God usually speaks volumes in seasons of suffering. Actually, I don’t think He speaks more than at other times, it’s just that we’re finally in a place to perk up our ears and listen.
I don’t want to miss any of that. Four years ago, I needed a place to pour out my heart and I started to consistently keep a journal. There’s no right or wrong way to journal. Many people use art journaling. Some write out scripture or re-write a passage in their own words to dig down in study. I keep a journal to capture all the emotion I feel, all of my prayers and all that God is teaching me.
As I filled that first notebook, I started a process I still use today. I didn’t want some of my important notes to get lost in the words. So I began using symbols in the margin that I could quickly go back and find. These are the symbols I use:
Cross: I mark a cross in the margin beside something God is teaching me. Sometimes He unpacks my morning Bible study so fully that I have to make a list of bullet points to get it all down. Other times, I’ll record an insight God brings to mind as I’m driving or a nugget of understanding He gives as I’m praying. All good stuff that I want highlighted to help me find it quickly.
Heart: A heart shows something very personal God has done for me. It’s like a love note. Do you have a box of corsages and notes your husband gave you while you were dating? God is so personal. Sometimes He does small things that might not even matter to most people, but they matter to me. I know they are from God to me and they reaffirm all over again that His eyes are on me, that He loves me and if He’s doing these small things, He’s going to faithfully take care of bigger things.
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Circle: I use a circle in the margin beside my prayer requests. An empty circle represents an unmet need. I love nothing more than going back and putting a check mark through that circle when God answers. I write the date and how He answered. I don’t record all of my concerns and needs because, really? I could fill volumes. I speak most of those prayers and park them in my heart. But there are times and there are needs that overwhelm me and it’s those that I often record.
Keeping a journal has served several purposes for me:
- It helps me remember. We think we’ll never forget the things God does and teaches. But months and years cloud our thinking and I’m sure without my journals, many of the details would be lost. Some of the little love notes He gives in the mundane of life would be forgotten. Journaling captures it forever.
- It helps me connect the dots. It’s fascinating to go back through older journals and see my overwhelming need one day and how God perfectly met that need on another. Just days after Dan died, I asked God whether we’d ever have joy again. I was so broken; I couldn’t imagine a life with joy. Days later, my journal shows how God answered so clearly and I tear up even now remembering how He reassured me that, yes, we would again have joy. What a perspective to see in my hurried handwriting the great despair and only days later to see God answer big.
- It helps me get emotion out of my system. I had lost my best friend, the one I usually talked things out with. I couldn’t dump this emotion on friends and I needed to process the fear and sadness and angst to parent my children. Every morning as I got away for Bible time, I poured out my emotion on paper. Instead of going to friends, I went to God. It didn’t keep all emotion from our home, but it provided an outlet. I could lay it every day before a safe God.
- It helps me remember special verses. I’m an underliner. My Bible is full of verses that I’ve underlined and words that I’ve circled. And if I’m claiming the promise in that verse, I’ll mark my name and date next to the verse. But I also like to put the promises God gives me in my journal. I can write the verse and write out my prayer for that verse.
- It reminds me of God’s faithfulness. In a thousand ways, God is faithful. When I’m having a hard day, reading through journals encourages me and reminds me of all God has already done. Just glancing over at the journals lined on my shelf stands as a reminder of all that He’s taught and all that He’s done in these last four years.
I haven’t always been a journaling girl, but I’m convinced. I see the benefits and I want to capture what God is doing in me and around me. I don’t use special pens or expensive journals. I write in a spiral notebook and when one is filled, I note the beginning and ending dates on the cover, shelve it and pull out a new one.
Do you keep a journal? Have you been wanting to start? Like that keepsake box of corsages and letters from your husband, journals are a forever record of God’s faithfulness and love to you.