In our previous post we finished Frank Hamrick’s helpful teaching about discovering God’s providence as taught in the scriptures and evidenced in our lives. Frank concluded by challenging his readers with this thought, “We will not remember providences if we don’t write them in a book. Record them in a special providence journal.” This post will offer some practical suggestions about how to do that. Journaling, or recording, our thoughts from scriptural meditation can be a huge blessing that continues to refresh and renew our lives.
Many years ago during a very difficult time in our life a number of Christian friends independently, over a period of weeks, gave us words of encouragement by recommending specific verses of scripture. Because the Bible passages were so numerous I began to record them on 3×5 notecards in order to remember them. Connie and I were traveling extensively by car during that season of life and we began to take out those cards frequently and read them during our drive time.
Those verses became very precious and powerful to us. We would recall who gave us each verse, or passage, and that caused us to rejoice in their friendship and kindness. But over time the carefully chosen verses became even more precious and powerful because we were continually meditating over and over on the truths expressed in God’s Word as it ministered to our hearts.
Remember, these were gifts of encouragement given to us during our time of need. They were a blessing that continued to touch our lives. Today we still have those worn and dog-eared cards tucked away in a special place. What a joy it is every five or six years to discover those cards and reminisce about God’s providential provision at that time of trial. Actually, many years later I also typed all those passages into a document that is stored on my computer. Periodically I open that document and benefit again from their lasting insights.
Recently a ministry friend remarked in an email that “It seems like we are in a renaissance of journaling. Lots of it connected to productivity…” I think he is right! Several years ago the Moleskine phenomenon (luxury journaling notebooks, in case you are unfamiliar with them) showed evidence that people were returning to the practice of recording personal thoughts in a more formal written manner. Since then a host of more affordable journaling products have appeared on the secular market.
Then productivity tools, that are now available on our smartphones and other digital devices, make it possible to record and keep our thoughts in easily accessible places for future review and remembering. I use the Notes feature on my iOS devices to record and archive thoughts, musings, and other content for future meditation and profit. Android and Windows applications also provide a plethora of options to journal and record material that has recurring and abiding value.
Author Timothy Keller gives an excellent illustration of the benefits of meditating and writing down our thoughts. In one of his books he writes:
At one point I went to a conference for Bible study leaders. I’ll never forget one of the exercises. The instructor gave us one verse, Mark 1: 17: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’” She asked us to spend thirty minutes studying the verse. She warned us that after five or ten minutes we would think we had seen all there was to see, but she challenged us to keep going. “Write down at least thirty things you see in or learn from the verse.” Ten minutes into the exercise I was finished (or so I thought) and bored. But I dutifully pushed on and kept looking. To my surprise there was more. When we all returned she asked us to look at our list and circle the most penetrating, moving, and personally helpful insight. Then she asked us a question: “How many of you discovered your best insight in the first five minutes? Raise your hands.” No hands. “How many after ten minutes?” One or two hands. “Fifteen?” More. “Twenty?” A large number now raised their hands. “Twenty-five?” Many of us now raised our hands, smiling and shaking our heads.
There is much to glean from the riches of God’s Word.
Read. Record. Review. Remember.