How to Use a Personal Journal for Spiritual Growth
by Brad Hambrick
“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.” - Lamentations 3:40
How do we do actually set time aside to do the work that Lamentations 3:40 asks of us? How do we examine our ways and test them? One great way to examine ourselves and make sure we’re walking in step with the Lord is to keep a personal journal.
Too often the use of a journal has been dismissed as feminine, “something you do when you need counseling,” or too time-consuming. But with a bit of reflection (which is all journaling is) we might come to a different conclusion. Many of the great figures in church history have kept a journal, and the church has benefited greatly from this window into their daily life. And while not a theologian, the great Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
If you are interested in starting the exercise of journaling, let me offer the following suggestions:
First, journal during the time when you do your daily Bible study. Do not feel compelled to write something every day. Do not write for an audience; write for your benefit and as it comes naturally for you.
Second, when you begin your journal consider the following subjects and review them annually in your journal:
- What are the top 5 values by which I want to operate my life?
- What do I believe are my spiritual gifts and talents? What are my characteristic weaknesses?
- What are the key relationships in my life? What are my goals for each of these relationships?
- How would I ideally spend the 168 hours I get each week (7/24 hour days)?
As for the journal entries that you write after these core reflections are in place, consider the following subjects:
- Self-examination based upon one of your top 5 values.
- A point of conviction regarding sin or a spiritual practice.
- Reflection on a day’s event in light of your “life story.” These are great for sharing later with spouse, children, or grandchildren as a discipling moment or family heirloom.
- A personal goal for change and steps of implementation. This is a particularly good subject to record after an insightful Bible study or sermon.
- A prayer in the form of a letter regarding a key life concern.
- An answer to prayer.
- A narrative of a key life event from younger days and the impact you see that it has had upon you.
- Insight from your daily Bible study.
- A humorous event.
- Sermon notes with your reflections.
I encourage you to consider this practice. Many have found it as an immensely profitable way to:
1. Maintain a focus on their purpose in life.
2. Increase the level of intentionality with which they live.
3. Enhance the depth of their relationships, especially marriage and family.
4. Measure progress and gain encouragement in their walk with God.
5. Remember God’s faithfulness during times that are difficult.