Discoveries From Robinson Crusoe’s Journal

A Survival Guide: Discoveries from Robinson Crusoe’s Journal

by John Woodward

The movie “Cast Away” told a personal survival story. Tom Hanks portrayed the story of Chuck Nolan, a FedEx engineer who became the sole survivor of a plane crash in the middle of the Pacific. After washing ashore on an uninhabited island, he somehow found enough food and shelter to survive. The four year ordeal severely taxed the main character physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet even in his most solemn moments Nolan indicated no faith or recourse to prayer. Instead, his imagination befriended “Wilson,” a volleyball that became his companion during those lonely years.

Following the theme of survival from the popular reality type programs, “Lost” has snatched a large TV audience. This drama displays the saga of some 50 travelers who emerge from the wreckage of a jet liner that crashed on a remote island in the Pacific.

However engaging these examples from the media may be, they reveal an emptiness in our postmodern culture. Their humanistic values have drifted far from our Christian heritage.

By way of contrast, the survivor in the 18th century literary classic, Robinson Crusoe, handled his ordeal with an openness to spiritual truth.[1] Crusoe found hope and encouragement in the Bible. Here are some excerpts from the novel (in the old English) that demonstrate the spiritual journey of this lost one who became found. These four discoveries made on a deserted island are a timeless testimony to personal survival.

Discovery 1: Life is dignified through worship.

Crusoe journaled, “July 3 … I did not recover my full Strength for some Weeks after; while I was thus gathering Strength, my Thoughts run exceedingly upon this Scripture, ‘I will deliver thee,’ and the Impossibility of my Deliverance lay much upon my Mind in Barr of my ever expecting it: But as I was discouraging my self with such Thoughts, it occurr’d to my Mind, that I pored so much upon my Deliverance from the main Affliction [being rescued], that I disregarded the Deliverance I had receiv’d; and I was, as it were, made to ask my self such Questions as these, viz. Have I not been deliver’d, and wonderfully too, from Sickness? from the most distress’d Condition that could be, and that as so frightful to me, and what Notice I had taken of it?

“Had I done my Part? God had deliver’d me, but I had not glorify’d him; that is to say, I had not own’d and been thankful for that as a Deliverance, and how cou’d I expect greater Deliverance?[2]

“This touch’d my Heart very much, and immediately I kneel’d down and gave God Thanks aloud, for my Recovery from my Sickness.”

Discovery 2: Life is received through salvation.

“July 4. In the Morning I took the Bible, and beginning at the New Testament, I began seriously to read it, and impos’d upon my self to read a while every Morning and every Night, not tying my self to the Number of Chapters, but as long as my Thoughts shou’d engage me: It was not long after I set seriously to this Work, but I found my Heart more deeply and sincerely affected with the Wickedness of my past Life: The Impression of my Dream reviv’d, and the Words, ‘All these Things have not brought thee to Repentance,’ ran seriously in my Thought: I was earnestly begging of God to give me Repentance, when it happen’d providentially the very Day that reading the Scripture, I came to these Words, ‘He is exalted a Prince and a Saviour, to give Repentance, and to give Remission’: I threw down the Book, and with my Heart as well as my Hands lifted up to Heaven, in a Kind of Extasy of Joy, I cry’d out aloud, ‘Jesus, thou Son of David, Jesus, thou exalted Prince and Saviour, give me Repentance’!

“This was the first Time that I could say, in the true Sense of the Words, that I pray’d in all my Life; for now I pray’d with a Sense of my Condition, and with a true Scripture View of Hope founded on the Encouragement of the Word of God; and from this Time, I may say, I began to have Hope that God would hear me.

“Now I began to construe the Words mentioned above, ‘Call on me, and I will deliver you,’ in a different Sense from what I had ever done before; for then I had no Notion of any thing being call’d Deliverance, but my being deliver’d from the Captivity I was in; for tho’ I was indeed at large in the Place, yet the Island was certainly a Prison to me, and that in the worst Sense in the World; but now I learn’d to take it in another Sense: Now I look’d back upon my past Life with such Horrour, and my Sins appear’d so dreadful, that my Soul sought nothing of God, but Deliverance from the Load of Guilt that bore down all my Comfort: As for my Solitary Life it was nothing; I did not SO much as pray to be deliver’d from it, or think of it; It was all of no Consideration in Comparison to this: And I add this Part here, to hint to whoever shall read it, that whenever they come to a true Sense of things, they will find Deliverance from Sin a much greater Blessing, than Deliverance from Affliction.” [3]

Discovery 3: Life is brightened through giving thanks.

In a subsequent entry Crusoe recorded, “The rainy Season of the Autumnal Equinox was now come, and I kept the 30th of Sept. in the same solemn Manner as before, being the Anniversary of my Landing on the Island, having now been there two Years, and no more Prospect of being deliver’d, than the first Day I came there. I spent the whole Day in humble and thankful Acknowledgments of the many wonderful Mercies which my Solitary Condition was attended with, and without which it might have been infinitely more miserable. I gave humble and hearty Thanks that God had been pleas’d to discover to me, even that it was possible I might be more happy in this Solitary Condition, than I should have been in a Liberty of Society, and in all the Pleasures of the World. That he could fully make up to me, the Deficiencies of my Solitary State, and the want of Humane Society by his Presence, and the Communications of his Grace to my Soul, supporting, comforting, and encouraging me to depend upon his Providence here, and hope for his Eternal Presence hereafter.

“It was now that I began sensibly to feel how much more happy this Life I now led was, with all its miserable Circumstances, than the wicked, cursed, abominable Life I led all the past Part of my Days; and now I chang’d both my Sorrows and my Joys; my very Desires alter’d, my Affections chang’d their Gusts, land my Delights were perfectly new, from what they were at my first Coming, or indeed for the two Years past.

“Before, as I walk’d about, either on, my Hunting, or for viewing the Country, the Anguish of my Soul at my Condition, would break out upon me on a sudden, and my very Heart would die within me, to think of the Woods, the Mountains, the Desarts I was in; and how I was a Prisoner lock’d up with the Eternal Bars and Bolts of the Ocean, in an uninhabited Wilderness, without Redemption: In the midst of the greatest Composures of my Mind, this would break out upon me like a Storm, and make me wring my Hands, and weep like a Child: Sometimes it would take me in the middle of my Work, and I would immediately sit down and sigh, and look upon the Ground for an Hour or–two together; and this was still worse to me; for if I could burst out into Tears, or vent my self by Words, it would go off, and the Grief having exhausted it self would abate.

Discovery 4: Life is enriched through contentment.

“But now I began to exercise my self with new Thoughts; I daily read the Word of God, and apply’d all the Comforts of it to my present State: One Morning being very sad, I open’d the Bible upon these Words, ‘I will never, never leave thee, nor forsake thee’; immediately it occurr’d, That these Words were to me, Why else should they be directed in such a Manner, just at the Moment when I was mourning over my Condition, as one forsaken of God and Man?[4] Well then, said I, if God does not forsake me, of what ill Consequence can it be, or what matters it, though the World should all forsake me, seeing on the other Hand, if I had all the World, and should lose the Favour and Blessing of God, there wou’d be no Comparison in the Loss.

“From this Moment I began to conclude in my Mind, That it was possible for me to be more happy in this forsaken Solitary Condition, than it was probable I should ever have been in any other Particular State in the World; and with this Thought I was going to give Thanks to God for bringing me to this Place.”[5]

These spiritual discoveries of Robinson Crusoe are just as relevant in this 21st century. In whatever trials you may be experiencing, don’t stay “lost” by relying on your own wisdom and strength. Experience the ultimate rescue through faith in Christ. Find hope and direction in God’s timeless Word. Survive and thrive in the new year!


[1] Daniel Defoe’s novel was published in 1719 with the full title, “The Life and Strange and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.” It was inspired by the experiences of Alexander Selkirk who had run away to sea in 1704 and requested to be left on an uninhabited island to be rescued five years later. [The full text text of Robinson Crusoe is available at]

[2] Psalm 50:15

[3] Robinson Crusoe, ch. 3, page 4

[4] Hebrews 13:5

[5] Crusoe, ch. 3, page 11,12

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10

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Grace Notes: December 31, 2004. Copyright 2004 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.