It was a tough morning. I could barely keep my eyes open and struggled to get out of bed with any level of energy. I felt mentally ready to face the day and my spirits were high, but my body wasn’t cooperating. It just wanted more sleep!
Have you ever felt that way?
Naturally, I made my way straight to the coffee pot, which is part of my normal routine. But caffeine didn’t do the trick. I’ve noticed that it’s not always the miracle pep-provider that I hope. Fresh fruit for breakfast didn’t help, either. My time with Jesus helped a bit and I could finally start to move the wheels on this bus. Once I got moving, I started feeling a lot better. My liveliness and clarity were great through a couple of morning meetings, but then I sat down to work at my desk and my energy plummeted again.
Why am I so tired, I wondered. And then it became clear. I haven’t taken a real day off for weeks. Our entire family is getting ready for some big moves and gigantic changes and we’ve all been running proverbial marathons. Several of us have been sick, fighting through colds, coughs, and sneezes just trying to stay on track. It seems we never stop. And that’s probably because, in reality, we never stop.
Rest in the Bible
There’s a little gift the Lord gave us that we tend to overlook. It’s the gift of rest. If I dig deeper into my honesty tank, I’d say we ignore the gift. On purpose. That’s not good.
Our family has a propensity to let our ever-increasing task list and upcoming deadlines keep us from enjoying Sabbath. Perhaps your family does too.
Many Scriptural encouragements remind me that the Lord provided rest for our good. Yet it is an aspect of His protection and provision that we often fail to embrace. Consider with me:
Mark 6:31— And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat (ESV).
Matthew 11:29— Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (ESV).
Exodus 34:21— “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest (ESV).
Mark 2:27— And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (ESV).
Setting aside a day each week for rest is commanded (“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. . .” [Exodus 20:8]), and as with all Scriptural commands, it’s intended for our good and God’s glory.
Rest and Productivity
I find it remarkable that when I take true, Sabbath, I’m more productive afterward. I recognize the Lord’s hand of favor and ease over my work. It’s as if I get more done after a break than I would have without one. Then I wonder why it’s so easy to ignore rest and work straight through the week.
Apparently, I’m not alone in neglecting my rest. The Lord addressed it through His prophet, Isaiah. “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling. . .” Isaiah 30:15 (ESV).
This verse is convicting! God offers us so much in our rest, yet we are quick to turn our back, believing we can accomplish more in our own strength. He wants to do more than provide for our rest, He wants to be our rest. By connecting and abiding in Him, thorough His Word and in prayer, we can find refreshing rest in His presence.
Spiritual Growth Through Rest
As we work to sprout our spiritual growth, let’s make a conscious effort to rest our bodies, minds, and spirits. On top of adopting some of the practices we’ve outlined in this series (time in His Word, meditation, and worship), schedule a real, actual day off and rest. Your rest can look a lot different than being a couch potato. You might decide to sleep late or take a nap, but you’ll also find rest as you get out and do something you enjoy—something that’s not part of work or a project on your “to-do” list.
Rest is a wonderful practice that helps us keep God as a high priority in our lives and avoid making our tasks an inadvertent idol. But rest often takes intentional focus. It certainly doesn’t flow into our lives naturally, so we must actively pursue it to enjoy it’s wonderful benefits.
May you embrace the joy of the Lord today,
I’ll admit I’m not one who keeps a daily spiritual journal.
Like most things in my life, journaling takes on the familiar “inconsistent-yet-somehow-still-effective” sort of routine. I journal in a variety of ways during times when the Holy Spirit seems to whisper, “don’t miss this,” or when my thoughts need untangling.
I’ve noticed that when I’m trying to sort out a problem or embrace a new idea, I find I do some of my best thinking when my fingers touch the pen or keyboard.
My journaling style consists of notes written in the margins in my Bible, on 3 x 5 note cards that accumulate . . . well, everywhere, blog posts, prayer journals, notebooks, and occasionally in letters and emails. As I said, consistency has not seemed my strong suit, yet I find great value and many benefits through the practice of writing down my thoughts.
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Why Keep a Spiritual Journal
The instruction in Deuteronomy 4:9 is to
“be on guard and diligently watch yourselves so that you don’t forget the things your eyes have seen and so that they don’t slip from your mind as long as you live. Teach them to your children and your grandchildren” (HCSB).
Journaling helps us take these words of Moses to heart and utilize them in practical application.
Let’s see how, step by step:
A spiritual journal helps us self-examine
Through journaling, we can evaluate our thoughts, reactions, spiritual growth, and the way we apply God’s truth to our lives.
Author Michael Hyatt says “What happens to us is not as important as the meaning we assign to it. Journaling helps sort this out.”
I completely agree. It frequently helps to process my thoughts through journaling and determine the most God-honoring response. I can then move forward with purposeful intention – steady my walk so to speak – and pursue obedience and God’s ways. I find the process quiets my potentially surging emotions and helps me focus on the Lord and His plan.
Journaling helps us diligently watch ourselves.
A spiritual journal is a great tool for meditation
When we’re quiet before the Lord, He often reveals meaningful insights through His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. More often than not, we have to sort through the revelations just like one would eat an elephant: one bite at a time. Recording our thoughts helps bring what may seem like a blurry landscape into better focus. The more we contemplate His truths through the practice of journaling, the more we can process and remember what we’ve learned.
Research shows that writing with pen and paper promotes high-quality learning and offers a good strategy to store and internalize ideas for the long term. The act of putting pen to paper to record what we have experienced in our walk with Christ strengthens both our recollections and our resolve to walk in obedience.
Journaling helps us remember the things we’ve seen.
A spiritual journal offers a venue to record our journey with God
A journal serves as a type of memorial stone so that our stories don’t get lost in the busyness of our schedules. The Lord told Joshua to establish markers that would always serve as a memorial for His people and a sign among them (see Joshua 4). Looking back on our own stories helps us recall the Lord’s steadfastness and builds our faith for the road ahead.
Journaling helps keep our stories from slipping our minds.
A spiritual journal can provide a witness to future generations
Most of the time we are writing for ourselves and not for an audience when we journal. Keep in mind, however, that when we pass from this life (and maybe before that time), our journals will likely be collected and read by loved ones. They will read the stories of our powerful testimony and experience the journey of our spiritual growth through our words. Only the Lord knows how He will use our written words to encourage others and perhaps draw them into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Journaling can help us teach our children and grandchildren.
How to Keep a Spiritual Journal
There are multiple ways to begin journaling. The key to becoming effective is to begin doing it. There’s no need to strive for perfection, rather, our aim is to embrace the experience and the blessings it provides.
- Take notes during sermons and messages that you hear. Record what you learn, then be sure to also record ways that the Holy Spirit prompts you to apply the lesson to your life.
- As you read and meditate on Scripture, record how the Scripture hits your heart, or how it encourages or challenges you during this specific season of your life.
- Record your prayers – and the answers to those prayers.
- Journaling Bibles offer great prompts and inspiration, along with the room to write directly in the margins.
- Many people enjoy setting aside a specific time and place to record their thoughts each day. Others write when inspiration strikes and always have pen and paper within reach. You may need to experiment and find a routine that works best for your personality and schedule.
- When you begin journaling, you can start with any format and in any type of notebook. However, I find that when I have a notebook and pen that I like, I am more likely to take it out and use it. It’s worth a small investment to purchase something you enjoy using.
If you’re just beginning, remember to start small. Your goal isn’t to write your entire life story, but to begin where you are. Start by recording your thoughts for today and try to develop a consistent habit over the next several weeks. As with any spiritual discipline, journaling takes practice before it starts to feel comfortable and routine. Little by little as confidence develops, you might begin to incorporate lessons and testimonies from your past into your writing efforts.
Most people don’t like the way they write but don’t let that stop you. Consider your journal as an offering to the Lord and share your heart with Him through your pen. I’m confident you’ll find the process rewarding and meaningful as it helps you self-examine, meditate, record your spiritual journey, and provide a record for future generations.
May God’s Word Strengthen You Today,