One of the most inspirational journals I have read is The Journal of John Wesley. One of Wesley’s most memorable entries is dated Tuesday, January 24, 1738. He was aboard a small ship returning to England in the midst of a terrible storm. Afraid that he would die, he wrote the following:
I went to America, to convert the Indians; but oh! who shall convert me? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay and believe myself, while no danger is near: but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled.
Other notable published journals include John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, the Diary of Anne Frank, The Journal of John Woolman, and Dag Hammarskjold’s Markings. Hammarskjold was born in Sweden in 1905, served two terms as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Upon his sudden death in a plane crash, an undated note was found, along with his journal. In the note he refers to the journal entries "as a sort of white book concerning my negotiations with myself — and with God."
These journals record the successes and failures, the prayers, the depression, and the lives of human beings who were serious about living under the will of God.
How Can Keeping a Journal Help Me Practically?
In addition to the value of recording one’s life lived under the will of God, there are several practical benefits that occur. First, journaling can enable one both to remember and to clarify thoughts, feelings and ideas.
How many times have you had a keen insight or a significant thought and then it occurred to you, "I really need to write that down"? However, the idea, the feeling, the thought was never written and has since been long forgotten. Such ideas and impressions may forever be lost. On numerous occasions, I have been keenly aware of some of my deepest concerns and longings only after first recording them in my journal. On other occasions, I have had a seed idea which later developed and matured as the result of having first written the idea in a journal.
Second, keeping a journal can help one become aware of patterns of behavior. Gordon MacDonald wrote concerning his practice of journaling:
At first it was difficult. I felt self-conscious. I was worried that I would lose the journal or that someone might peek inside to see what I’d said. But slowly the self-consciousness began to fade, and I found myself sharing in the journal more and more of the thoughts that flooded my inner spirit. Into the journal went words describing my feelings, my fear and sense of weakness, my hopes, and my discoveries about where Christ was leading me. When I felt empty or defeated, I talked about that too in the journal. Slowly I began to realize that the journal was helping me come to grips with an enormous part of my inner person that I had never been fully honest about. No longer could fears and struggles remain inside without definition. They were surfaced and confronted…
(Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World, p. 131)