I love the feeling of opening up a brand new journal—it is really one of my favorite things! From a young age, I doodled and wrote chicken-scratch on legal pads and spiral workbooks. I made sure I had a different colored composition notebook for each class in school, and I reserved the cute leather-bound journals for special diaries, lists, and memories. But the practice of journaling—the spiritual discipline of writing things down in an organized and consistent manner—that is another story. It took me quite some time to get into this habit of holiness. I was a freshman in college before the need and the nature of this practice really took root in my heart.
Journaling is a spiritual discipline, a habit that believers are invited into to further pursue Christ and Christ-likeness. Some spiritual disciplines are commanded in Scripture (see Matthew 6). While journaling is not specifically commanded, it is certainly modeled for us. The Bible itself is a composition of God’s given Word to us through men He chose to pen it on paper (or rather, put ink to parchment). Read any biography of well-known Christian men or women and you’ll find that much of the content in those biographies comes from the subjects’ own journal pages.
For believers, journaling is more than keeping a diary of daily events. It has great value: remembering truths from Scripture, recording God’s work in our lives, and keeping track of prayers and requests. It gives us a space to record devotional thoughts, helps us stay accountable to other disciplines, and much more. In his well-known book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney says, “A journal can be the means by which the Holy Spirit shows us areas of sin or weakness, the emptiness of a path we have chosen, insight into our motives, or other things that can transform the journal page into an altar of seeking God” (207).
Journaling can help us better understand ourselves, better meditate on Scripture, better express our thoughts and feelings, altogether keep record of our spiritual lives, and seek the Lord. How much would it benefit our girls if they began this discipline at a young age? How much more would they learn and remember from Scripture? How much better would they process emotions, thoughts, and actions?
But, like any other spiritual discipline, there are a host of hurdles that get in the way of the habits we should pursue. For one, our girls don’t make time for these things. Journaling requires them to pause, to slow down, to put other things down and pick up a pen, when fast understanding and fast application is what they’re after. In addition, this generation doesn’t write anything down anymore. They don’t take notes. They don’t keep diaries. They say happy birthday with Insta-story posts, they share their emotions with emojis, and they keep track of memories with social media timelines. They don’t process, reflect, remember, or record things much at all.
Most of all, whether it pertains to journaling, prayer, what a “quiet time” is supposed to look like, or any other spiritual practice, our girls have ideal images and unreal expectations that bring about insecurities and frustrations. They think prayers should sound a certain way or use certain words. They think a quiet time has to look Instagram-worthy with a cute mug and a set of colorful pens. So when it comes to journaling, they often feel inadequate or insecure because they think there’s a “right way” to do it and they just don’t know it.
Here’s the truth that can help our girls (or even you!) use journaling to pursue Christ and Christ-likeness: “Your way of keeping a journal is the right way…There are no rules for keeping a journal” (Whitney, 217). Journaling can be such a freeing spiritual practice. Journaling doesn’t have to be an everyday, hour-long, in-depth process. It doesn’t have to be done in a certain place, and you don’t have to write a certain number of pages. You do have to make time for it. You do have to write something down somehow. But there’s complete freedom in how often it’s done, what medium is used, and what it looks like for you.
Journaling can have such value on our spiritual lives, but the point isn’t to have the best-looking journal entries. The point is to slow down long enough to think, feel, take notice, and remember the things God is teaching us and the ways God is moving within us. As Donald Whitney says, “By slowing us down and prompting us to think more deeply about God, journaling helps us feel more deeply (and biblically) about God” (210).
Encourage your girls to journal. This spiritual discipline could be a tool God uses to draw them deeper into His Word and closer to His heart. Start small with some of these ideas:
- Take notes in church services, whether that’s Sunday morning worship or Student Ministry events and activities.
- Let them know it’s okay to write in the margins of their Bible.
- Give them notebook paper, notecards, or a journal in your Bible study, Small Group, or Sunday school class to keep up with as the year goes on.
- Start a group text where they can share a Scripture and a short devotional thought from their daily time in the Word.
- Give them prompts to think on and write about, or questions to answer on their own.
- Gift them a journal to jumpstart this habit.
For more on journaling, explore these helpful resources:
5 Ways to Flourish in Journaling
7 Reasons to Keep a Journal
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life – Donald Whitney
How to Keep a Spiritual Journal
To help your teen girls get started with journaling, check out some of these cheap and super cute journals they will love:
Nature 2 Journal
Burgundy with Floral Journal
Bible in a Year, Reading Plan Journal
Teen to Teen Journal
White Marble Journal
Melonie Wagner has the joy of serving full time on staff as the Student Ministry Associate at First Baptist Mt. Juliet in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. Her passion is to see girls come to know and love Jesus Christ through the local church. As a born and raised Tennessean, Melonie enjoys all things outdoors, the coziness of a good book, and quality time with her people.
Connect with Melonie: Instagram.