I wanted to close out our Well-Watered Women series for this season with a post on the spiritual discipline of journaling the Word. The journaling I am referring to here is not a diary or a method to self-discovery. The journaling I am referring to is diving deep into the ocean of God’s Word, writing down and recording prayer and praises, and memorizing Scripture through writing. The point of this journaling is simple – to know God more. I am excited that you are joining in with me and pray that your heart is stirred to spend time in the Word each day, hungering and seeking after Christ alone.
I began my first real “journal” in the 7th grade. My first diary that I began in elementary school was a far cry from a journal. It was blue with whales on the front and a little lock on the side that I could shut tightly with a tiny key. I’ve never been good at keeping up with little objects, so the key would go missing in my room that was full of random craft projects and my diary would sit shut for weeks. This blue whale diary was simply a record of my crushes at the time, friend drama, and any annoyances I had with my sister (sorry sis!). With that said, this blue whale diary had about ten entries which still make me laugh to this day!
The 7th grade was the turning point for my understanding of journaling. I attended a Christian school at this point in life and was required to go to Bible class daily and attend chapel weekly. It was in Bible class that my teacher challenged us to keep a journal. He not only gave us the challenge, but he also gave us the prompts, questions, and required writings. At the time this assignment felt more obligatory than voluntary, but God used these weekly entries to grow a deep love for His Word in my heart and establish the process of thinking and evaluating through writing. My teacher would give us in-depth questions about faith that we would have to answer each week. He would challenge us to read a text of Scripture and learn to study the words of Jesus. He would even have us practice telling our testimony through words, write out Scripture verses over and over again, and dream big dreams for the future. With each entry, God instilled a discipline that would never leave me but instead grow more fervently over the years. The only difference is now, I am no longer graded for my journals. I write, study, question, and pray to know God more.
Over the past 15 years, I have gone through over 40 journals, all of which are a testament to my walk with Christ. My journals are a long storyline of God’s faithfulness, my waywardness, and the gospel’s lovingkindness. I look to some of them and my heart aches. There’s a purple one that is filled with anguish and restoration as I journeying on the road to recovery from an eating disorder. There’s a grey one that is filled with unanswered prayers and a season of loneliness when I was struggling with my singleness. And yet, there are others that I rejoice in when I read them. There is an abstract one filled adventures when my husband and I were dating and learning to fall in love. There is another one with a bird on it filled with my travels overseas to the Holy Land where I truly realized Jesus is real and the gospel is life-changing. All of these journals are markers; they are signposts of God’s unending pursuit of His children in all seasons of life.
The Art of Journaling
One beautiful thing about journaling is that there is no definition of what it should look like. Journaling looks different for all people and can even change in different seasons of life! Just like there are different styles of art when you walk through a museum, so are there different styles of journaling, writing, and processing. That is the beauty of how God speaks to His people – He is consistent, He is creative, and He is constant. And yet, even if you compare a painter like Claude Monet to Pablo Picasso, there are similarities. They both use paint. They both paint their surroundings. They both paint to create beauty and share art with the world. Through journaling the Word, there are always similarities across the board no matter what style you choose, and it is my heart to hit on a few of the core ones:
- Jesus should always be the center.Journaling, whether it be through writing, painting, or crafting, should never ever be about displaying our glory. Journaling should always be about reflecting His gospel and magnifying Christ. If Jesus is not the center of your journaling, then something or someone else is. Colossians 1:16-17 tells us – “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things and in him all things hold together.” I love worshipping Christ through creativity and art, but I am also hesitant in focusing too much on art and too little on Jesus. The Bible is clear that we are quick to worship the created rather than the Creator (Romans 1:22-23). It is easy for us to put our art on display in our Bible’s rather than the Word of God. Every word is inspired and breathed out by Him (2 Timothy 3:16). Every word is holy (1 Ths. 2:13). Every word is trustworthy and true (Matthew 24:35). Our worship should not be to receive acclamations from the world about our art. Rather our worship through creativity and Bible journaling should be about displaying the majesty of His Word. God created art for His glory, but we must be sure to glorify the holy, inspired words in black, white, and red before covering them up with our interpretations and paint. Jesus should always be the center of our journaling, painting, and illustrating.
- The Word should be studied and read in its fullness. As odd as it is for me to write this, it is a truth in our Christian culture that there are some popular verses that make their rounds on coffee cups (Jeremiah 29:11, Philippians 4:13, etc). As beautiful and powerful as these verses are, knowing them in their gospel-centered fullness is even more powerful and life-changing. When we study and approach God’s Word, we should approach it with the big picture of redemption in mind rather than to find a nugget of truth that will give us warm feelings for the day. The entire Bible is about the gospel and that is life-giving hope for eternity. All of God’s Word is life, hope, and peace, and Jesus is in it all. This is not to say that you can’t study one verse or cling to one chapter, but it is to remember that context is key and Christ is at the center.
- Our prayer should be this – rid us of ourselves and make us more like Christ. Take away the stickers, paints, flowers, gold foil, journals, and cute coffee mugs and what are you left with? Christ. Christ in His fullness. Christ in His wholeness. Christ in His beauty without our additions. We need to have a raw, real, and holy enjoyment of Christ alone without fluff, and extras deeply rooted in our hearts. Let Him be your inspiration. Don’t just focus on a few words on the page of your Bible – know it all before you paint and write. And then paint and write with joy, confidence, and for the glory of God. Let illustrated faith be first present in your heart then on paper for the world to see and bring glory to God.
The Core of Journaling
Journaling the Word is about knowing Christ more. Through writing and studying, God also shows us more of who we are and more of who He is. Have you ever had something on your mind that you couldn’t say out loud in words? I have this happen to me a lot and use the practice of journaling to speak to the Lord and to listen. Journaling has been a tool God has used to reveal to me sin and needs in my heart that only He can meet.
The Psalms are a series of beautiful journal entries penned by King David and other writers. I love Psalm 45:1 that says “My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (NASB). The Psalms are an incredible record of prayers, questions, praises, longings, truths, and testimonies. This is the heart of journaling. Journaling the Word is about knowing God and studying His Love Letter, the Bible. It is about remembering God’s faithfulness in the past, praying about all things, praising in all things, and establishing a foundation on the gospel.
- Journal To Know Christ – I love reading through the epistle’s in the New Testament. All of the epistles were letters written by apostles to churches. In a sense, they are like journal entries that were recorded also for our encouragement today (Romans 15:4). In the book of Philippians, Paul said this statement that rocks me to my core – “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ…” (Philippians 3:7-9b). Everything that Paul had known he counted as loss so he could continue to strive to Christ more. This is the core of journaling. We press forward, knowing there are infinite diamonds to be discovered in the treasure chest of the Word of God!
- Journal To Remember God’s Faithfulness – Journals are beautiful testaments of God’s involvement in our lives. We have journals like the Diary of Ann Frank and Corrie Ten Boom’s writings and stories that still impact people today. I even have some of my mom and dad’s journals from their college years that have encouraged me through my years of singleness. Journals not only help us remember that God has been faithful, but also the generations to come. I want my children, and even my friends and family, to be able to read through my journals and remember that never once has God left us or forsaken us.
- Journal To Study God’s Word – The Give Me Jesus journal was created to be a quiet time journal for women to use each morning. It is designed for women to spend time praying, studying, being still, asking God how they can be obedient in response, and praying big, honest prayers. The first section of the journal is called “Drink Deep From The Well.” because the Bible is like a deep, deep well that satisfy our every needs and longings. You have to dig deep and let down your bucket to bring up the daily nourishment. Drinking deep from the Well includes opening up God’s Word, breaking it down and stamping it on our hearts. Read here to see how I break down Scripture and journal the Word each day.
Journaling is about more than just writing, drawing, and painting. It is a testimony, a record, a flag post on your journey in this life. The end goal is always Jesus and in the beginning, middle, and end is an incredible walk of knowing the Lord more and more.
Let us journal for His glory and to know Him more intimately!