The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

Is Journaling for You?

Posted on: August 16, 2016

Is Journaling for You?.001


The palest ink, it is said, is more reliable than the strongest memory. I suspect that is true, but I would have to speculate on that, because my memory would never qualify as “the strongest memory.” So, it is even truer with a memory like mine, which is capable of permanently remembering the most trivial details while permanently forgetting essential things!

But, back the point. One implication of the “palest ink” concept, is the value of journaling.


I was challenged, many years ago, to journal every day. Also, I have read of some high achievers who journal every day. Michael Hyatt, for instance, former president and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, and now “Your Virtual Mentor,” recently committed himself to journaling faithfully after a lifetime of spotty success. He’s been at it about a year now, and is waxing enthusiastic about its benefits. He also wrote recently that, to help him be faithful and relevant in journaling, he now uses a template, which you can read about here. It’s working well for him, and may work well for you.

So, there are those who journal daily and find it an extremely valuable thing to do.

There are, of course, many high achievers who have never journaled. So, one might conclude that it is helpful for some, but not necessarily for others

In the past, momentarily inspired, I have successfully journaled every day for short periods of time, but never for long. There were too many forgettable days. I lost interest. It just never seemed worth the effort to do it every day.

However, I was inspired around a decade ago to journal, not every day, but when there was something interesting or relevant to journal about.

It was a time of particularly challenging personal trial, and I journaled about what was going on in my life and the things the Lord seemed to be teaching me.

As is often true during tough times, it was also a particularly rich time in my relationship with the Lord, and I recorded many important and valuable insights.

As I continued, I wrote about important events, important conversations, spiritual insights I had while reading the Bible, or praying, or studying, or perhaps just out of the blue. If I have an important spiritual insight, I don’t want to lose it. So, I store it in my journal.


I have read of journalers who almost never go back to reread what they have written. The value of journaling, for them, is processing life’s events “in the moment.” More than once I have read the humorous claim that it is “cheaper than therapy”.

However, I have found going back to reread my journal, perhaps once or twice a year, an extremely valuable experience. I underline the things that seem particularly important, so that my eyes go back to them when I review.

As I have periodically reviewed my journals, I have been struck by three curious mental processes that I suspect are not unique to me.

First, I have been reminded of extremely important things that happened in my life, things the Lord taught me, insights I had, and ways the Lord sovereignly worked in my life. It is encouraging and empowering to renew my awareness of those things.

Second, I have been astonished at the number of very important things that I had completely forgotten about!!! I couldn’t believe that something so vivid (at the time), so important, and so powerful could have disappeared from my consciousness. I have been able to renew my memory of valuable events and to re-live the spiritual encouragement and benefit that came from them.

Third, I have been amazed at how many times my memory had drifted into inaccuracies. My memory was one thing, but then when I re-read the events, I saw that my memory was wrong! It was unbelievable to me because my inaccurate memory seemed so real!  I have been able to review the real account and renew the accuracy of important and valuable events.

In addition to those three stand-out values of re-reading a journal, there are other benefits I’ve experienced.

  • It has been a faith builder to re-live times the Lord was faithful to me in the past.
  • I have been able to see areas of spiritual growth.
  • I have connected dots and gotten new spiritual insights by reviewing things God did in the past.
  • It has encouraged me to be less likely to freak out at present trials when I see how God got me through past trials.
  • It helps me consciously process what is going on in my life and cultivate an eternal perspective, rather than just letting life happen to me.


I don’t handwrite my journal. I type, for two reasons.

  1. First, because I type much faster and more legibly than I handwrite. It took me a little time and effort to learn to think and type at the same time. I used to have to handwrite if I wanted to think as I wrote, because typing distracted me. But I soon lost that distraction, and now I think much better when I type because I can keep up with my thoughts more easily, and I can rest assured that I will be able to read what I have written.
  1. Second, I want to be able to search my journal for things I might vaguely remember, but don’t know where they are. That has been a life-saver for me more than once. I started typing in Microsoft Word and saving it in my documents files simply because that’s what was available years ago, and I just did word-searches in Word. Later, I started using Evernote*, because, in addition to doing word-searches, I can tag, add keywords to my entries for easier and more complete searches. As a result, I have been able to glean excellent resource material for sermons, blogs, and other ministry venues. Journaling on Evernote also makes it available on all my electronic devices. (Once again, Michael Hyatt has an excellent podcast on how to use Evernote here.)

So, if you’ve perhaps been impressed with the value of journaling, but, like me, have never been able to be consistent at it, you may want to try “purposely-intermittent” journaling. I think you’ll find it very beneficial to your personal and spiritual growth.

*Not an affiliate link – I just wanted to share a tool I’ve found helpful.

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