The Christian life is subject to joy and grace, but it is also subject to hardship and suffering. During these seasons where all seems well or where everything is a trial, the faithfulness of God is magnified beyond our wildest dreams, and thus, our faith is strengthened. In the moments where things get difficult, I have found that two of my greatest struggles are to remember and to be vulnerable. I tend to forget the wonders of God’s love for me, and I forget his Word. I fear weakness and struggle to be vulnerable in my emotions. Sometimes, I don’t know how to process everything I endure.
By God’s grace, I’ve found journaling to be a means by which I fight against sin. Journaling is not an end in and of itself; the end is to look to and live by the cross.
Journaling helps me combat my sin of forgetfulness.
One of the most repetitive commands in the Old Testament is to remember (Deuteronomy 7:18; 8:2, 18; 15:15; 16:3,12; 24:22; 1 Chronicles 16:12-15; Psalm 77:11; Psalm 105:5; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Isaiah 46:9; just to name a few). God tells the people of Israel over and over again to remember all the marvelous things he has done for them. No matter how many times he tells them, they still forget.
Forgetfulness doesn’t just belong to the Israelites. Even Jesus, right before his crucifixion, takes bread and wine and tells his disciples to eat this meal often and to do so in remembrance of him (Luke 22:19). The writers of the New Testament call us to remember the former days, and to remember the gospel (Ephesians 2:11, 2 Timothy 2:8, Jude 1:7, Revelation 3:3).
When I forget what God has done throughout history, or throughout my own life, I wonder if God will keep his promises or if he hears me. Remembrance kills my doubts because I see that he doesn’t let his children down. I see that his promises have never returned void (Isaiah 55:11). Yet it is difficult to remember. I struggle to recall what God has done, especially if my fears are fogging up my ability to look to Him.
I journal because it gives me a way to look back over the tiny history of my life and remember what God has done. Sometimes I look back and see how God smashed my idols, healed my pain, or made me endure something difficult. I look back and remember that he comforted me in my sorrows and gave me joy. I get to see with my own eyes how God has answered prayers, how he has been faithful even when I couldn’t see it, and how he has grown me to look more like himself.
An important thing to mention here is that journaling has also helped me learn to pray. I write my prayers in my journal and this strengthens my prayer life in two ways. First, my mind is more focused when I write my prayers. I follow a steady stream of thought and I pray for a longer amount of time because I am more focused on what I’m doing. Second, like I already mentioned, it gives me something to look back on. The faithfulness of God to answer prayer is astounding. My journals are a map of God’s covenant with me, where he shows me that he is my God, and I am his child.
The prayers in my journal help me remember God’s faithfulness and also help me be honest with Him about my sin.
Journaling helps me cultivate honesty and vulnerability.
If I am unaware of my sinfulness or if I lack godly qualities, then I probably haven’t done the work of self-evaluation. I haven’t come to God and asked him to show me the ways I’ve turned away from him. I’m not being honest with God or with myself. I am blind. (2 Peter 1:9)
1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” I don’t want to be a self-deceiver, and journaling is a method of prevention. It forces me to be honest with myself so that the truth of my sin can be revealed.
I also can’t be honest with my church if I am not honest with God or myself about my sin. Foggy eyes affect more than just my vision; they affect my relationships.
The journal should never become a “burn book” or a list of grievances against others. Rather, it should be an exercise to come before the throne of God in repentance of your sins.
Journaling combats my sin. In some of my darkest days, when I’m not sure if God loves me or if I’ll ever stop being so terrible, I open my journals to the former entries and my sin of forgetfulness is crushed. When I hide in my own sin and love it more than God, I write and expose my ugliness before God.
Write about the hard things, but don’t neglect the good. You can write about a way God provided for you. Or about something you learned about God that you never understood before. Write your prayers out to God. Write your hopes. Write about the gospel. Just write for God’s glory.