Editor’s Note: I originally wrote this piece as a guest blog post for another organization. Its title was “This Old-Fashioned Practice Can Open Whole New Ways of Looking at Life.”
While that opportunity ultimately fell through, editorial waste is a terrible thing; and so I’ve decided to run it here instead. Admittedly, the advice below isn’t a very popular way to write anymore. Nor is it one that Innovative Editing typically deals with.
Yet old-fashioned practices aren’t always bad things. We’re too quick to hop on new bandwagons these days, oftentimes to our detriment.
So why not give it a chance?
Nobody journals anymore, right?
That’s something our old-fashioned ancestors did because they didn’t have anything better to do with their time.
The first assumption, at least, is understandable when the act and art of journaling isn’t nearly so popular anymore. While I remember there being an abundance of beautiful journals and diaries in stores as a little girl and even as a teenager, I can’t recall the last time I saw one for sale.
I’m sure they’re somewhere. Probably online. Everything else is in our technology-obsessed world.
It would be both easy and accurate to blame journals’ faded appeal on those online habits. The handwritten art, which journaling traditionally falls under, is dead or dying in most circles. We type instead, our fingers clacking on our computer keyboards or our tablet screens or our phone faces.
Don’t get me wrong. As a professional editor, writing coach and published author, I overall love those technological offerings. They make my job infinitely easier, solving so many editorial issues – and writer’s cramp – in one fell swoop.
I can’t imagine life without my laptop, and I genuinely thank God for when and where I was born so that I can enjoy the perk. (Indoor plumbing is another definite bonus.)
Even so, technology has made us lazy. Now that we don’t have to worry about setting aside an hour or two to properly correspond with others, we’re too ready to take the gift of writing for granted.
And it is a gift, both for those who do it and those who read it. An important one at that.
Turn to the New International Version of the Bible, and you’ll find 80 references to the word “write.” There are an additional 39 for “writing” and 247 for “written.”
Many of these examples are commands, whether in reference to the Ten Commandments or some other law that God wanted down on paper or in stone to remind his people of who they served and what they were called for.
Considering that we serve the most powerful and loving entity ever, and that we're called to be his cherished children, what greater gift is there than that?
There are also times in the Bible when writing is referenced to empower or inspire, such as in 1 Peter 5:12, which says, “With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”
Still other instances point to proof of the Lord’s hand in history. Matthew 25:26 records Jesus as saying, “But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”
Now, Jesus had already been arrested at that point. His followers were terrified, and their short-term future was going to be filled with a whole lot more horrified confusion as the man they’d put their full faith in was led away to be brutally beaten and executed.
Where was their hope in that moment of such darkness? God wasn’t down and out, of course, but it sure must have felt like that in the moment.
It’s a feeling that many of us can sympathize with, thanks to periods of spiritual, emotional or psychological turmoil. There are losses to bear and past pains to overcome and future worries that sometimes feel like they might crush us.
Journaling can’t save us from any of that. Only God can. But God’s given us so many resources of comfort and growth and healing to utilize. And writing is one of them.
Personally, I can’t imagine how horrifying it was to watch Jesus crucified. I had to research the details of his death for The Adulteress, and that alone felt overwhelming. It must have felt utterly soul-crushing to actually witness it, and I can’t say I would have reacted any better than his devastated, despairing followers did that day or in the days to come before Jesus rose and made his presence known.
However, they did have resources to help them manage their grief. Jesus made sure of that throughout his ministry. He referenced the written Scriptures over and over again, telling his disciples and detractors alike to rely on past writings to find the truth and have hope.
That right there is what writing can do. It’s what journaling can do, providing bread crumbs to follow home when you feel like you’ve lost your way.
Taking the time to write a journal page or two during your down days – your low moments, your periods of absolute exhaustion where your only goal is to make it through with some pieces intact – can set you up to someday soon see how far God has taken you.
Taking the time to journal about your moments of obvious blessing, meanwhile, can provide encouragement later on when things aren’t looking so ideal. It can act as a reminder that your life hasn’t all been one giant product of pain: that it is worth living through and living for and handing over to God.
There are so many other benefits to journaling – too many to capture in a single blog post. But one great way to discover the full value of this old-fashioned practice is to try it out for yourself. Then see where God can lead your soul through this act of release.