This summer, we are reading Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life together. With certain goals for us as individuals, we all desire to grow in grace and personal holiness. The purpose of this study is to help us make necessary adjustments in our spiritual lives that will enable us to achieve such goals by incorporating the use of spiritual disciplines.

In the previous chapters, Don Whitney has outlined the specifics of Bible reading, meditation, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting and other spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. What exactly is taking place when we read the Bible, meditate on Scripture, and pray? Essentially, these disciplines should lead us to godliness and a life that reflects the glory of God.  In this chapter today, we look at the subject of journaling.  Consider the importance of handwritten journals that trace a spiritual journey.

Explanation of Journaling

Don Whitney explains, “A journal (a word usually synonymous with diary [1]) is a place (tangible or digital) in which a person records information important to him or her personally for preservation or consideration.  As a Christian, your journal is a place to document the works and ways of God in your life” (249).  It’s essential to note that God never requires His children to keep a journal, so it’s not sinful to refrain from practicing this discipline.  However, when you consider the benefits for the individual Christian as well as the treasure of wealth it will be for future generations, it’s really an easy choice.

Value of Journaling

Consider the value of a well written journal written by your grandparents.  What would you do to have such a book to chart their spiritual journey in the faith?  How important would that be to you and your children?  Don Whitney provides a list of eight specific values for the discipline of journaling.

  1.  Help in Self-Understanding and Evaluation
  2. Help in Meditation
  3. Help in Expressing Thoughts and Feelings to the Lord
  4. Help in Remembering the Lord’s Works
  5. Help in Creating and Preserving a Spiritual Heritage
  6. Help in Clarifying and Articulating Insights
  7. Help in Monitoring Goals and Priorities
  8. Help in Maintaining the Other Spiritual Disciplines

The powerful evangelist of the First Great Awakening, George Whitefield, is not only remembered for his power in the pulpit, but for his faithful and spiritually rich journaling.  It’s quite apparent by his journal why the Lord chose to use him to shake the world with the gospel of Jesus.  Each day, he would record his activities.  He would then evaluate them by the following list:

Have I.

  • Been fervent in prayer?
  • Used stated hours of prayer?
  • Used ejaculatory prayer each hour?
  • After or before every deliberate conversation or action, considered how it might tend to God’s glory?
  • After any pleasure, immediately given thanks?
  • Planned business for the day?
  • Been simple and recollected in everything?
  • Been zealous in undertaking and active in doing what good I could?
  • Been meek, cheerful, affable in everything I said or did?
  • Been proud, vain, unchaste, or enviable of others?
  • Recollected in eating and drinking?  Thankful?  Temperate in sleep?
  • Taken time for giving thanks according to (William) Law’s rules?
  • Been diligent in studies?
  • Thought or spoken unkindly of anyone?
  • Confessed all sins?

Ways of Journaling

Depending on style and preference, there are many different ways to keep a journal.  It can be done in electronic format on a computer, a blog, or some electronic software where it can be archived and accessed.  The value of such electronic journals is centered on the fact that the notes and entries can be searchable.  OneNote is one good resource that can be kept private and organized for later access.

Hand written journals can be done on almost any size and style of notebook.  From leather journals and moleskins, to loose leaf paper (the preference of Don Whitney), a journal can be kept and archived away for future use and access.  This practice enables a person to write by hand and this does a couple of very important things:

  1. Concentration:  Something happens in a unique way in the human brain when a person writes by hand and thinks through the process while writing.  This concentration enables us to remember in ways that are often better than when we type.
  2. Connection to History:  How many daily practices such as reading the newspaper and writing journals by hand will our children overlap with their grandparents and great-grandparents?  This is one way to allow this overlap in a unique and helpful way.
  3. Handwriting Development and Improvement:  In many schools today, the art of handwriting is disappearing.  While cursive has been on the way out for a while now, even the non-cursive standard handwriting is starting to lose out to the computer and electronic device.

Catch up in this series:

Opening Article
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10

Questions to Consider:

  1.  Consider the fact that any level of journaling will be a fruitful experience.
  2. As with all the Disciplines, journaling requires persistence through the dry times.
  3. As with all the Disciplines, you must start journaling before you can experience its value.

Next Week: Next week, we will turn to chapter 12 and look at the subject of learning. Read ahead and think through the content of that chapter, and we will gather here next week to discuss what we’re learning.

Discussion: Post your comments, thoughts, and questions in the comments section. I will engage with you at times, but the purpose is to allow everyone to have a conversation regarding what we are learning and considering through this book. I do hope you will be encouraged.