After writing every day for Februaryfreewrite challenge, I suddenly found myself drained. I thought it was going to serve as a boost for writing, but I didn’t realize how mentally and emotionally tiring it would be.
I thought it would be refreshing to absorb content instead of producing it for some time. So that’s what I did. I barely even journaled. I read books, listened to podcasts, and watched TV shows.
Friend who keeps up with my blog, thank you for your patience.
However, taking a break from writing makes room for thinking about why is writing important? What’s the point? Why journal and why express thoughts on a piece of paper?
I guess, it’s best to start in the beginning…
I picked up my first journal when I was around 12 years old. “Dear Diary…” I started and ever since I not-so-consistently recollected and recorded various ordinary and not so ordinary days of my life.
(A month or so later I stopped writing “Dear Diary” because it felt silly. I mean, I wasn’t going to pretend that my notebook is a living thing…)
They say there is no wrong way to journal.
Well, I discovered that it’s false. There absolutely is.
When you use it to accumulate your venting and your complaining, it is the wrong way to journal. You end up wallowing in self-pity, justifying your negative thinking, and focusing on your own persona. You end up believing the lies whispered to you by the enemy and your own mind. You fill your heart with bitterness toward people, circumstances around you, and eventually, God.
I had fallen into the category of one who swims in her own pool of emotions by recalling, recollecting, and recycling her thoughts.
And yet, the Lord was gracious to meet me in my pool. As he worked on my heart, on having me know him better and deeper, as he opened his Word to me, I found there was a better and a healthier way to journal.
However, keeping a diary doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I recently had a chance to visit Capitol Hill Baptist Church where Pastor Mark Dever asked whether we take the time to recount God’s goodness and leadership in our life. I was encouraged to collect memories once again for that reason. God has been beyond gracious and good to me, meeting me in my highs and lows, providing his guidance, encouragement, lessons, and love. So if keeping a diary will help me to remember those moments, I am willing to give it a try once again.
I imagine that King David didn’t think that his most personal thoughts were to be published and read by millions of people more two thousand years later. When I read Psalms, they very well look like journal entries to me. But notice this – a whole lot of them are formed in a version of prayers.
So, that’s what I started doing. By writing my own prayers, I have become aware of what am I actually praying about and for. I can also analyze my prayers and learn to pray better. Jesus’ disciples, who have been praying their whole life, asked him to teach them to pray. I want to learn as well. So, collecting prayers helps me in my learning process.
Journaling serves as a way to perform self-analysis. I often don’t know what exactly is it that I think or feel unless I write it down and read it back to myself. And oh how helpful has that been so far. (“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” – 2 Cor. 13:5). I discover I understand less than I do, think about more than I realize, question more than I thought I did, and I need to address all of that.
So, I need answers to my questions and concerns. I need the Gospel to gain clarity. I don’t know about you, friend, but I tend to forget. I may read a passage and the information goes right in one ear and out the other. That’s where writing helps tremendously. I find that as I write down my notes while studying the Word (or the Word itself, writing out the verses that particularly stand out), the words become more real, more “alive” in a sense. They enter my mind so much more strongly and there’s less chance of them leaving it soon. It also gives me time to reflect on what is it that I’m writing and test my understanding of the Scriptures. Writing also gives a chance to go back, sit in the passage and its lesson, and let it penetrate the mind and heart again and again.
In my journey of self-reflection, I found John Piper’s words to be a tremendous encouragement:
“In other words, I found so much confusion and uncertainty in my mind about so many things that it was very hard to know what to think or feel or do. That’s a great impediment to obedience. It’s a great impediment to glorifying Christ.
If you’re constantly confused about the Bible and how to apply it, then it will impede growth. I needed clarity about Bible passages. I needed clarity about the will of God and the pros and cons of various paths for my life. I needed clarity about relationships — for example, what they should look like. These relationships were friends, in the early days, a girlfriend or not a girlfriend, and now wife and children and grandchildren. I needed clarity about social issues and ethical issues.”
Ultimately, the point of journaling is not to write our thoughts down to be established forever. It needs to be a method by which we strive for a changed mindset and heart. It should glorify God (“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God” -1 Cor. 10:31), and serve as one of helpful tools in our sanctification (As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” -1 Peter 1:15) .
I know not everyone enjoys writing. But I highly encourage you to give it a try. There is a chance it might transform your Scripture study and your meditation on the Lord’s work in you own life. Find a way to remember God’s goodness toward you, to study his Word in a more efficient way, and gain clarity in life. If writing becomes that, I would be so glad.