Written by Jonathan James
God speaks to us in many ways. A journal is one way we can build a relationship with God through the thoughts and inspirations that He planted in our hearts.
Journaling is a powerful tool and a great way to track one’s spiritual growth.
When you express your thoughts, desires and feelings, it cultivates a deepened understanding and clarification on new discoveries, retrospectively and introspectively, about your life and how that God intended it to be. It is not merely about what you did today or in the past, but what you have learned about yourself, your prayers and desires, and what God has spoken to you.
I had the joy of discovering God’s desires for me through prayer, and how He had used spiritual journaling to affirm me of my dreams, vocations and desire to grow closer to Him. I used to be someone who disliked the idea of writing down my feelings, partly because of bad experience I had during my younger days. My parents stumbled upon my diary once, which contained many personal and private areas of my life I was not proud of. It was an embarrassing experience that stuck with me for years, and for a long time, I shut the door on the habit of writing.
My journey in spiritual journaling began in 2016 during Treasure 5, when many truths were revealed through the sharing, sessions and quiet time of reflections.
It dawned upon me that God was trying to reach out to me and the voice of God became louder as I continued to discover more about Him and myself. It has been 2 years since my first entry and from then, I’ve developed the habit of journaling during my quiet time with God.
These are some of my sharing on how you can (re-)encounter God through journaling.
1.Decide to start and commit into the habit of writing!
The first step is always the hardest, but the most important! In this digital age, haven’t we been already sharing much of our lives on social media (Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram etc.)? Why not do the same for our spiritual life? It can be writing down a bible verse or a word that spoke to you, maybe even a prayer or a letter to God. I recommend buying and using a physical journal as it gives you something tangible to work with. It is argued that writing stimulates and engages the brain better, and the very act of writing forces one to focus on what’s important, since writing takes more effort and time than typing.
2.Pray before you write
By putting yourself in the right disposition, you open the door for God to allow Him to speak directly into your heart. We may not know how to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us even if we cannot find the words to say (Romans 8: 26-27)
3.Allow a time of personal reflection.
Find a suitable time or place that works for you with minimal distractions so that you can give your undivided attention to God. It could sitting in the Adoration Chapel, taking a stroll in the garden, in the morning before work, or before you have a restful night. Jesus often withdrew to lonely and quiet places to pray (Luke 5:16), and we ought to be mindful of the environment that we choose to put ourselves in. Personally, my favorite place to do my journaling is in the Adoration Chapel in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I find it also helpful to use one of the techniques of prayerful reflection called Examen, which allows us to become aware of God’s presence and pay attention to our emotions and feelings we experience during the day.
4.Date stamp your entries and retrospective reading.
This may seem insignificant at a glance, but when I was reading back on some older entries from the past, I realized how much I had grown in my spiritual maturity from 2 years ago. It allowed me to reflect and dwell on my experiences and my feelings during that period in time, and learn to see God’s hand in my faith transformation.
5.Give thanks to God!
Colossians 3:15-17 sums it perfectly by saying when we allow the word of Christ to dwell in us richly, even in the encounters which we experience sufferings, pain and sorrows, we will be able to allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts.
Spiritual journaling has a unique way to heal our brokenness, lift our spirits, and build up our spiritual life. And all these can help us build a deepened relationship with God. Regardless of the way God chooses to reveal Himself or speak to us, He only wants to bring us closer to Him.