The Value of Writing It Down

Published August 23, 2018

Our friend Craig Groeschel released a brand-new book this week called, Hope in the Dark: Believing God is Good When Life Is Not. Groeschel explores the story of the father who brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus, saying, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” In the man’s sincere plea, Jesus heard the tension in the man’s battle-scarred heart. Read the excerpt below for a sneak peek into this brand-new content from Craig Groeschel!

Not that I’m really old—at least, not yet—but it seems like every time I go to the store, I forget something unless it’s written down. Yeah, I’m that guy jogging from the checkout lane back to aisle 12 for a bottle of ketchup. Even if it’s only two or three items, unless it’s on paper or the notepad app on my phone, I seem to lose track of whatever Amy asked me to buy. Was it chocolate ice cream with cherries and nuts or chocolate chip ice cream with nuts and cherries? You’d think it wouldn’t make a difference, but it does.

So, I’ve learned to write it down.

When God says something to you, record it, because your spiritual enemy is an expert at stealing the seeds of truth that God wants to plant. You might keep a notebook just for such impressions or jot them down in your daily journal. God may show you something, and if you don’t write it down or make some kind of record that you can refer back to, it’s way too easy to forget what he showed you.

When God says something to you, record it, because your spiritual enemy is an expert at stealing the seeds of truth that God wants to plant.

I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. I’ll be wrestling with something I don’t understand and praying about it. “God, are you there? What’s going on? What do you want me to do in this situation? What are you up to?”

Then I often feel like God shows me something, provides direction or speaks to my heart. I’ve learned to write it down, because inevitably, a few days later, I’ll be thinking about it again, and I might talk myself out of it. “Well, I don’t know. Maybe it was that late-night snack. Just some divinely inspired indigestion.” So, I begin to doubt what I knew with certainty only a couple of days ago. My awareness of God’s message to me seems to vanish unless I write it down.

When I record it, though, it becomes a spiritual anchor that tethers me to God and to the consistency of his promises. “Yes, I believe that God has spoken.” And better than that, I have a reference point that I can return to; it doesn’t depend on my mood or what I had to eat the night before.

When you develop the discipline of writing down what God shows you and what you’re praying about, you might be shocked over a few years at all that God does. George Mueller was a well-known evangelist who lived in the 1800s. One day, his heart broke when he saw hundreds of homeless children fending for themselves on the streets of Bristol in England.

With almost no money to his name, he decided to start an orphanage, and over the next 60 years, Mr. Mueller helped care for more than ten thousand orphans. All throughout his ministry, he kept a record of his prayers in a journal that ultimately filled more than three thousand pages. He recorded how one night there was no food to give the children the next morning at breakfast, so he begged God to do something.

Early the next morning, a local baker knocked at his door. When Mueller answered, the baker told him he hadn’t been able to sleep the night before, so he had gotten up and baked three batches of bread, which he had brought for them. Another time, a milk truck just “happened” to break down in front of the orphanage on the exact day they had no milk for the children.

Since the milk would have spoiled in the heat, the driver gave it to the orphans. All in all, Mr. Mueller recorded more than thirty thousand direct answers to his prayers. Just imagine how this built his faith, as he saw God’s faithfulness laid out before him again and again in black and white.

If you are anything like me, journaling is a challenge. I can’t count how many years I committed to journal daily, only to forget and quit by the middle of January. Finally, several years ago, I had a breakthrough. Someone gave me a five-year journal that has helped my relationship with God more than I can describe. Instead of pressuring me to write a couple pages a day about my feelings, prayer requests and important events, this journal is way simpler.

Each page represents one day, but will eventually cover five years. For example, on January 1, there are five lines to write on for the current year. Then just below those five lines are five more lines, for January 1 next year. And so on. So essentially you are writing only a fifth of a page each day. And over a five-year period, you get to see what happened each year on that same day. The best part for me? Instead of writing pages, I have only a few lines to fill in, making it easy to continue.

During the first year, I found it easy and somewhat meaningful. The daily discipline helped me keep God at the front of my mind as I recorded something I was praying about each day. But during year 2, I noticed something that really impacted me.

When I returned to the same day from the previous year to begin the next one, suddenly I realized how many things that had weighed on me then were completely handled now. Problems worked out. Challenges met. Prayers answered. Concern with one of my kids had been resolved and was no longer even on my radar. Losing a valuable staff member had seemed like a big setback, but a year later we had someone in place who was even more effective. A challenge with a friendship had course-corrected, and we’re closer now than ever before.

Once I stopped obsessing over my present problems and started looking back to past ones, I could see how God was faithful in ways I might have missed otherwise.

Journaling daily with a glimpse back to the previous year helped me see a bigger picture. Once I stopped obsessing over my present problems and started looking back to past ones, I could see how God was faithful in ways I might have missed otherwise. And the power of this realization came from one simple discipline: writing it down.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Come on, Craig! I get what you’re saying, but I’m just not much of a writer. It’s a great idea, but do you really expect me to get on my laptop—or even crazier, take out paper and pen—and write down what I think God is saying to me?”

You got it.

When you write down what God tells you, you can use it not only as an anchor, but also as a litmus test. Every time you refer to it, you can compare it with what you see happening around you, and it can help guide you in your decisions. Be patient, and be consistent. It may take years before what he tells you comes to pass, as it did with the vision we had for our church. But if God makes you a promise, it will happen.

It’s simply a matter of when.

Order your copy of, “Hope in the Dark,” by Craig Groeschel here.

Hope in the Dark by Craig Groeschel, believing God is Good When Life is Not

Taken from Hope in the Dark by Craig Groeschel. Copyright © 2018 by Craig Groeschel. Used by permission of Zondervan.

About the Author(s)
Craig Groeschel

Craig Groeschel

Founder & Senior Pastor


Globally recognized as a leader of leaders, Craig Groeschel is the founder and senior pastor of Life.Church, rated the #1 place to work in 2020 for small and mid-size companies by Glassdoor. Known for their missional approach to leveraging the latest technology, Life.Church is the innovative creator of the YouVersion Bible App.—downloaded in every country worldwide. In 2020, Life.Church provided free tools to thousands of churches who quickly transitioned to a virtual church experience in the wake of the global health pandemic. Traveling the world as a champion of The Global Leadership Summit, Groeschel advocates for building leaders in every sector of society. He is also the host of the top-ranked Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast. A New York Times best-selling author, his latest book is Winning the War in Your Mind: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life.

Years at GLS 2008, 2012, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021