Find Joy: Practice Gratitude

Find Joy: Practice Gratitude

Shaunti FeldhahnBy Shaunti Feldhahn4 Minutes

Excerpt from Find Joy: A Devotional Journey to Unshakable Wonder in an Uncertain World by Shaunti Feldhahn

Day 2

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do. JAMES 1:25

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

Growing up, I spent every spare minute in musical theatre: singing, dancing, acting; classes in voice, dance, drama. Practice, practice, practice. Whether theater or sports or math, “practice makes perfect,” right?

Well . . . no. As legendary coach Vince Lombardi said, “Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Hard work itself doesn’t bring the win, because you could be working hard at the wrong things. What brings success—in activities and in life—is working on and practicing the right things over and over and over. That goes for music, football, yoga, studying foreign languages, cooking . . . and living a life of joy instead of anxiety, discouragement, or stress.

Why? Studies show that doing something repeatedly forms neural pathways in the brain. The more we do it, the stronger and deeper those neural pathways become—it’s like a new flow of water finding a path over the land, which then becomes a little rut, which eventually becomes a gully. Absent an interruption, that path becomes the default course.

Our thought patterns form pathways, too—both positive and negative ones. We want to feel joy, peace, and delight, but we aren’t always “practicing” the daily habits that lead to that.

That’s why we identified the eight elements of finding joy for this whole devotional book, so we know what patterns to practice that will carve a path to where we want to be.

One of the crucial elements is gratitude. Not just the quick jolts as we throw up a “thank you, God!” because we finally found a parking spot (although that’s a great start!) but the deep thankfulness that we are intimately loved and cared for by the Creator of the universe— the kind of gratitude that is unrelated to our circumstances, health, parking spots, or even whether we know where our next paycheck is coming from.

We also may need to take a hard look at whether we have dug an anti-joy “gully” in our mind and must create a better path. Here’s the key question: what happens when we don’t get our way or aren’t in happy circumstances, and what are we practicing as a result? Is it gossiping and complaining to a friend or on social media? Is it exasperated eye-rolling or worried sighs? Negative chatter and a fretful heart are just us being really good at practicing the wrong thing.

When we purposely replace those reactions with a legitimate prayer of gratitude (“Thank You, God, even in this challenging situation. I know You’re in the middle of it, and I know You will bring blessing through it”), we live in true joy.

Yes, sisters. Let’s practice THAT.


Stop and think about some things you’re practicing (over and over and over again) that may not be the “perfect practice” God is calling you toward. Write down three areas where you want to start practicing differently. Say a prayer right now asking for God to open your eyes to how you can be truly grateful for these things.

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