I have a diary. I’m not even going to try to be cool by saying it’s a “journal” because it’s a straight-up diary that begins with “dear” at the start of each entry. So the gig’s up: I am a 27-year-old woman with a diary and I’ve had one ever since I learned how to string sentences together.
Every so often, I’ll revisit my old diaries for a good laugh (or cry). From complaining about boys, body image, dreams of being fabulous in NYC, and general confusion regarding my vocation, I’ve realized the essence of who I am has barely changed — which is both endearing and disturbing to me.
As I sit here perusing through a stack of diaries, I see most of them begin with the classic, “Dear Diary.” But I’ve also noticed that every so often a “Dear God,” sneaks in between the colossal meltdowns of my adolescence.
The oldest diary in my possession is from 2005, and one entry states: “Dear God, please help me do well this year in Algebra. Please make it all click in my head and not to feel embarrassed in front of everyone.”
And below that is another entry: “Dear God, please give me the courage to go to confession.”
But guess who still writes to God in her diaries? Yep — me.
When I was younger, I thought maybe He heard prayers better when they were written down. And honestly, I was kind of right. Not to say that purely verbal prayer isn’t effective, but I’ve received a ton of clarity and consolation after writing to God. Journaling is therapeutic, and intentionally combining it with prayer gives it an extra oomph.
There is more than one benefit to writing to God via your diary (or journal, if you’re cool):
Work through and process your emotions
Do you get so caught up in emotions that you can barely think coherently? Do your thoughts get all scattered and pushed around by feelings? Well, writing allows you to channel all of those feelings into actual words and sentences, which helps you to understand how you’re actually feeling and why.
A diary entry is sort of like a stream consciousness. For the most cathartic entries, I refrain from recounting mundane details of my day that make me bored. I say, Cut to the chase! How do you feel? What is bothering you? Why does it bother you? What could that be linked to? What do you desire?
I always begin by writing down the first thing that is particularly bothersome to me. It’s always a statement: “I feel ABC because of XYZ.” Once I get out the main thing that’s weighing on me, the rest pours out in a natural progression. I begin to think about why I feel a certain way as I write about it and I begin understanding myself better. Understanding your own confusion and pain can be massively healing.
Express pain freely
It’s never a good idea to stuff down your feelings. I’m pretty sure there are a million movies about flawed characters who have suppressed their pain. If you’ve ever worried about your problems being a burden to someone, guess what — your diary will never feel that way, and neither will God. In fact, He’s literally waiting 24/7 for you to go to Him with your pain and suffering.
With that in mind, think of writing in a diary as a way to completely express yourself — an opportunity to get it all out so it’s not festering inside of you for days, weeks, or even months on end. That alone can be incredibly relieving.
Come to real solutions
The writing process helps you to come to natural conclusions and solutions. Once you’ve written out exactly how you feel and expressed all your pain, you can finally start seeing solutions to your problems. As you write, the fog of emotional distress will clear and you’ll start seeing how writing is a productive problem-solving process.
Plus, when you’re addressing God in your entry, you instinctively open yourself up to guidance. By beginning with “Dear God,” you immediately set yourself up to find a positive solution, because why else would you be calling upon God’s help?
Surrender your problems to God
But you can’t always fix your problems, and some pain you simply need to hand over for healing. The best part about writing to God is ultimately recognizing that you’re not in control. What a relief to get out everything that’s troubling you and then say at the end, “Here God, I can’t do this on my own.” When you surrender and trust, you let go of stressful and anxious thoughts.
Sometimes this is easier said than done. But physically writing the words down, even if you’re struggling to really feel them, is really powerful. “Dear God, I don’t understand Your will, please help me to understand. I don’t want to surrender, please guide me” — these types of prayers are extremely effective.
Sometimes, the very act of calling out to God for help and surrendering yourself to His aid can be a source of real grace. God can only work within you if you let Him into your emotional turmoil. When you write and cry out for help, He hears you. If you believe your problems are yours and yours alone, you stop anyone from helping you — including God. Welcome God into your life to make changes within you. Writing is one way to open yourself up to that healing and loving presence.