What Is Thanks (Gratitude) Journaling, and Why Would You Do It?
The Power of Journaling Can Be Life Changing, From the Soul Out
What is Gratitude Journaling? What Does the Bible Say About It?
Thanks or gratitude journaling is giving written thanks to God for new things in your life. It is a concept based on Lamentations 3:22-23, which says, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness." When I was 17 (I had been saved for three years), I decided this verse was worth challenging. Were God's mercies really new every morning, or was it just a figure of speech meaning "often"? I decided the way to find out was to write down at least one beautiful thing He had done for me each day, and if I was forced to repeat a blessing or mercy, I would know it wasn't true (or that I hadn't paid enough attention!). Accordingly, I began a numbered, dated list of my daily blessings in a spiral-bound notebook. I sought to be specific - for example, taking a line or two to relate what a friend had said or done for me, rather than merely saying, "Friends..." and then listing names. I strove to remember that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17) - meaning that God was behind every kind act, good word, and fortuitous circumstance.
Three years and nearly 1,500 entries later, I had never had to write the same thing twice. God's mercies had indeed been new every morning.
Furthermore, I found that all this thanksgiving affected my attitude. I began to feel more complete, cheerful, optimistic, and loved than I ever had. This is not to say that depression never hit, but it was less severe and of a shorter duration than had been normal. During college, this journaling practice got laid aside for more necessary activities, but I never forgot - or failed to notice - that God's mercies are always new every morning. This habit of noticing has stayed with me through the years, and has helped me keep life in perspective.
"The sacrifice of praise..."
God knows our tendency to focus on what is not right, what is not good, and what hurts, and therefore understands that giving praise to Him can be a sacrifice for us. That is, it can cost us many things to take the time and effort to give praise (Hebrews 13:15 - “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”) What will it cost you? A sour attitude? A habit of looking at life as a confusing burden? An interlude amidst grief? Time out of a horrendously busy schedule? Whatever it costs you, will it pay for itself? Will it be worth it?
Let's see. Let's examine what praise is. To what does praise lead? What is the point of praise for us?
Valuable Information Deserves to Be Kept Well
Benefits of Praise
Praise is a lifeline to joy. It produces joy. It focuses our attention on what is good, right, effective, hopeful, beautiful, and generous. In short, it keeps our eyes on God's face. It takes our focus off ourselves, and our independent, dust mote lives, and forces us to remind ourselves every moment of His beauty, forgiveness, goodness, and involvement in our lives and all of creation. It is impossible to gripe, and give thanks at the same time. Try it! - see?
So, what does joy do for you? It keeps you sound. Joy is God's life displayed in your inner being. It is an acknowledgement of His presence. As such, it cannot be bought, traded, or gained through natural means. It is the result of having Him with you, sustaining your body, soul, and spirit through Himself. It is not the same as happiness or even delight, though it can produce these. It is an inner knowing that God is in charge, and that this is good. It is acknowledging His right to live His life through you, as part of His plan to fill all of creation. Therefore, joy is His gift of Himself to you, and thanksgiving is your sign of having received this gift, and of knowing it is good and valuable. Everything He has done is valuable.
There are, of course, some fringe benefits of thanksgiving and joy. You might notice your health improving, as you build your habit of giving praise to your Creator for all His generosity to you and others. (It's allowable to write down things you are thankful for in others' lives, as well.) He says in Proverbs 17:22, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones." Osteoporosis or painfully worn joints, anyone? Try if thanksgiving won't make a difference. How about heart trouble? Pride in your own thoughts, ambitions, and ways of doing things can wreak havoc on your circulatory system. (Watch for what the Bible says about hardened hearts, and bitterness.)Have you a stiff neck and back? “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51). “For ye are a stiff-necked people...” (Exodus 32:9-10, among other references). Yes, surely this means pride in yourself and your accomplishments, and carries the picture of an animal fighting a yoke, symbolizing an inappropriate independence from God...but just see what these attitudes might be doing to you?
Finally, thanksgiving and joy make you attractive. Do you want to have a good time with other people, enjoying them and having them enjoy you? If not, then you have a more serious problem than a lack of joy and optimism. Work on that first, then come back when you begin to crave fellowship with other souls. If you do want to be attractive to others, then give your soul a thanksgiving makeover. The results may astound you. You'll find yourself to be a fuller-feeling, less-miserable person with a great smile. That's attractive. When you are intent on noticing God in the midst of things, you'll see Him everywhere, and you'll find that you can't help but care about people more. They'll notice you caring for them, too. They might want to know what changed you.
When they ask why you're so glowing, just tell them about your Thanks Journal, and about God in you.
In Everything Give Thanks, with a Grateful Heart
In Everything Give Thanks. Everything?
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Further Journaling Helps
- How to Use Thanks Journaling in Your Homeschool
Encourage joy to flower in your children's hearts by teaching them to give thanks through a family writing project.
- Using Journaling to Change Your Thoughts, Feelings, ...
Journaling is a great way to change your thoughts, feelings, and actions. There are many ways to go about it, and using the computer opens up avenues not available elsewhere.
© 2012 Joy At Home
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