Do the thoughts of keeping a journal intimidate you? Or, maybe you are like a friend of mine who said she stopped this activity because it became all about herself. Maybe you think you don’t have the necessary writing skills. Whatever your reasons, I want to give you the tools to make this important habit seem easy and non-threatening. My hope is that you will discover for yourself the many benefits of keeping a journal.
Are journals and diaries the same thing?
In some ways, journals and diaries are the same. A diary is a book that is used to record events as they happen. The same can be true about a journal except that journals explore those events: what can be learned from them, what you might change next time around, or what scripture says about what happened. A journal is also a place to explore your relationship with God, record how He has cared for you in various circumstances, remind yourself of His goodness in your life, or record your dreams for the future.
In short, a diary records your life events. A journal records your thoughts.
What are the pitfalls of keeping a journal?
As my friend expressed, writing can become self-centered. This of course is not pleasing to God. Furthermore, according to research, people who focus totally on themselves are the most miserable people.
Psychology Today states that “Journaling can have a negative effect on your behavior and well-being,” under certain circumstances. So when you wallow in negative thoughts, blame others, become self-obsessed, or don’t use it to experience life, then you won’t benefit from keeping a journal. (1)
The benefits of keeping a journal
When you do a Google search about the benefits of keeping a journal, there are numerous articles related to stress management, anxiety, and learning. Many are from extremely credible organizations and are the result of scientific studies. Intermountain Healthcare lists not only the reduction of stress as a benefit, but also an improvement of immune function, memory, mood, and emotional function. (2)
Writing is a much more effective way of learning than just reading or listening.
“Most students only remember about 10% of what they read from textbooks” but retain nearly 90% of what they learn through teaching others.” (3)
Writing in a journal falls somewhere between ‘reading’ and ‘teaching others’. When it comes to the lessons that God has for us to learn, we need to have a method to remember those life-changing truths. Keeping a journal is perfectly suited for the retention and recall of important information.
When used correctly, a journal is good for your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Who doesn’t want better health, better mental capacities, and a better spiritual life?
What does the Bible say about journals?
You may be thinking, “I don’t remember the word ‘journal’ being in the Bible.” You are correct. Words change over time. Truth does not.
God commanded His people to write His words on their hearts, on their doorposts, on their gates, and on the tablet of their minds. (4) A journal can be written anywhere, though nowadays the most practical place is in some kind of a notebook.
Back when the books of Deuteronomy, Proverbs, Isaiah, and Jeremiah were written, there were no scientific studies to support the benefits of keeping a journal. Today, the fields of science and education back up what God was telling us all along. After all, God is the master teacher. He knows how our minds work and what influences our behavior because He created us.
Guidelines for what to write in a journal
What are you struggling with? Write that in your journal. At the same time ask God to bring something good out of your situation. (Romans 8:28) That is a prayer that God loves to answer. Later on, when you realize how God used your struggle to help you grow, to help someone else, or to bring honor and glory to God, go back and add the resolution.
“By reading your own journal’s record of God’s providence in the past you can be emboldened to believe that He will yet again be faithful to you in the future.” (5)
Reading your past journal entries builds hope, one event at a time. You will begin to see clearly the faithfulness of God. As the song, “Do it again” says,
“I’ve seen you move. You moved the mountains . . .You made a way when there was no way, and I believe I’ll see you do it again.” (Recorded by Elevation Worship.)
Another great journal entry is to record your goals, followed later by your gradual steps towards reaching those goals. Things feel less overwhelming and more hopeful when you can see that progress is being made.
Other questions you could answer are:
- My biggest inspiration right now is . . .
- I really value my friendship with _______ because . . .
- A hobby or interest I would like to pursue is . . .
- I really appreciate this quote from what I am reading . . .
- What matters most to me right now is . . .
- What can I learn from what happened today?
Ask yourself, “What made me laugh today?” Or, “what made me smile?” Sometimes there are elements of nature that are sweet and others that are just plain hilarious. Take advantage of these opportunities to find joy.
Keep your eyes open for things to laugh at. An excellent book is “Laugh Like A Kid Again“, by Phil Callaway. A collection of true short stories, Callaway brings a dose of humor to some of life’s toughest moments. Additionally, some of the very old TV shows like “I love Lucy” can tickle your funny bone. Laughing is like medicine to the body and soul. (Proverbs 17:22)
Name something that inspired you or was new to you in Scripture. I was so thrilled when I learned about the faithfulness of God after my husband had abandoned me. God longs for our company and He will never leave us. He is just waiting for us to choose to be with Him. That is something that brings joy to my life.
If you struggle with low self-esteem, writing in your journal about the value that God places on you is a really great exercise. There are many scriptures that address God’s love and care for His children. A good place to start is in Psalm 139. As you read you are in God’s presence, and that is where great joy can be found. (Psalm 16:11)
You can never go wrong writing about something you are thankful for. A sense of gratitude brings peace in some of the worst of circumstances. In fact, studies have shown that those who keep a gratitude journal are happier and healthier. ( 6,7 )
When Paul and Silas were in jail, their singing was a type of gratitude and they were able to deal with that bleak situation much easier. Furthermore, the jail staff saw a sense of peace in those two men that was beyond understanding. (8) When we have peace in spite of circumstances, it becomes part of our life story that points others to Jesus.
Resources to help you journal
There are many resources on the market that can guide you in keeping a journal. The Personal Reflections KJV Bible with prompts is one of them. It has extra-wide margins, and is perfect for notes, drawing, coloring, and creating whatever helps you reflect on what you are reading. It is a Bible and a mini-journal wrapped up in one. On the first page of Genesis, there is a drawing of a flower that you can color, and a prompt that asks, “What is your favorite part of creation?” Every page is in this format: a drawing, a question to ponder, and space to write. (Please note that I am not an affiliate of Amazon and do not receive a commission if you purchase this product).
The Creator’s Classroom also has several journal page templates that you can use in a three-ring binder. They are totally free, NO EMAIL REQUIRED. Click on any of the photos below to download them.
Here’s to journaling! I pray that you will begin to experience for yourself the many benefits of keeping a journal which include hope, joy, and peace.
You might also like to read:
- (1) Psychologytoday.com. Online blog. “The-good-and-the-bad-journaling.” 9/6/2013.
- (2) Intermountainhealthcare.org. Online blog. “5 powerful health benefits of journaling.”
- (3) https://www.educationcorner.com/the-learning-pyramid.html
- (4) Deuteronomy 6:8-9, 11:18-20; Proverbs 3:3, 7:3; Isaiah 57:8; Jeremiah 32:39
- (5) https://www.redeemingproductivity.com/10-spiritual-benefits-of-journaling/
- (6) https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/
- (7) https://entrepreneur.com/article/241280
- (8) Acts 16:25-34.