How quickly we forget!
As a young person, I never kept a diary – I’m not sure why, because I did enjoy writing. And now I wish I had because there were so many stories I wrote as a teenager and I’ve forgotten them all. There were also so many good things the Lord did for me back then, in spite of the bad things which happened to me as a child. Though I remember many of those good things, there are details I wish I could remember accurately.
But about 18 years ago when a respected counselor insisted I keep a journal as part of my healing process, I decided to try it. Now, looking back, I realize just how much it has meant to me over the years, as a healing tool, a worship tool and a memory aid.
Journaling as a healing tool
There were no “rules” for journaling except that I had to be honest, writing down everything I was thinking and feeling. At first I wrote tentatively, thinking about events rather than the feelings connected with those events.
But over time I noticed that I began to preface my journaling time with prayer that the Lord would unlock the secret places of my heart – those places I tried to hide from myself and especially from Him. I needed to know the roots of my depression, anger and pain so He could heal those damaged festering places of my heart.
Psalm 139 became a favorite of mine. There was no place I could hide from the light and knowledge of God. He taught me how to become vulnerable to Him and that vulnerability brought trust as I realized He handled those hurting places in my heart with care and love.
The writings showed that trend – though each entry started with pain and shame pouring onto the page, it ended with praise and jubilation. He saw the darkest parts of my heart and still cared! He saw my naked heart and still loved me!
Later, during some counseling training through Dr. Richard Dobbins at Emerge Ministries in Akron OH, I learned why this kind of journaling was so effective as a healing tool. .
Dr. Dobbins suggested to pour out our hearts to God – to basically pray until there are no tears left. Then as we felt the emptiness, he suggested to begin to listen to the voice of God and ask Him to help us reinterpret the painful parts of our lives. He called his model, “praying through.”
Journaling was a form of “praying through” the difficulties of life which helped me identify the feelings I hid inside for so long – a way to empty my heart onto paper.
The act of writing down those thoughts and feelings in a journal involved the additional sense of touch. I often found myself speaking the words as I wrote them with tears flowing down my face as I poured out my hurts, shame and fears.
Writing was slower than praying – which meant I had more time to feel what wrote. Since I had learned to bottle up my hurts and fears from an early age, I needed the extra time to really feel what was in my heart.
When my heart was empty, when all the words were out on the paper, there would be a lull – a silent empty time to regroup emotionally. During that time, I was able to listen to the Spirit of God.
Once again, journaling helped. As God spoke slowly and deliberately to my heart, I wrote down the impressions I felt from Him and the alternative ways to view my past. The message was loud and clear – what man meant for evil and to harm me, God had used to mold me into the unique, special person I was, a person with a message of life I could share with others.
As I reread the entries later, the powerful, overwhelming love and intimacy of those moments spent with God struck me. Being humble, empty and quiet before God allowed room for His Spirit to fill my heart with His healing love and by journaling them I had a permanent reminder of those moments to reinforce His truths when the doubts came!
Journaling has truly been a healing tool!