A few years ago, I splurged and purchased a nice, leather bound journal I’d been wanting. Last week, I finished it.
I’ve been encouraged by reading the journals and diaries of God’s people. Jim Elliot comes to mind as an example, as does Pascal, Lewis, and perhaps Augustine. These individuals and many others kept a record of their experiences, their prayers, and their thoughts, and we benefit from them today. Because I’ve been so helped by reading the written thoughts of others, I, for good or for ill, tend to write with an eye to the future. Will anyone else read what I write today? Could these words benefit anyone else? Might I be useful as others have been?
I grew excited when I realized I was approaching the end of this journal. This book contains years of reflections on Scripture, years of prayers, years of life that brought me to this present moment. As I reflect on this journal, however, what stands out is not wisdom or insight but weakness and repetition. I am embarrassed by how often these pages record struggles of faith and obedience. I see days where I fell behind in devotions and hastily caught up, and I see where I gave up on the devotional book I’d been using. I see fears and doubts that were unfounded yet that shook me for long seasons of life. I see my seeming inability to learn the lessons I felt I should have been learning. I feel my weakness when I think about all this book contains. And this realization isn’t new; I just found an entry from March of 2016 where I noticed the same thing. When I observe my journey, I see a lot of lack, a lot of distraction, and a lot of “well-intentioned foolishness.”
Where I want to find consistent growth and wisdom, I more often find consistent prayers for help. But I find more here. I find answered prayers, like the entry from 6/7/17 expressing distance from God and praying for closeness and the entry from 6/12/17 expressing renewed closeness and desire for the Lord. I see consistent questions as I seek understanding. I see trials driving me to examine my heart and to pray for sanctification to keep working. I see God’s mercy demonstrated in his patience with my stubborn and wayward heart.
In short, my journal is marked by dependence on the Lord. As I wrote in an entry on 12/4/17, “I wait for you, though I wait imperfectly. I hope in you, though my hope is frail. You are God; let that truth anchor my soul.” This journal is not some great trove of Christian wisdom, and it may never be read by anyone else. But this journal reminds me of my place before God, and, in so doing, it reminds me of his sufficiency and love. These pages make clear that I am always in great need of grace. Thankfully, as these pages remind me, grace abounds.