Journal Keeping, Part 2

Christians of all people should love words. God created language and speaks to us on the pages of Scripture. Jesus is the Word and spoke all things into existence. The Bible is overflowing with teaching (using words) on many subjects, including how we should use our words. Proverbs alone has plenty of discussion on the trajectory of words.

Journal-keeping can be a positive way to use words if the journal-keeper is wise. I think I learned this from my son: writing is a little like cooking. Don’t overcook it. Don’t serve it raw. Add the right seasonings. Make it beautiful to behold. And hope your readers enjoy your cooking. Words are not neutral or unimportant to God. He hears, He reads, even our thoughts. He sees and reads our writing. Does it please Him?

Consider this handful of Proverbs that teach us the benefits of a wise tongue: “The mouth of the righteous is a well of life” (Prov. 10:11); “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver” (Prov. 10:20); “The lips of the righteous feed many” (Prov. 10:21); “The lips of knowledge are a precious jewel” (Prov. 20:15); “A word spoken in due season, how good it is!” (Prov. 15:23); “The lips of the wise disperse knowledge” (Prov. 15:7). A good journal is nourishing to the reader and the writer. 

As you may have guessed, many of those quotations above are just half of the proverb. I haven’t done a count, but I am guessing there are more Proverbs dealing with the negative nature of the tongue. Here are a few to prove my point: “The mouth of a fool is near destruction” (Prov. 10:14); “The mouth of fools feeds on foolishness” (Prov. 15:14); “In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:19); “He who opens wide his lips shall have destruction” (Prov. 13:3). Careless words, written and spoken, are destructive. Loose lips sink ships.

And we haven’t even looked at the New Testament yet. Women in particular are singled out with a warning in 1 Timothy 5:13: “And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.” Foolish writing is a type of wandering and idleness. Many a journal entry ought not to have been written.

I’m not going to do an exhaustive Bible study here. I’m simply saying that we should and must guard our tongues in all things spoken and written: “He who guards his mouth preserves his life” (Prov. 13:3). Psalm141:3: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” Our pens need watchmen and guards just like our mouths. And the fact that a journal is “private”does not mean the words can be left unguarded.

The Scriptures do not take words lightly, nor should we. Thomas Brooks said, ” Light words weigh heavy in God’s balance.”

James calls the tongue “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (3:8). Paul warns against “foolish talking” (Eph. 5:4) and writes that we are to speak to one another in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs….giving thanks always for all things…” (5:19-20). In Philippians he tells us to meditate on the pure, lovely, good, virtuous, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). In Colossians he wraps up a passage on Christian living with this: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom….And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17). Whatever we do with words should be done in Jesus name, Amen.

Words are something we use every day, and if we take all the warnings of Scripture to heart, we will be very cautious people when it comes to handling words. When we write or speak, we should be thinking about whether our words are pleasing to the Lord Jesus. Do they show gratitude to God the Father? Are they wise, virtuous, praiseworthy? If we think about this seriously, we will write fewer words.

We all stumble in many ways, says James. And we all stumble with our words in many ways. So we should pay attention. Listen to your words whether they are spoken or written, whether they are via texting or emailing or blogging or journaling. We are accountable for every single word we speak and write.

We live in immodest times and women lack propriety and discretion. Careless writing can be a form of exhibitionism. Let’s use journal-writing as a regular practice session for modesty, discretion, and wisdom. When you sit down to write, pray for wisdom. Ask for an armed guard.

Our of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. What we write in our journals comes straight out of our hearts. Is it good? If it isn’t, then we need to get our hearts cleansed first. Then fill up your journal with words. Funny words. Enjoyable words. Stories. Poems. Jokes. Bible verses. Quotes from other writers. Things we’ve learned in sermons. Things we’ve learned from friends and family.

Life is short. Write good words.

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14 thoughts on “Journal Keeping, Part 2

  1. Thank you for this challenge and reminder, especially the last paragraph, when you wrote that our writing, not just our words, and even that which is written privately, is a mirror of our hearts.

    I have enjoyed your blog ever since I read the article “Motherhood as a Missionfield,” which was posted on the Desiring God blog.



  2. I really have enjoyed the last few posts – thank you for the advice – Never thought of journaling jokes – what a great idea.

  3. I just came upon these last few posts about keeping journals, and they’re great. Some of the Eustacian journals I kept in ninth grade were filled with totally unhealthy, self-centered blather and were good for nothing but starting a campfire.

    In skimming through the comments on the previous post, a few ladies seemed to suggest that writing out your sinful thoughts and feelings is a helpful exercise because you can look back upon the angry, emotional oil slick you sloshed all over the pages of your diary and later see how well God has been cleaning it all up. (Except that the oil slick is still there, a few pages back, just in case you feel like reliving the moment and wading through the muck all over again.)

    That’s when Proverbs 29:11 came to mind—A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.

    It may be truly helpful to read over the many instances of God’s mercy in your life (His mercy endures forever), but why not write it down after the storm has passed? Why not “keep it in till afterwards”? Save it. Write about it after the fact—maybe even years after the fact, with the perspective of distance and joy and grateful repentance.

    While in the grip of anger or bitterness, it may even be helpful to work out what exactly your sin is by writing it down. But in a diary? On gilt-edged, acid free, all-cotton paper? In a leather-bound, built-for-posterity journal?

    How much better to write out your sin on the back side of a gas station receipt, then look it over in order to confront your sin and bring it directly to God in prayer? Go ahead and read what you wrote. Identify the sin (namely your own), then pray for God to bring resolution to the situation; ask him to forgive that sin and throw it away—as far as the east is from the west. Then pick up that gas station receipt and throw it away—as far as the city dump is from the house.

    One of the biggest problems I’ve seen in my own limited journal-keeping experience is that a diary, by its very form, raises the value of the words it contains. Even when I could clearly see how embarrassingly loathsome the content of my own junior-high journals was, I had a very, very hard time just throwing them out because they had intrinsic value. Using a journal to vent sinful thoughts and feelings is to make those thoughts and feelings precious.

    A journal is a little keepsake chest for your thoughts. The problem is not with the chest. You can fill it with gems and beautiful items of real value. Or you can fill it with items you dug out of the foul litter boxes in the darker corners of your soul. But why would you want to?

  4. This is such a great conviction to me in emails that I write with other women and what they may be going thru… I thank God for the wisdom He has given you to train us younger women.

  5. Thanks for these posts as always, Ladies.

    Hannah G, I appreciate your suggestion of writing sinful thoughts on something made to throw away. I often times struggle with identifying the why behind feelings of discontentment, anger, sadness, etc. For whatever reason, if I sit down to write it out, I find it easier to confess the sin in my heart and move on. However, to Nancy’s point, there really is no need to have my sinful thoughts preserved for posterity, nor would they be edifying to anyone (including myself)later.

  6. Eustacian – what a word! And I like the idea of identifying sins on the back of a receipt and then chucking it.

  7. Excellent follow up.

    It is clear, journaling could be fun, helpful and healthy as long as we use it to “disperse knowledge” and not to “disperse” our sins.

    Journaling is not “the way” to see our sins, neither is it the way to find peace with God. Only the Holy Spirit can bring conviction of sin through His Word; the only mirror in which we are to see ourselves. Our heart is deceitful above all things, let’s believe it.

    Thanks Nancy, I appreciate your good words.

  8. Ha! I know you have no way of knowing what you just did to this lady over here, but what a way to end a post! “Life is short. Write good words.” You have no idea how that is the voice of the Lord to me today (and I do not mean that lightly). He answers prayer in the most intriguing of ways. ha! Love it. Blessings on you today. And many thanks from me.

  9. I absolutely loved this line: “Careless writing can be a form of exhibitionism.” This is a very poignant observation. Especially in a culture that prizes “Broadcasting Yourself” (thinking of the Verizon slogan)!

    Wow, Hannah G, I really appreciated your comment and felt it was very well balanced. There is a difference between truly examining yourself and simply reveling in your sin.

  10. I am so delighted to have found your lovely blog via a desiring God post. Your post confirms something I’ve been feeling for a while about my old journals but hadn’t put my finger on it. Thank you so much for sharing!

  11. I also just discovered your blog via the Desiring God article you recently wrote on Children and where they “rank”. I am so happy to have found your blog and read your concrete and wise perspective on things. I will definitely be sharing your blog with others!

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