiritual journal, and it isn’t considered as direct an outgrowth of the gospel as, say, prayer. In light of that, why has journaling been such a common discipline among believers?
Keeping a spiritual journal has been a widespread practice among God’s people for millennia. As long as people have been able to write, it has been common for them to write about what is most important to them. Thus, the people of God have recorded their thoughts about the things of God, and they have done so in something akin to what is today referred to as a journal. King David poured out his soul to God in the scrolls of the Psalms. The prophet Jeremiah expressed the depth of his grief about the fall of Jerusalem in his Lamentations. The fourthcentury theologian Augustine opened his heart in the pages of his famous Confessions. Jonathan Edwards found the practice so useful for sharpening his thinking and deepening his devotion that he kept several different kinds of journals and notebooks (such a s hi s “Miscellanies” and “Notes on Scripture”) concurrently. Whether in something called a “journa l ,” “dia r y,” “commonplace book,” “notebook,” or something else, Christians have been irrepressible chroniclers of their spiritual lives.
In verses such as Psalm 1:3 and James 1:25, the Bible exhorts believers to meditate on Scripture. Countless Christians have utilized journaling as a way to help them focus on the biblical text and preserve their reflections. Their journals have been the means of preserving precious discoveries in God’s Word and insights on how it applies to life. How many wonderful insights has the Lord given to you as you were reading the Bible, but they are lost forever because you didn’t record them by means of a journal or similar method?
Journaling and Thinking
As opposed to the kind of daily experience with the Bible in which we pass our eyes for two seconds over each verse on the page, not remembering a thing we’ve read, journaling can help us to slow down for a few moments and actually think about and absorb the passage we’ve just read in the Bible. We sometimes lurch from one unexamined event in our day to another, but a journal can be a tool the Spirit uses to help us consider the significance of the things occurring in our lives.
The simple act of writing about a matter has a way of clarifying one’s thinking about it. Students may be convinced they understand a subject until they’re required to write an essay about it. In the same way, writing out one’s thoughts about biblical truths, such as the gospel, causes us to be more clear in our understanding of them. Journaling can thus deepen our thinking on the unfathomable riches of the gospel and enable us to enmesh those truths and thoughts further into the fiber of our lives.
So, if necessary, read a couple of minutes less, but use a journal to meditate more. See if it doesn’t help you become more thoughtful about what you’ve read and help you remember it better. Use it to enrich your thoughts about Jesus and the glorious truths of His gospel.