Journaling as a Spiritual Practice

How writing can strengthen your faith and inspire hope

Posted in , Jan 28, 2011

Writing in Journal Can Deepen Our Faith, Inspire Hope

A sweet scene unfolded in the pizzeria where I was having a quick dinner before attending church. It was a spring day in New York City, sunny but chilly; a robust man in his forties, dressed in a polo shirt and plaid shorts, came in with his six-year-old in school clothes, her long blond hair in a ponytail. Soon she was chatting up a storm in the booth next to me. They ate—two big slices for him, two child-size slices for her—and talked.

“We’re on a date,” the girl said proudly.

Her dad took a second to answer. “Yeah, I guess so. We’re on a date.”

“We’ve never been on a date before. This is the first time.”

“Yes,” he said. “What would you like to talk about?”

“Well,” she paused thoughtfully, “what did you do today at work?”

“I didn’t go to work. I met some friends and we went to a baseball game. Our team lost.”

“Oh,” she said, “I’ll bet they’ll do better next time.”

“Yeah, I’m sure they will. And what did you do today at school?”

And so it went. Father and daughter were taking the time to be together, sharing and listening, being present, getting to know each other better.

As they left, I heard him say, “So, did you like our date?”

“Yeah! Let’s do it more and more!”

Their exchange made me smile. Why, that’s how it is with our Creator, I thought. God wants to hear from us. He wants to spend time with us, know how our day went, what we’re thinking, what’s on our mind. He wants to get to know us and wants us to know Him better too.

One way to develop and strengthen that bond with God is to spend time together—like that father and daughter—in prayer, in Bible study, in quiet time or in writing in a journal. Yes, journal writing is like having a date with the most important Person in your life...God.

A journal can hold many things: the events of your day; your concerns; your prayers; your list of things to be thankful for; your praises of God; your musings about people you love, strangers you meet, surprises in your day, a beautiful moment in nature, antics from your favorite animal, an illuminating Scripture, an inspiring quote.

You can record your sadness or gladness, a disappointment or pleasure, a failure or a success, good times and tough times. It might be a long season of illness and recovery or a broken relationship or lost employment. But with faith as your polestar, your words can be building blocks to rejuvenation and renewal, helping sweep you upward to the next summit of spiritual growth.

You may write a few lines or pages upon pages, or maybe just a single word: love, scared, trust. Maybe when words don’t come or the pen won’t move, there will be a splattering of color: crayons drawing a sun, tree or flower, or an abstract painting of red, yellow and blue splashes, or a collage of paper cutouts glued to the page.

Maybe it will be a poem that unfolds from a feeling, or some notes to music your heart hears, or a dream that is a doorway to a new understanding of yourself. Each mark, whether words or image, song or story, is a prayer—an offering, a gift, a stepping-stone toward wholeness, healing or rebirth. Maybe it will appear as a stream of joy and laughter bursting forth as surprise, revealing newfound boldness and bubbling confidence.

Whatever goes into your journal and however you choose to express it, it’s yours. Everything you write in your journal helps you to grow deeper in your walk with God, to strengthen your faith, to grow hope, to become more of who you were created to be: a precious child made in God’s image; someone God created with love and said, “It is good.”

How to Begin

1. Set aside a certain time each day.
Is the morning, before you get ready for work or the family awakens, a good time? Is there a free moment or break in your day that’s better? Is just before bedtime best, when the house is quiet and so are you?

2. Where is your prayer closet?
Find a calm and quiet place where you can be free from distractions. Many times we read that Jesus went away to pray—in the wilderness, on a mountain, at a lake, on a boat. He knew the importance of a certain place and a time apart. So will you.

3. Date your page.
This is a record of your life-moments and all its seasons—the smooth, the winding, the low, the heights, the bumps and starts along the road. The timeline will always reveal God “who directs our path” and “never leaves us comfortless.”

4. Start writing.
A word, a thought, a sentence and more will tumble forth. What is in your heart? Maybe it’s nice; maybe not. Say it anyway. Tell your story. Don’t judge, don’t censure, trust yourself to God’s ever-present, compassionate care. And close with, “Thy will be done.” It leaves every outcome in the hands of God for whom nothing is impossible.

5. Listen.
Take time to pause and listen to God bringing you an answer, an idea or guidance. “Be still, and know that I am God….” (Psalm 46:10)

6. Put away your journal in a private place.
Protect your journal writing by keeping it safe. You may wish to share it with another person, if you choose. It’s up to you.

7. Read your journal from time to time.
Whether it’s weekly, monthly, several times a year or on special occasions like birthdays or New Year’s, rejoice in how much you’ve grown and how much you’ve overcome. Mark your answered prayers; you’ll be amazed. And most of all, see the good gifts of God all around you.

Terri Castillo is the editor of the Daily Guideposts Journal.

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