Down through the centuries, people have praised the personal benefits of journaling


henri nouwen found help during his dark times

Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest who taught at several prestigious universities and gave spiritual direction to thousands who found his books full of insight. Late in his life he went through a particularly difficult period. Even during his darkness, he found that writing in his journal sustained him.

He writes: "To my surprise, I never lost the ability to write. In fact, writing became part of my struggle for survival. It gave me the little distance from myself that I needed to keep from drowning in my despair." (Inner Voice of Love, p. xiv-xvi)


 Anne Frank, On writing when fed up

"Mummy is frightfully irritable and that always seems to herald unpleasantness for me. Is it just chance that Daddy and Mummy never rebuke Margot and that they always drop on me for everything?...I cling to Daddy because it is only through him that I am able to retain the remnant of family feeling. Daddy doesn't understand that I need to give vent to my feelings over Mummy sometimes. He doesn't want to talk about it; he simply avoids anything which might lead to remarks about Mummy's failings. Just the same, Mummy and her failings are something I find harder to bear than anything else. I don't know how to keep it all to myself. I can't always be drawing attention to her untidiness, her sarcasm, and her lack of sweetness, neither can I believe that I'm always in the wrong...I have my own views, plans, and ideas, although I can't put them into words yet. Oh, so many things bubble up inside me as I lie in bed, having to put up with people I'm fed up with, who always misinterpret my intentions. That's why in the end I always come back to my diary. That is where I start and finish, because Kitty is always patient. I'll promise her that I shall persevere, in spite of everything, and find my own way through it all, and swallow my tears. I only wish I could see the result already or occasionally receive encouragement from someone who loves me... Yours, Anne.


C.S. Lewis, on writing after his wife died

"What would H. think of this terrible little notebook to which I come back and back? Are these jottings morbid? Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief. Do these notes merely aggravate that side of it? Merely confirm the monotonous, treadmill march of the mind round one subject. But what am I to do? I must have some drug, and reading isn't a strong enough drug now." (excerpt from A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, quoted in C.S. Lewis on Grief, p. 17.)


phil yancey

Why do we write? Why do we do it, we writers? 'Of making many books there is no end,' sighed the Teacher of Ecclesiastes...I think we do it because each of us has nothing else to offer than a living point of view that differentiates us from every other person on this planet. We must tell our stories to someone." (Soul Survivor, 261.)


Alfred Kazin

"…I had been keeping all my life since boyhood, a voluminous daily journal, or sketchbook, into which went everything that I felt like describing and thinking about. What I liked most about this intimate record was writing in it, first thing every morning, in complete spontaneity and naturalness, lifelike and at the quick, as the French say. It represented some effort to think my life out…it was a cherished connection with something fundamental to American literature—the writing of personal history: diaries, journals, letters, memoirs. The influence of Puritanism had created a habit of mind that had persisted into the “American Renaissance” and the peculiarly personal reverberations in Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman and how many others—the need to present to God, the Eternal Reader and Judge of the soul’s pilgrimage on earth, the veritable record of one’s inner life." The Past Breaks Out, p 82-83


Rick Warren, Remember Lessons Learned

“Keep a notebook or journal of lessons learned. This is not a diary of events, but a record of what you are learning. Write down the insights and life lessons God teaches you about him, about yourself, about life, relationships, and everything else. Record these so you can review and remember them and pass them on to the next generation. The reason we must relearn lessons is that we forget them. Reviewing your spiritual journal regularly can spare you a lot of unnecessary pain and heartache."  The Purpose Driven Life, p. 222


Rick Warren

“Keeping these five purposes ("Love God with all your heart"-worship; "Love your neighbor as yourself"-ministry; "Go and make disciples"-evangelism; "Baptize them"-fellowship; "Teach them to do all things"-discipleship) in balance is not easy. We all tend to overemphasize the purposes we feel most passionate about and neglect the others...But you can keep your life balanced and on track by (1) joining a small group for accountability, (2) by regularly evaluating your spiritual health, (3) by recording your progress in a personal journal, and (4) by passing on what you learn to others. These are four important activities for purpose-driven living. If you are serious about staying on track, you will need to develop these habits." The Purpose Driven Life, p 306



“I have written in journals for over 20 years, some times very faithfully and other times I get lax and don’t do it. I find that the times when I am depressed I journal very faithfully. When I get too busy and stress is a factor, I fail to keep up on the writing. However, I am trying for more faithfulness.

In the past I have gone back over some old journals and as I read them I tore out pages and destroyed them. Not so much that I did not want anyone to read them, but it was very hurtful to me and dredged up too many unpleasant memories.

Now I wish I would have kept all those pages just to see what I was dealing with and how I have coped and dealt with various situations in my life. Actually I know what I tore out and threw away, and maybe that is best. Sometimes past memories are better forgotten so we can go on with life such as it is.

Journals are a very personal tool in expressing just how we feel and our outlook on ‘persons, places, or things.’ Mine seems to contain a lot of “Lord, PLEASE,” and “I don’t understand why this is happening.”  

I do notice that each time I journal I have given praise to the Lord, too. So I must have a handle on some answers, but how I use them is another thing.”

It doesn’t matter what season of life you are in, or how hard the journey has become . . . journal.