I have journaled off and on since becoming a Christian in high school. But it has always been inconsistent. Even more, I felt strange about what to write. “Dear diary” seemed a strange approach to me. Several years ago a friend gave me the idea of keeping a gratitude journal and it has been one of the best things I have done. Now, the number 1 priority for my journal is to record the things I am thankful for. I use it for more than this. But using the journal for this has constrained my practice and made it a little easier to stay on track.
I write in my journal 3-4 times per week on average. Sometimes less. It us usually less than a page. Here are four significant things I have learned:
This is hard. I am surprised at how difficult this has been. My life is overflowing with blessings and often I find it hard to find something to write. My heart seems wired to complain and focus on the problems. This discipline has forced me to see the blessings in my life and put it down on paper.
One of the real benefits is in going back to review the journal. I have a day calendared once a month for reflection and solitude. I don’t always succeed at keeping this, but it has been helpful. I have created a list of profitable things to do on a day like this. One of them is to go back and review my journal. This has encouraged me to see God’s hand of mercy in my life. Throughout scripture God’s people left memorials and landmarks. This has functioned like those memorials.
This practice has helped me to see the big picture and overcome my emotional ups and downs. It shows me progress in my life over time. I just spent an hour doing reading entries from last year. Wow. So much mercy.. I often go back and make notes from what I read. It gives me ideas and helps me counter the false ideas that come from culture and my own heart. I am NOT a victim. Life is not horrible. The sky is not falling. My cup overflows.
Many of the things I read in later months are things that I would not have recalled if I had not written them down. Simple things like a good night of sleep, relief from a bad tooth ache, a meaningful conversation with one of my kids, growth in the way my wife and I handle problems, answers to prayer, etc.