Journaling for Joy

“Do any of you struggle with joy?” I asked a Sunday school class of 26 college students. To ensure an honest answer, I directed the group to close their eyes and raise a hand if they concurred. Whoa—25 hands went up. I implored them to keep their hands lifted, open their eyes, and look around to see that they weren’t alone.

Christian kids struggling with joy? How many of us feel like them? Be truthful, is your hand up?

Do you want to experience more joy? Try using two books: a journal and a Bible.

Because I’ve had some experience with journaling I agreed to teach this Sunday school class on the subject. I titled it “Journaling for Joy.” Donald Whitney, in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, wrote, “By slowing down and prompting us to think more deeply about God, journaling helps us to feel more deeply (and biblically) about God.”

I’m an Orthodox Presbyterian. Aren’t we supposed to trust Scripture alone and be distrustful of our feelings because we are sinners? Well, yes, but I think it’s clear that God commands us to experience joy in God. The psalmist wrote, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give us the desires of our heart.” He also says, “For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy.” The hymn “Joy to the World” is based on Psalm 98. Truly, Scripture is loaded with references about finding joy in God.

Whitney says, “Consider journaling, not only ‘for the purpose of godliness’ but also as a way to raise up a ‘monument of God’s faithfulness’ in your life.” I have experienced times of great joy by journaling. When I review past entries, perhaps regarding times of trouble or times of questioning God’s direction for my life, and realize through the lens of Scripture that God has been incredibly faithful to me. These are occasions for great joy! Moreover, recognizing and experiencing God’s faithfulness is the kind of joy that lasts. Yes, journal entries can become monuments of God’s faithfulness in your life.

I think of Jesus’ mother at this time of year. An angel of the Lord had appeared to some shepherds outside of Bethlehem and said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” The shepherds headed promptly to Bethlehem to find this baby. When they found Him just as the angel described, they told everyone about their experience. We’re taught that “all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Journaling will help you recall God’s faithfulness in your life. The entries will bring you great joy and you will treasure them as you ponder them in your heart.