1. It promotes watchfulness.

There is a reason that those who are on a weight-loss journey will have daily weigh-ins. There is something about knowing you will be giving an account that can promote watchfulness throughout the day. Writing in a journal helps us to be more alert. As Josiah Pratt said, “a diary would keep them on their guard, ‘here I fell. There I fell. Let me watch.’” 


2. It promotes humility and gratitude.

We have a tendency to forget God’s kindness to us. One of the best ways to practice Psalm 103:2 (forget not His benefits) is to keep a journal. This is a testimony of God’s faithfulness to us. As we read through journal entries from the past and see areas where we struggled, questions we pondered, and situations that felt insurmountable, we will inevitably see God’s work. It will also prove to be a humbling experience as we are reminded of our frailty and all the times when we’ve not lived up to our calling. 

A while back, I discovered some of my old journals from college. It was almost embarrassing seeing some of the things that I was praying for. I remembered how I was feeling at the time and how things felt so insurmountable. There were even foolish decisions that I was engaging in at the time. My prayers were often selfish. Reading back over that was humbling. But it was also encouraging knowing that God on those days was relating to me exactly as I was on that day. And He does the same for me today. I found myself both humbled and grateful for God’s goodness. 

3. It helps creates a record for others.

It is interesting that those who were discussing this in the Eclectic Society also counseled giving orders to burn their diaries after their death. They believed there might be too personal information in the accounts, which could potentially throw shade on other people. At the end of his life Josiah Pratt, who had asked this question to the Eclectic Society, had burned most all of his journals. Personally, I wish we still had those today. It could be an invaluable insight into not only the man but also the history of the time. This is one reason why Don Whitney would disagree with burning everything. In his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Whitney shares how discovering his dad’s journal was an encouragement to his faith. He goes on to say: 

4. It can remind us of goals and priorities.

Some people keep a journal to track progress on a specific goal. We see this often in the journals of men like Jonathan Edwards, John Newton, John Wesley, and George Whitefield. They speak of their prayer life, what they were reading, whether their spirits were lively, and how they were progressing in certain goals. A journal can be beneficial for this reason. 

I will admit that I’m not the most faithful journal keeper. I will go through seasons where I am dedicated, and at times, there will be months between entries. But what I’ve found is that whenever I read back through old entries, it can help me remember goals and priorities that I had in a certain season of life. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of parenting and forget some of the dreams I had as a new father. Those were good dreams; they were the right goals and priorities. Reading back through these can spark new dedication for today. I’ve also found times when reading back through a journal has reminded me of things left undone. 


5. It assists us in expressing our thoughts and feelings.

Sometimes we have a whole flood of thoughts and feelings that we don’t even know how to express verbally. There is something about setting pen to paper that helps. Again, I turn to Don Whitney, “A journal is a place where we can give expression to the fountain of our heart, where we can unreservedly pour out our passion before the Lord.” (209)

This is probably one of those areas where saints of old shied away from keeping journals. In Psalm 73, Asaph said, “I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” His emotions were so raw, and he was laying them all before the Lord. In hindsight, he seems to have been embarrassed of his words and the way he was thinking about the Lord. Though he got the general content of them, he likely cleaned them up a little for the final version we see in Psalm 73. If Asaph had set pen to paper, they probably would have been “senseless and ignorant,” and we would have seen him as a brute beast. 

Yet, there are times when we do need to be able to express our hearts this way. Such honesty can help us in our walk with God. Maurice Roberts says it well: 

A spiritual diary will tend to deepen and sanctify the emotional life of a child of God. There is great value to us of becoming more deeply emotional over the great issues of our faith. Our age is not deep enough in feelings. Biblical men are depicted as weeping copious tears, as sighing and groaning, as on occasion rejoicing with ecstasy. They were ravished by the very idea of God. They had a passion for Jesus Christ—His person, offices, names, titles, words and works. It is our shame to be so cold, unfeeling and unemotional in spite of all that God has done to us and for us in Christ…The keeping of a diary might help to put us right in this respect also. (Quoted from Whitney, 210)





6. It helps with other disciplines.

I’m not sure it’s technically a journal, but I keep pen and paper beside me whenever I’m working through Scripture and praying. It’s helpful to pick up the next day in our Bible reading by looking through some of what God was showing us the day before. It can also help us to keep track of our prayers and see where God was answering prayers even when we may have thought he was silent. Your journal can be the control center for all of the other disciplines of spiritual life. Here you can record your Scripture reading, your prayers, experience at worship, times of evangelism, engaging in the local church, etc. 

I bought an old Yahtzee game the other day. In it, I found old score sheets which were probably more than 40 years old. It was intriguing. But also a little disappointing. All I knew was that Janet beat Virginia by 26 points. I didn’t know