By Elizabeth Prata
DebbieLynne Kespert re-posted a great essay from 2018 yesterday in her blog feature Flashback Friday. I always like when people do this because it either brings forward great content I’ve missed, or it reminds me of great content I can read again.
Her essay was about journaling. After I re-read it, I began thinking about journaling once more. Now, there’s journaling and there’s journaling.
In Christian journaling, we’re treated to headlines like the “How-To” articles that make great promises:
–How to Encounter God through Journaling.
–How to Keep a Christian Journal: 9 Steps (with Pictures) that promise ‘will help you gain more faith in God’.
There are the subtle ‘How-To’ articles that also make promises, like promising the practice will allow you to hear the voice of God, as the headline here promises: “Spiritual Journaling for Christian Growth and Transformation: Spiritual journaling is a great way to find time for God and to hear his voice.”
From there it becomes easy to drift from the actual journaling into the products, like this search result:
4 FREE and Easy Bible Journaling Templates – “When it comes to Bible journaling, you may envision beautiful colors and artistic designs. As you’ll discover in today’s post, however, Bible journaling can simply be taking up pen and paper and jotting down study notes. Below you’ll find 4 templates for you to use in Bible journaling.”
Then drift further into not just journaling, but Christian adult coloring books, with even more products to search for. Distraction!
I like both journaling or coloring. They can be a simply fun or personally fulfilling activity you do to relax. Fun…unless you do expect to hear the voice of God or your adult coloring page is based on a Hindu mandala. The above kinds of journaling are not a substitute for deep Bible study, but they’re associated activities of journaling, whichever way you interpret the word ‘journaling’. Like any subject, its value is neutral – until satan gets hold of it and pollutes it grossly or subtly. It’s why we need to be on guard, even with so-called “good” Christian activities.
As I said at the opening, DebbieLynne’s article on Friday made me think about journaling again, so I searched on my blog for the subject. I laughed at the number of results. It seems I write about it every couple of years. I admit to struggling with the notion of pen to paper in a spiritual type of journal. I’ve started and abandoned more journals than I can shake a stick at. Here are my essays on the subject-
2018: Thoughts in Introspection and Journaling
2016: Journaling- Biblical or Occultish?
2016: Adult Christian Coloring Books: Put Away Childish Things
2015: Bible Art Journaling: No, No, No
2013: Is Christian Journaling Good or Bad?
What DebbieLynne found in her years of journaling is that the constant introspection caused an undue dwelling on emotions and negativity rather than on Jesus and His word. Journaling had become a distraction and hindered her walk.
After 17 years of venting my feelings, I woke up to the fact that venting only keeps a person’s attention fixed on his or her problems. Venting through a journal is even worse, in my opinion, because the act of writing slows down the thought process, prolonging the focus on a subject. So when someone uses a personal journal to ruminate on their feelings, should it surprise us that we wind up wallowing in self-absorption?Journaling: The Pitfall We Should Recognize
Journaling can also be very good. Reagan Rose at Redeeming Productivity wrote about the Ten Spiritual Benefits of Journaling. He said,
A few weeks ago I was cleaning my garage and discovered a stack of old journals in a plastic bin. That put a prompt end to my cleaning plans. For two-hours, I sat on a metal folding chair poring over entries I had penned over a decade ago. As I read, I was reminded of long-forgotten life events, surprised by God’s providence, and embarrassed by my own ignorance. But for all the emotions those old journals stirred up, when I finally set them down, the one feeling I was left with was gratitude.Ten Spiritual Benefits of Journaling
GotQuestions has a good article about journaling, noting that the Psalms aren’t exactly a journal but sort of are. There are other good points in their article, too, which is here.
I decided through all my back and forth over the subject of journaling, agonizing over it and worrying about how to do it, that in the end, I do “journal” every day. My entire blog is a journal. Blog is short for weblog, which is a record of thoughts and ideas. I’ve written daily here since January 2009. A journal doesn’t have to be solely pen to paper. Duh, I finally figured that out. LOL, well, I never said I was smart. Or quick.
Journaling can be good and helpful, as Reagan’s article notes or the GotQuestions essay instructs. It can have pitfalls, as DebbieLynne’s article notes. It can devolve into something that distracts from actual Bible study, like coloring, or draws a person into occult areas like waiting to hear God or channeling a spirit directly. Like anything, it is an activity that you may find helps your walk, or not. Being aware and mindful is the key. Why?
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8).