Advantages of Recording Experiences of Providence

My dad has been recording a journal since before us kids were born, and it always makes my day whenever he emails a moving entry from the past (or present) to us kids. I also enjoyed D.A. Carson’s Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor earlier this year, which he wrote from his father’s journal entries.

I’ve frequently thought of starting a journal but never saw it through to implementation. But at the end of John Flavel’s The Mystery of Providence (1678), he encourages the reader to keep a journal for the purpose of recording God’s works of Providence:

“Do not trust your slippery memories with such a multitude of remarkable passages of Providence as you have, and shall meet with in your way to heaven. It is true, things that greatly affect us are not easily forgotten by us; and yet, how ordinary is it for new impressions to raze out former ones?…Written memorials secure us against that hazard, and besides, make them useful to others when we are gone, so that you do not carry away all your treasure to heaven with you, but leave these choice legacies to your surviving friends. Certainly it were not so great a loss to lost your silver, your goods and chattels, as it is to lose your experiences which God has this way given you in this world.

“Take heed of clasping up those rich treasures in a book, and thinking it enough to have noted them there; but have frequent recourse to them, as oft as new needs, fears or difficulties arise and assault you. Now it is seasonable to consider and reflect, Was I never so distressed before? Is this the first plunge that ever befell me? Let me consider the days of old, the years of ancient times, as Asaph did (Ps. 77:5).

“Beware of slighting former straits and dangers in comparison with present ones. That which is next to us always appears greatest to us, and as time removes us farther and farther from our former mercies or dangers, so they grow less in our eyes, just as the land does from those who sail…Make it as much your business to preserve the sense and value as the memory of former Providences, and the fruit will be sweet to you.”

Therefore, I resolve to record the workings of God’s Providence in my life as often as I can, so as to never lose sight of God’s grace and mercy manifested throughout my life. I’m starting it in Google Documents, so that I can access it on any computer that has an Internet connection. Maybe my first entry will be on my cortisone shot scheduled for this afternoon.

Since I’m inexperienced with journals, do you have any suggestions? Do you keep an electronic or hand-written version? If electronic, do you save each entry as its own separate file, or do you have the journal saved as one running file? How often do you typically journal?

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3 thoughts on “Advantages of Recording Experiences of Providence

  1. I have attempted on countless occasions to begin writing a journal. I’m usually good for about a week, then I’ll write again a month later decrying myself for my inability to discipline myself in that way, and then maybe another entry a month after that before it goes in the “irredeemable project” pile. This happened at least 4 consecutive years in a row before I gave up trying. But one suggestion that I have yet to try myself, but may actually be the way to go for me too, is to make a private blog. We already try to post somewhat diligently on these things, trying, in some way to make it meaningful, all the while keeping some distance from the more personal issues of life. Perhaps it would be ideal, once we have posted something on our reader blogs, we post something on our journal blogs…An idea I would be willing to try with you if you want to keep one another accountable (not with reading or access, but with asking and encouragement).Whatchoo think?

  2. That’s an interesting idea, because while the “public” blog functions as a “public” journal, I do try to keep distance and not get as personal (i.e. with issues of sanctification, sin, repentance, etc). So a private blog is an idea. I might try to stick with the Google Documents thing to start, since I can access it anytime and convert to Word pretty easily. But I’m down with encouragement and accountability if you’re down. Maybe we can figure out the details through email (getting back to the public v. private issue).

  3. I would only suggest that if you use the computer, use plain text. Google docs is fine, but I wouldn’t use Word, for example. Since one of the purposes is recording for posterity, you should try to use a format that will (hopefully) always be accessible. Consider starting a collection of video memoirs using VHS – you wouldn’t! Word is a Microsoft specific format which only lasts as long as Microsoft (or until they change to the next version of Word 😛 – imagine your great grand children getting a pop up message saying “This document was created with an old version of Word that is no longer supported”…)As far as the one file or many – you can write for a long, long time before the size of a text file becomes worrisome, so I would suggest one file forever or perhaps one file per year.

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