Immanuel Journaling as a Simple Tool to Experience God’s Uncontrolling Love

by John LoppNow

The Immanuel Journaling process is a concrete practice to experience the uncontrolling love of God.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

God’s love is what drew me to being near God. His Presence of care and support for me in the painful and exciting moments of my life is what bonded me to God and continually inspired me to be near Him and participate in co-creating the world of creative action, which is love in my perspective.

God’s love, His presence of care and support, did not stop the most painful event of my life, my parent’s divorce. Rather, God’s love was present and active within me as well as surrounding me in His people. The experience of seeing myself through the eyes of God’s infinite love enabled me to catch glimpses of what it might look like to live with greater freedom and hope during this very painful time.

I find the same powerful experience in the stories of my clients and the people I served as a pastor and a contemplative marriage and family therapist. The potency did not come from fixing the problems for people, but in helping them connect their wounded hearts to God’s own heart. When people’s shattered hearts are glued to God’s heart of infinite love they begin seeing God’s reality where everything belongs, and nothing needs to be abandoned or alienated.

Love Defined by Oord

Thomas Jay Oord defines love in the following way: “To love is to act intentionally, in sympathetic/empathetic response to God and others, to promote overall well-being.” To say this in another way, loving actions are influenced by prior acts of God, others, and one’s own actions. Actions we should regard as loving are those purposefully done hoping to encourage, create, or sustain something good.”

In order for us to naturally become people who love, we need to experience love. In many ways I imagine we experienced some moments of love through our parents. Even as I write this I am well aware that all of us have moments we did not experience that love. This is not to blame our parents for the outcome of our lives, but rather to acknowledge the human experience of pain.

It seems to me that the strong love bond between God and people is developed when people repeatedly experience the presence of God’s unseen stabilizing power in times of overwhelming events.

I am a parent and I intend to do my best to respond to God and my kids in order to promote the overall well-being of them and others. Yet, I fail in ways that I am not aware of. What gives me hope is that when I become aware I can repair and reconnect with them and with God. This belief and reality enables me to live with hope and energy to be faithful to this moment.

It is God’s character of active and intentional care that empowers me to turn my attention toward Him. In simpler words, it is His Kindness that leads me to repentance. (Rom 2:4)

God’s Character revealed in Exodus 3 + Jesus

The sequence of Immanuel Journaling is inspired by how God offers His children attunement. What is an attunement? Attunement is a concept that is used in the study of interpersonal relationships with families to examine how one person, for example, a parent, focuses attention on the internal world of another such as a child. In the context of parenting, attunement looks like this: mom or dad pays attention to a child’s inner feelings, thoughts, and meanings of external behaviors and communicates in such a way that the child feels seen, heard, and understood.

We can confidently say that attunement is found at the heart of all strong and healthy relationships. When parents or therapists offer attunement, their children or clients feel less fearful and become more secure and confident. If human parents or therapists are able to offer attunement to their children or clients, how much more would God, our Good Father and Wonderful Counselor offer attunement to His children?

Immanuel journaling is based upon the conviction that God offers His children attunement. The sequence of God’s attunement is found in Exodus 3:7-8a where God interacts with Moses at the burning bush.

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land…

God tells Moses that He sees, hears, cares, is with them, and will do something for them. God gives us a template for attuning. We can only imagine that the Israelites were experiencing the six big emotions (Sadness, Shame, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Despair) in their suffering. By the time Moses arrives the Israelites were likely traumatized by their slavery, felt alone without God’s help, and thus in deep despair. God reveals His deliverance plan to Moses but only after expressing attunement.

The Immanuel Journaling (IJ) process will take you through five steps from God’s perspective as God offers attunement to you. Through this process, God brings healing to the broken interactions (misattunement) we all have experienced in life. It makes sense if what the psychological literature reveals as vital (attunement) to human development and formation is also core to God’s character and presence.

In our book Joyful Journey: Listening To Immanuel, we take these elements and create an opportunity to use them as prompts to hearing God speak to us in our concrete situations. If God is a God of love, then we believe we have the opportunity to experience God’s presence in caring ways (attunement).

We have taken the elements of attunement and God’s character as revealed in Exodus 3 and created these prayerful journaling prompts.

1. I can see you

2. I can hear you

3. I can understand how hard this is for you

4. I am glad to be with you

5. I can do something about what you are going through

We have taken thousands of people through this process and can confidently share that the fruit of people experiencing comfort, hope and increased love because of God’s care through attunement through the Immanuel Journaling (IJ) process. I invite you to try an experiment of using these 5 elements as a prayerful journal prompt and humbly sense how God might respond to you.

Personally, I was excited to see how the IJ process philosophically can resonate with God’s uncontrolling love in relationships of healing both in and out of the clinical experience. My wife, Sungshim, and I are both contemplative therapists and coaches. We have facilitated individuals and entire congregations through these 5 prompts. It is my hope and prayer that you are open to testing it out with yourself and others you care about to see what the fruit might be within your local context.

People from all over the world, from the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Korea, the USA, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and beyond, have tasted and seen that the Lord is good using this simple tool God inspired us to co-create with him—Immanuel Journaling.

People suffering with anxiety, depression, and broken relationships have all experienced an increase of hope and self-efficacy when they know that God cares enough to see them and be with them.

I invite you to consider giving the IJ process a try. Experiment with it for 7 days and see what the fruit is from the experiment of interacting with God. Download the PDF with the IJ prompts here.

Brief IJ Process after I (John) completed the essay

I SEE YOU sitting on the couch reflecting on a fruitful and relationally full day. Your body is relaxed and calm after completing this important task.

I HEAR YOU saying how glad you are that you completed the essay and grateful for the quiet moments before you wrote this. You were also glad to get some feedback from some people and could really focus for a few hours. You are both excited to see how this may draw people into my presence and, at the same time, anxious that people may or may not like what you’ve written. You know this is natural, and you welcome these thoughts and feelings into my presence with me. You can hear Dallas Willard’s idea of being faithful to your work and then abandoning all outcomes to me.

I UNDERSTAND HOW BIG OF A DEAL THIS IS FOR YOU. The Immanuel Journaling process is close to your heart, and you want others to experience the goodness of my uncontrolling love and you don’t want to mess that up in any way. Part of you would rather play small and not release the essay so as not to feel anxious. You honor this part and bring comfort and understanding with my Presence to come alongside you. You really do not want to hinder people from the authentic experience of connecting with me because you know how much care and comfort and freedom being with me can bring.

JOHN, I AM GLAD TO BE WITH YOU IN THIS. You matter to me and what you are desiring to see happen here also matters to me.

I AM DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THIS. I am at work in your heart and mind, and I will bring about the right people and situations to help people partner with me to see the fruit of a “with God Life.” John, I love you and I’m glad we did this together. I imagine your modeling will invite other people to experiment with this way of living. Thank you for co-operating with me in your everyday tasks.

John Loppnow is a Contemplative Therapist and Coach. Along with his wife, Sungshim, they coach couples and individuals in transformative brain-based skills to experience greater hope, joy and vitality. John enjoys conversing with interesting people on his podcast Presence + Practice. See and

To purchase the book from which this essay comes, see Love Does Not Control: Therapists, Psychologists, and Counselors Explore Uncontrolling Love