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The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
April 14, 2014
How Journaling Saved My Relationship with God
I recently hit a major wall in my relationship with God. I was struggling to hear his voice and sense his presence in the midst of difficult life circumstances.
It wasn’t because I hadn’t taken time to be with him, however. I was having a daily quiet time that consisted of prayer, reading the Bible, and worship, and I was also taking a day each month to just be with God and listen to him (a practice called “retreats of silence”). But despite these things, I was still having a hard time connecting with God, and I didn’t understand why. All I knew was that my intimacy with God needed a boost.
Things began to change when I went to visit my spiritual director, a person who is gifted in helping others identify how God is at work in their lives and what next steps they can take to grow. I shared with him my struggles in deepening my intimacy with God, and he gave me a discipline to try out. The discipline he suggested was journaling.
Now, I wasn’t new to journaling by any stretch. I had been practicing the discipline of writing down my thoughts and prayers for at least two years prior. However, the way in which I was journaling was not really helping me connect to God.
Up until this point, my method of journaling was recounting the events of my previous day and writing out prayer requests to God about the upcoming events in my life. It functioned as a log of my daily activities, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The problem was that it was not building my intimacy with God, so I was therefore approaching it more so as a chore than as a joyful means of relating to God better.
A New Way to Journal
My spiritual director offered four key changes to how I was journaling.
- First, he suggested that I journal as if I was writing and talking to God instead of myself. So instead of beginning my entries with, “Yesterday, I really enjoyed going to…” he wanted me to begin with “Dear Father…”
- Second, he proposed that when I journal, I increase the amount of each entry from one page to three.
- Third, he recommended that when I write an entry, I write all three pages non-stop. That way, my entries would function as a stream of consciousness that was more raw and unfiltered rather than well-thought-out sentences on a page.
- And finally, he suggested that I not ask anything from God when I journal. Rather, I should just talk to him and express how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking.
Breakthrough with God
I began doing this form of journaling every morning during my quiet times, and at first, I didn’t notice much of a difference in terms of my sense of closeness with God. But as the weeks and months went by, I saw breakthrough happen.
- I noticed that I became more honest with God as I let my stream of conscious thoughts flow onto the page instead of polishing them up in my head before writing them down.
- I observed how my conversations with God about circumstances in my life went deeper. The increase of length in my entries forced me to keep talking to him about what was going on inside of me.
- I also saw how writing my entries to God turned the practice of journaling from a chore to a time of genuine, joyful (and sometimes painful) communion with my heavenly Father. And as a result, I was able to hear his voice more clearly and sense his presence in my everyday life.
In many ways, journaling saved my relationship with God. I think I would still be struggling as much today as I was back then to connect deeply with him. That’s not to say I never struggle to connect with him anymore; sometimes it’s still difficult to discern what he’s saying to me and how’s he’s working in me. But because of the changes I made with journaling, I can definitely say that it is a key spiritual discipline for me that is helping me become a better follower of Jesus.
I love journaling now, and I would recommend it to anyone seeking to grow in his or her own relationship with God.
Danny Profit Jr. is a campus staff member with InterVarsity at Joliet Junior College in Illinois.
Image by Matt Kirk.