In 1949, Jim Elliot graduated with highest honors from Wheaton College in Illinois. He was someone who journaled extensively. His complete works may be found in The Journals of Jim Elliot, compiled and edited by his wife and author Elisabeth Elliot.
On October 28, 1949, Elliot wrote these prophetic words in his journal:
"One of the great blessings of heaven is the appreciation of heaven on earth. He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
Six years later, at the young age of twenty-eight, Jim Elliot and four missionary comrades were martyred by Auca Indians on the Curaray River in the jungles of Ecuador. Though Elliot was only twenty-eight when he died, he left for his wife, his only child Valerie, and all the world a legacy of how God moves in the heart of a man through His Word.*
Perhaps most revealing in The Journals of Jim Elliot is a man in whom the Word of God permeated every thought. Not a decision was made that did not resound with the counsel of God's Word. It is through his journals that we gain insight into the spiritual character of the man.
Most of Jim Elliot's journal entries were brief and reflected his thoughts about a particular section of Scripture. For example, this entry from September 9, 1948:
"A verse stands out this morning in 1 Chronicles 12:8: Men who wish to do great things for a rejected king must be 'separated,' 'shielded' (in the hold), 'strong,' 'skilled,' 'fearless' (as a lion in face) and 'swift.' This makes for a good outline (for teaching)."
And this entry from December 10:
"Psalm 62. Thankful for two new aspects of truth shown me this morning, Father. Oh, that every day brought something new. Make it so, I pray. Psalm 62:1,2 and 5,6: The first describes the rest of the soul's waiting in silence upon God, who is my salvation. The second beseeches the soul to rest so upon God, who is my expectation. The first is settled; rest in salvation is secure and that is enough. 'I shall not be greatly moved' (perhaps a little wavering). The insertion of expectation has removed any question of being moved.... Teach me what that means, Lord Jesus."
And from December 13:
"Psalm 65: Immanuel! Oh, the glory of a God who can come to those He loves. Struck just now with the tremendous meaning of the incarnation. Think of it, thy God a wizened, weak babe in a manger of straw. The Almighty Jehovah—all of Him, in swaddling clothes. And there is not the aura in that stable which the artists paint there. No, it was dark and the straw was prickly; the night, chill, God, born of woman! O Jesus, my Immanuel, how grateful I am that Thou art no less with me in common places than in more elevated ones."
Because Jim Elliot journaled his thoughts as he poured over the Scriptures, a legacy was left for generations of how God "spoke" to him through the Word. From his journals, a living legacy was left for us to know the inner thoughts of a deeply committed Christian.
Journaling is a time-tested and proven method of recording how God interacts with us in our everyday lives, as well as how we ourselves interact with Him. Journaling can be for the purpose of recording observations in Scripture, reflecting how God is dealing with us, or for recording our prayers. Regarding Scripture, journaling serves the useful purpose of assisting us in taking time to reflect and meditate on God's Word.
*(The entire story of the mission and martyrdom of the five missionaries in Ecuador is vividly told in Elisabeth Elliot's Through Gates of Splendor.)