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September 19, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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When it comes to connecting people’s hearts to the heart of God, there’s no better bridge than the Book of Psalms. It has the power to console and comfort like nothing else on earth. How many times have you been at a total emotional loss; only to find the wisdom, strength, direction, joy, peace, and perspective you need by walking down those well-worn paths of the psalms? Without question, the psalms are among the greatest gifts God has ever given to humanity.
But consider the dynamics of how these precious gifts came to us.
Ultimately, we know they’re the work of God’s Spirit as He inspired specific men like David, Moses, Solomon, Asaph, and others (2 Peter 1:21). Yet there’s another side of the coin in their creation—there was a fixed moment in time when someone had to put ink to parchment and copy down what was being impressed upon their soul.
The psalms are a running record of what was happening in the hearts of real people during real circumstances; challenging and even life and death circumstances . . . particularly when it comes to David’s psalms, which amount to roughly half of them.
From 1 and 2 Samuel, we know that David’s life was fraught with innumerable trials and temptations. In addition to being Israel’s greatest king, he was also a fugitive, a backslider, and an exile. Many of the psalms were written during these seasons, running the gamut of human emotion, which is why we find them so relatable.
Here’s where I’m going with all of this: Great things happened when David and others wrote down what was happening to them as it was happening to them. In many instances, the psalms are essentially a spiritual journal or diary that we’ve been given the privilege of reading.
Now, what they did is totally unique in the sense that it was inspired Scripture. However, they have left us an example to follow in the act of spiritual journaling. Just as their souls found valuable expression on the page, there’s tremendous value when we do what they did.
I’ve been actively following after the Lord for about 25 years now, and here’s something those years have taught me: Reading the Bible isn’t enough for me. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying God’s Word is insufficient in any way. I’m saying I need to do more then just read it if I’m to reap its full benefits for my life.
When all I do is read God’s Word, it lacks the traction that leads to lasting transformation. This changes when I read and then record what I’ve just read in a spiritual journal. Now please know that by record, I don’t just mean rewriting the passage verbatim—although that is very valuable. Rather, I mean writing down what that passage means to me, how it relates to the current situation I’m in, and how God may want to direct me in light of it. When this next step is taken, when pen meets paper, the work of God’s Word is cemented in my heart and what He wants to communicate to me goes to the next level.
Granted, this doesn’t mean I don’t fail or have to go over the same spiritual truths again and again. Journaling isn’t a short cut to sinless perfection. But I do know this for certain: Journaling advances God’s purposes in my life more than not journaling does, which is why it’s been a consistent part of my life for the past several years. Honestly, now I can’t imagine life without it!
If you’ve never kept a spiritual journal before, I’d venture you can relate the frustration of reading your Bible yet sensing something is missing, something that causes the words on the page to stick to your heart. If you feel this way, I can’t encourage you enough to start journaling. Here are a few things I’ve learned in my own journaling journey that will help you in setting out on yours.
Let the Lord lead. Don’t feel the pressure to invent or create something profound on your own. Allow the Bible to lead the way. Look at what God has already said in His Word—it will be more profound and powerful than anything you can come with anyway—and simply respond to that. Your words will be profound only as they reflect God’s Word.
Proceed at the proper pace. Decide on a pace that works best for you. Personally, I try to journal on one paragraph of God’s Word at a time. A single verse often does not give me the context and a chapter is way too much for me to absorb in a single sitting. Everyone is a bit different, but base your journaling on one main point or truth, which is usually contained in each paragraph of Scripture.
Consistency is key. We naturally gravitate towards one of two extremes: We either do something too often or too little, and that can happen in something as healthy as spiritual journaling. For this reason, I make “consistency over time” the baseline for my journaling. Consistency is somewhat open to interpretation, but for me I define it as doing something more often than not doing something. Mathematically, that equates to doing something four times a week—four days on and three days off. This leaves me with a reasonable buffer for life to happen while remaining consistent.
Share what you’re shown. Once you’ve recorded your thoughts and impressions from God’s Word, have an outlet to share it to some extent. It can be a simple sentence or summary of the Scripture you’ve read, or a seemingly unrelated connection you draw from it. The only rule is that it’s something you sensed God’s Spirit showing you. If you share it with others, it will both bless them and be reinforced in your own life. Find a way to share what you’ve been shown.
Lastly, I’m including a link to a video clip detailing a method that I personally use that may also work for you.
The psalms are a testimony to the value of keeping a spiritual journal, and we can benefit from the same practice as we put pen to paper.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.