Do you have a trouble getting started with Bible journaling? Perhaps you are afraid to start or to make a mistake. There could be a variety of reasons.
Here are 7 common fears people often have towards the activity and why you shouldn’t let these stop you if you want to engage with God’s word creatively and in a deeper way.
First of all though, before you go any further, make sure to download your free Bible journaling traceables template I’ve created by entering your email below:
7 FEARS ABOUT BIBLE JOURNALING AND HOW YOU CAN OVERCOME THEM
1. Drawing all over the Bible feels like defacing God’s word.
I get this one and do understand how you feel. Initially, I had this same hesitation as well. It’s not something exclusive to men either. I’m sure women have this very same concern.
It can feel like you’re graffiti-ing on a sacred text which should be left unadorned and unblemished. But that’s the same reservation some people have about even writing notes or underlining your Bible.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that:
“the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (NIV)
We’re meant to engage actively with God’s word to lead us into a deeper relationship with him. It’s not a dry piece of scripture involving no interaction from us whatsoever. The word of God is meant to be read and used, and not just left there to look pristine but gathering dust on a shelf. If we have a Bible in mint condition but we never read it, then ultimately it is pretty useless to us.
If you’ve bought a journaling Bible especially for this purpose, then treat it like your interactive workbook. Look at it differently from other Bibles. See it as something you’ve deliberately purchased for the purpose of doodling in it, and that you are allowed to make mistakes. It’s not an artbook of necessarily finished works. It’s more a sketchbook of works in progress and ideas.
Drawing or painting in your Bible is simply one creative way of interacting with the text and expressing your thoughts and revelations in an imaginative way.
Now I believe we need to maintain the right balance when it comes to these things. Sometimes I do see some people painting all over their Bibles with colour to the point where the original text is completely obscured. You can’t even see God’s word at all. Personally I feel this slightly defeats the point of the exercise, but some may feel differently.
Any drawings or decorations should complement what is already written there and not detract or indeed distract your attention away from the main thing.
Journaling via the use of images is something that should help you focus on the message. The pictures should point to the text and act as a representation or pictoral summary of what is there. It should not be the thing that ultimately takes precedence.
2: Bible journaling is only for women
If you’ve only begun exploring this creative activity and have browsed sites like Pinterest or carried out a search for Bible journaling on Google, your first impression may very well be that it’s only for women. However, you’re only looking at it on the surface and not fully understanding what the activity involves.
Bible journaling is something that anyone can do, regardless of your gender. It’s not an activity exclusive to women but men can embrace it as well.
Check out my post on 6 reasons why Bible journaling is not only for women for a more detailed discussion.
3. Isn’t drawing or colouring just for children?
Maybe you believe drawing in your Bible or colouring in ready-made illustrations are Sunday school activities for children.
Perhaps creating or colouring pictures are for those who have a more childish understanding of things and can’t comprehend bigger or deeper ideas. But once you reach adulthood, it’s time to start taking written notes like a grown-up.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Expressing yourself through artwork is simply using the creative right side of your brain.
Psychologist Howard Gardner proposed that we all possess 9 different types of intelligences. These determine our most ideal style of learning and retaining new information. These are:
If you’ve always learnt things in one particular way, then it’s easy to assume that’s the one way to do it and that it will work for everyone else.
In schools, there is a tendency to focus on verbal-linguistic or logical-mathematical. Those who naturally lean towards this learning style tend to perform better. It’s not because they are necessarily better or more intelligent, but simply because the method of teaching caters more to these styles.
If you are a visual-spatial learner, you will learn and remember things through pictures. However, you’re probably more likely a combination of several of these but with one or two that particularly stand out.
I’m both a visual and musical person, but I also embrace verbal, logical or interpersonal ways of learning.
You shouldn’t view drawing in your Bible or colouring it in as a childish activity without any serious value. As adults, we still make use of these different types of intelligences. We may find it harder to digest or retain sermon or Bible study notes which are written purely in word form.
Having a picture there in front of us can bring it to life and capture our imagination in a vivid way that sticks in our memories.
In any event, Jesus calls us to have a child-like faith, which is something different to being childish.
If you have more of a visual-spatial intelligence, and find note taking and writing dry, then Bible journaling may be for you and something to consider.
4. I don’t have enough time for Bible journaling.
I do understand that we lead busy lives and that this is a legitimate concern. Sometimes there’s barely enough time to sit down and read our Bibles let alone draw in it. If you feel you’re not particularly artistic, which I’ll address below, then it can feel overwhelming and that you could end up spending hours on it.
However, we waste many hours each day on our phones or other devices surfing the internet, vegetating in front of the TV or doing many other trivial things. This is time we could spend studying God’s word or in prayer. We make excuses for why we can’t spend time with God when in fact it is often because we prioritise other things in our lives.
I know this, because I’m guilty of this myself.
Bible journaling is not something you have to do every single time you read your Bible. I’m certainly not advocating that. I wouldn’t even do that myself. But there are times we should dedicate in the week to deeper study of God’s word where we delve further and allow it to speak to us.
It isn’t something that needs to take hours to do. You can get something down within a few minutes. Start simply. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate drawing. You can write out verses, promises or prayers in the margins and add a swash of colour behind them.
The journaling example I’ve posted above in point 1 was a quick sketch that I didn’t spend much time on at all. It was really about the concept rather than trying to create a work of art. However, you can feel free to spend as much time on it as you like.
5. I’m not artistic or creative enough.
This is a common concern you’ll find. However, don’t let that stop you. It’s not like everyone who journals in their Bible is super creative or artsy. That would be a complete myth.
Don’t let the pictures you see others create dazzle you. It’s not ultimately about the artwork. If you have that skill, then that’s great. If not, then you can still benefit from the activity.
You’re merely expressing yourself creatively and tapping into the right side of your brain. Everyone is creative in some way. Don’t believe the lie that some people just aren’t creative. You’re exercising some form of creativity every day even in the most mundane tasks or decisions.
The images you typically see in a journaling Bible are images borne out of these times of prayer and meditation where God may speak to you directly. Sometimes they can even be similar to the words or pictures you are given when praying for others.
If you’re recalling from memory the picture that God has given you, are you simply going to write it down in words? One day when you look back over it, you’ll find you don’t have an exact representation of the image that you saw in your mind’s eye – just a description of it.
Similarly, if you are recording an image for someone else that God has given you while praying for them, will you spend hours on that before giving it to them? Of course not. You’d probably try to draw something as quickly as possible. All that matters is that you are capturing the basic idea and essence. It can take just a matter of minutes. That’s how long you can spend on a Bible journaling image and how simple it can be.
6. God doesn’t speak to me in pictures.
You may be thinking though, that the above is all very well, but God never seems to speak to you through pictures. This is a valid concern, but it isn’t something that should stop you.
What people really mean when they say that is that he doesn’t plant an image into their mind’s eye when they are praying. Some people sometimes receive a word of knowledge or an image which may be prophetic, which they share with others. This isn’t absolutely necessary to be able to Bible journal.
Now it may be that you are less of a visually-oriented person. That’s fine. God created each one of us differently. Your preferred learning style may be more verbal-linguistic, or more musical or more logical. That doesn’t mean that God can’t speak to you in the way that most suits you.
However, we can learn to be more sensitive to how God speaks to us. He may be giving you a picture, but you haven’t learnt how to recognise when God has impressed this upon you. Maybe you’ve simply dismissed this as a random thought. As we learn to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, we can learn to recognise God’s voice.
People who do seem to receive pictures from God regularly are those who have made it a habit of listening to God and are able to recognise when he is communicating with them.
While it is scary at first, as there is always the fear that we could be completely wrong, we should still step out in faith. Those who do gain the confidence to step out again until it has become a regular practice for them. This is something you can learn too.
Although Bible journaling is a visual medium, it is not entirely dependent on either being visually orientated or requiring God to communicate to you via images directly.
As you are reading your Bible, one particular word or verse may stand out. The Bible is also rich with vivid imagery which has already been described there in the text. Jesus uses many word pictures as well as parables to give us a snapshot of the Kingdom of God or to demonstrate a particular point. Other authors of the various books of the Bible also convey their messages through pictures.
The point is that much of it has already been done for you. Even if you thought that God didn’t speak directly to you in a visual way, you still have thousands of images within the Bible at your disposal from which you can draw upon. One of these may be particularly relevant to you or speak into a given situation.
God speaks to us through his word, which is full of imagery, and not only through prophetic pictures or words and images of knowledge.
7. I have no idea where to begin.
If you’re completely stumped on what to do and have a creative block, check out my post on 6 creative ideas to help you get started with Bible journaling. That will help you get started on the right path and you can take things from there. Make sure to also check out my sheet of traceable images below.
Alternatively, if you do want to spend a bit more time in this area but find drawing a challenge, there are other options. There are journaling Bibles with line art illustrations already drawn inside which you can colour in. Again, this is not a purely female activity as there are many male colourists out there.
Would you like a Bible journaling template with ready made images I’ve drawn? You can print them off and resize them for your own Bible journal and trace them onto your Bible pages. You can use it with the verses I’ve illustrated, or you can apply it to a different verse in the Bible of your own choosing.
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Finally, what’s your biggest fear about Bible journaling and what is holding you back? Is there anything I haven’t listed here that is preventing you? Have any of these points above helped you at all?
Let me know by leaving me a comment below.
Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.