There was a season in my life when I journaled frequently. What I journaled and why I journaled thankfully changed and evolved over time, producing good fruit. God, by His marvelous grace, changed my heart and my mind, and through His Word taught me to journal in a manner that would please Him.
When I first began my journal, it was not mature introspection or biblical self-examination to evaluate my faith or my walk before the Lord. My journaling was self-centered, full of self-pity, the epitome of “woe is me.” I had originally thought I was justified in what I wrote, and I was certain that for my own “sanity” I had no other recourse but to indulge in intense emotional outpourings on paper in response to difficult life circumstances and in response to the unloving, hurtful actions of others. I journaled thinking I would find emotional relief and mental stability.
I recorded my despair about life being too hard to bear, about not feeling loved, and about the depth of my hopelessness. At first, I didn’t realize I was digging an emotional pit of despair and developing a sinful habit of self-destructive thinking. Every time I reviewed the words of what I had previously written, I dug the pit deeper and my emotions intensified. Life became darker and more despairing. A root of bitterness worked deeper into my heart.
I am thankful, however that Jesus, the Light who shines in the darkness, began a work in my heart. The true Light began to enlighten me. My thinking began to change. The Holy Spirit illumined the Word of God and I knew I was not alone. I was not unloved. There was hope. I began to experience the transforming power of His Word.
My thinking changed as I read, studied and meditated on the Scriptures. As a result, my journaling changed too! It became less about detailing what was happening in my life or trying to determine the why behind my struggles and instead became about who was my life, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I love and serve a great and mighty God. As the Lord imparted truth to my soul, my despair became hope and my thoughts began to rise above my circumstances.
I learned love is patient and kind. Love does not seek its own and does not keep a record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). I started tearing pages out of my journal. They were not God honoring and would be extremely hurtful to others if they read what I had written.
The words I then began to write were cries of my heart no longer written in hopeless anguish, but in joyful anticipation of a miraculous work of God. I recorded the answers to those prayers. My faith grew and my anxiety melted away.
I wrote out portions of the Psalms in my journal. Like the psalmist I wanted to be honest about my emotions but I was careful to acknowledge one of the names of God or one of His attributes. The psalmist asked himself, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me” (Psalm 42:5a)? But he didn’t stop there. He purposed in his heart to “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help (literally saving acts) of His presence” (Psalm 42:5b). God is always present. He promises He will never desert or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). As I recognized these truths, how could I not write in my journal a testimony of His grace and mercy working in my life? Rather than writing out of self-pity I decided I would rather write a witness of God’s faithfulness in the ordained circumstances of my life with the intent of bringing glory to His name.
Now I write praises, verses of songs, and poems that result from the transforming power of the Scriptures on my heart. I have purposed to write down the “songs in the night” (Psalm 77:6) that comforted me. I am now able to rejoice and sing in spiritual worship to the one true and living God. The Lord by His mercy has brought joy out of my sorrow. Life is hard, but I chose to stand in faith with the one who has “overcome the world” (John 16:33).