In 2010, I attended a Christian ministry conference with my mother-in-law. We were given Moleskin journals in gorgeous leather covers and sent off for an hour to be on our own and pray and journal about whatever was on our hearts.
An hour seemed like a super long time, but ended up being heaven on earth. It was a life-changing hour for me.
During that hour, I wrote out prayers.
I wrote down the words and phrases – ALL OF THEM – that I felt God whispering to me.
I wrote out everything that came across my mind. Everything. Even the stuff that sounded crazy. I dumped it all out onto the pages of that journal.
At the end of that hour, I felt free.
It’s been eight years since that experience and I can still recall the exact feeling. I felt like I could inhale deeply for the first time in a long time. I had room to breathe again, with all that junk out of my head and on paper.
That conference proved to me that journaling needed to be a part of my every day life.
I’ve been journaling ever since.
Finding Peace Through Journaling
After I got home from that conference, it was pretty obvious that I could use journaling for spiritual growth. But did that mean it was an easy practice for me? Nope.
It felt really hard to write out my honest, messy thoughts onto that white, perfect paper.
But you know what? If I held everything inside instead of being honest in what I was writing down, then it was a fruitless effort.
So I learned to dump all my thoughts out onto the pages of my journal. All the ugly fears and anxiety and doubts…it all gets written down.
Listen. I’m a worrier by nature. I struggle with anxiety. I spend a lot of time fighting negative thoughts. Philippians 4:8 is a verse that is changing my life this year because it creates a path to peace.
As I journal and process through all the junk in my head, I measure my fears against this verse:
Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Is this thought true? Is is honorable? Right? Pure? Lovely? Is this thought something that is excellent and worthy of my time?
These questions take me to a place where my mind and eyes are focused on Christ, not on my own struggles.
It’s easier to be honest when I realize negative thoughts are a huge waste of mind-power and energy.
As I scribble words on the pages of my journal, God stirs my heart and reveals to me how much I need Him in my struggle.
For me, journaling is not about changing the world or writing down dreams or wants or wishes.
It’s about letting go of my junk, moving forward, pressing on, maturing as a Christian.
It comes down to this: As a Christian, I should be growing in my faith – in my identity in Christ – so that I can bear fruit for Him.
As I dump out my heart into my journal, God often reveals things that I didn’t even know I was struggling with.
All the things that are hindering my relationship with Him.
That’s when God can start to work in my heart. When I’m honest about what’s going on inside my head, He gives me grace and courage to examine what I’m weighed down with.
He reminds me that I don’t have to fix all the things – I can surrender it all to him and trust Him with all the things weighing on my mind.
And on the flip side, journaling shows me how much I’ve grown. The changes I’ve experienced in my thoughts and beliefs.
My journals are a journey of my faith.
How to Use Journaling for Spiritual Growth
If you want to journal for growth or if you’re new to journaling in general, here are a few practical tips for moving forward.
Create a new habit.
Find a regular time and place to journal. I journal first thing in the morning after I finish reading my Bible. I have a good friend who writes in hers right before bed.
Find the time that works best for you. If you have little kids, maybe you want to journal during naptime. If you work, maybe journaling can happen during your lunch hour or break time.
It may also help to have a dedicated spot to journal. I keep my journal and some special pens in a drawer of a little table, right next to the recliner where I sit in the mornings. It’s close by, everything I need is in one place, and it never moves from it’s spot. Whenever I need it, it’s there.
Maybe you can find a cute basket to hold a few journaling and Bible study supplies.
Think about your life and how to pair journaling with what you’re already doing.
The key is consistency. Make this your new normal.
Get over being self-conscious about what you write.
It’s so easy to hold back your real feelings when journaling. Maybe you’re afraid that someone you live with will read your private thoughts. Or my personal favorite: What if I DIE and someone READS all these crazy journals?!?
Those thoughts keep me from writing what’s really on my mind. I have to get over that if I want to benefit from the practice of journaling.
Don’t forget: journaling is a tool for growth. God can use it to help us grow – IF we let Him. Release your worries to Him.
You get to decide what you do with your filled journals. Maybe you don’t want to keep them (for lots of different reasons). You can destroy them if you want! You get to choose.
The important thing – don’t let the “what if’s” keep you from being honest about what you write.
Face your feelings.
If you’re struggling with a fear, or a relationship, or a financial worry, get it out of your head and onto paper. Don’t minimize your feelings or over-analyze the situation. Just write it down.
Do you know what I’ve found? When I get a BIG, SCARY thought out of my head and onto paper, it loses its power. Inside my head, it seems huge and overpowering and overwhelming. But on paper? It’s just a few words. That’s it.
And that’s when God can move in and get busy, because I’ve gotten out of His way and given Him room to work.
How do you use journaling for spiritual growth?