Sometimes, you just don’t have it. I went out riding today… and I just didn’t have it. I didn’t have my normal energy level. It just wasn’t there. Two days ago I put in a big effort; not on my bike, but working in the yard. Consequently, I was tired from the start of my ride and it didn’t take long for me to realize that nothing was going to change the way I felt. I just didn’t have it.

What was I to do? Turn around and head back home? No way! I would have to be ill for that to happen – ill enough to call someone to come get me. Once I start a ride, I am not turning around. I like riding that much. It’s my exercise. It’s my relaxation. Most importantly, it’s always a time with God (check out Don’t Ride Alone for more on that topic). He teaches me things when I ride with Him.

So, no turning around; I just had to deal with not having it. I considered my options. I could have ignored the feeling; but “fake it ’til you make it” doesn’t really work on the hills around my house. I could have gobbled down a few energy gels… then called someone to come get me when I got seriously sick to my stomach. I could have gritted my teeth and fought through the feeling, forcing myself to keep up my normal exertion level. I’ve learned, however, that this is only subtly different than the ignorance tactic; and it never ends well.

Fortunately, I have experienced the “just don’t have it” feeling before. If you exercise (or work in your yard) regularly, I am sure you have felt it, too. Like you, I have tried a few unsuccessful strategies and learned from those mistakes. Along the way, I have discovered that the only way to enjoy the ride (or the yard work) is to use what energy I have.

For a cyclist, making the most of the available energy means paying close attention to calorie and fluid intake, using a lower gear throughout the ride, coasting in places where one would normally press for more speed, and being less aggressive on hills. This is all good practical advice regarding the physical aspects of exercise. I imagine you’ve seen some of them yourself in a cycling magazine or internet article. I hope this reminder will help you find more joy the next time you just don’t have it.

However, what I really want you to consider is the mental process required to handle the “just don’t have it” situations. Here’s the way it came to me:

Step 1: Recognition. If you are like me, there are times when you are so preoccupied with the ride that you fail to recognize your condition. It’s better to figure it out sooner, rather than later.

Step 2: Humility. It is always good to accept the state we are in. Deceiving yourself won’t make your ride more enjoyable. You will just be miserable… and blow up somewhere in the middle.

Step 3: Adjustment. Most cyclist set goals for each of their rides: Average speed, time up a particular hill, number of sprints, etc. These goals will have to be adjusted. For example, today I decided to shift my concentration toward improving the upward portion of my pedaling stroke.

Step 4: Dependence. When energy is low, one has to depend more on their bicycle than their legs. Shift into an easier gear ratio earlier on hills; and stay there longer over the top. Coast more often – let the bike carry you.

Step 5: Patience. This one’s easy: The ride will take longer, so be patient.

Step 6: Focus. Lack of energy generally results in lack of concentration. Read Stay Focused for an idea of the dangers with that. Remind yourself regularly to stay focused on traffic and road conditions. Keep your wheels on the road.

Step 7: Encouragement. Every one of us has an internal voice of encouragement. Use it: At the bottom of hills, at the top of hills, at the halfway point, etc.

I recognize that some (many?) cyclists are more into the suffering of cycling than I am. I must admit you have something I don’t: A day when you “just don’t have it” can be a particularly suffering-good day for you. I just hope you are enjoying the ride. Now, on to our lesson.

The Lesson

Sometimes you just don’t have it… spiritually. You may be discouraged – even depressed. You may be recovering from wounds you received in your latest battle with the enemy. You may be distracted by the cares of this world. You may be spiritually tired from fighting the good fight. Sometimes you may not know why you don’t have it – you just know you don’t have that same level of spiritual energy.

So, what are you going to do? You could go home – even climb in the bed and hide under the covers. You could ignore the feeling; or, fight through it. You could work up some spiritual energy and see how long that lasts.

I wouldn’t recommend any of these. There is most likely a reason you feel the way you do. Of course, if there is sin in your life, then it must be dealt with. But that’s not what I am referring to here. Let’s consider, at least for a moment, that you just don’t have it. What do you do?

How about this?

Step 1: Recognition. If you are like me, there are times when you are so preoccupied with ministry that you fail to recognize your condition. Better sooner than later. And make sure to share this discovery with your Father in heaven. Yes, He knows; but it’s a great place to start the conversation.

Step 2: Humility. It is always good to accept the state we are in. Deceiving yourself won’t make you any stronger. You will just be miserable… and blow up somewhere in the middle. Be honest with God about the way you feel. He responds more readily to honest communication.

Step 3: Adjustment. A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9). It is not unusual for God to direct our steps differently than we expect. His ways and thoughts are above our own. The best thing: Adjust to His ways, and listen for His thoughts.

Step 4: Dependence. When our spiritual energy is low, we are reminded that our dependence is to be entirely on God. He takes no pleasure in the legs of men (Psalm 147:10). Lean on Him – let Him carry you.

Step 5: Patience. God is waiting for the one that will wait on Him – to show Himself strong on that person’s behalf (Isaiah 64:4; 2Chronicles 16:9). God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty (1Corinthians 1:27).

Step 6: Focus. Lack of spiritual energy can also result in a lack of spiritual concentration. Remind yourself regularly to stay focused on the One Who is making you (2Corinthians 3:18).

Step 7: Encouragement. The Holy Spirit is our Encourager. Listen for His voice. He will see you through to the end; and bring joy to your heart along the way.

The next time you are feeling like you “just don’t have it” spiritually, follow this process and see what God has to say and do in you.

As always, I am interested in your comments, encouragements and corrections. It may be that I have not applied the lesson fully; or, even correctly. Your input will bless us all.

God bless you in your searching, hearing and doing.

Your servant and His forever,