It’s a phrase you’ve probably heard a thousand times: let go and let God.
When you’re in the midst of overwhelming, challenging circumstances…let go and let God.
When you’re struggling with a certain sin…let go and let God.
When things seem out of control…let go and let God.
It’s a nice sentiment, right? Kind of Zen-like. Release all your struggles. Let them melt away. Allow them to dissolve into the almighty power of God.
Well, sort of.
When I read scripture, I can clearly see that there are times when it really is appropriate to let go and let God handle everything. But I can also clearly see instances when I’m called to do certain things.
So when is it appropriate to let go and let God?
Do Let Go And Let God Handle ALL Your Worries
In Matthew 6:34, Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
I am tempted to worry about all sorts of future events.
Will I be able to pay the bills?
Will my children be saved?
Will my family be healthy?
The reality is, I can control very few of these things. Sickness can fall upon me at a moment’s notice. My work as a freelance writer could dry up, leaving us financially strapped. I don’t have the spiritual power to save my children; only God can do that.
As my friend Ricky Alcantar said, “The universe is wildly out of your control.”
It’s why Jesus said in Matthew 6:27, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
Worrying about the future does absolutely nothing for me. It doesn’t change anything, doesn’t add a single minute to my life, doesn’t solve any problems. It’s an absolutely horrendous waste of time.
When it comes to trusting God to take care of me, to provide for me, to handle all of these overwhelming circumstances, there is a real sense in which I’m called to let go and let God.
To be anxious for nothing.
To cast all my cares upon the Lord because he cares for me.
I can say to God, “Lord, I don’t have the power to control or orchestrate my life. In light of this, I am letting go of the illusion of control. I am giving up on trying to figure everything out and am instead trusting in God with all my heart.”
When it comes to worrying about life’s circumstances, I truly can let God and let God.
Do NOT Let Go and Let God When It Comes To Prayer
This may sound like a contradiction, but even in the midst of trials, challenges, and heart-rending circumstances, I’m still called to be active.
You could say that I’m simultaneously called to let go and let God while also actively engaging with God.
I think this is why Paul says in Philippians 4:6, “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
How do I overcome anxiety? How do I receive peace from God?
By actively, persistently bringing my requests before God. By taking hold of each care that lays heavily upon me and
In this sense, I must NOT let go and let God. I must run hard to God and wrestle in prayer and grapple with his promises. I must fight against my sinful tendency to worry and seek to put to death my sinful desire for control.
So yes, when life is overwhelming, I can infinitely trust God. I can let go of my desire to control my life and instead joyfully submit to what he has for me. At the same time, I can labor and prayer and fight for holiness.
I love how Charles Spurgeon puts it:
You believe in God for your soul. Believe in him about your property. Believe in God about your sick wife or your dying child. Believe in God about your losses and bad debts and declining business.
Do Let Go And Let God Make You More Like Jesus
Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
This is such an encouraging promise of God. God began a good work in me and I can 100% trust him to complete that good work.
Yes, I struggle and stumble and flail and fail. Yes, there are sins that I still give in to.
But nothing can stop God’s plan to make me more and more like Jesus Christ until that final day when he returns and finishes the job once and for all. Even when I am faithless, God is still faithful.
Jude 24 puts it this way, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…”
I simply love that verse. God himself is the one who will keep me from stumbling and present me blameless in his presence. If it was ultimately up to me to keep myself from stumbling, I would have no confidence.
But if God is the one who will present me blameless, I can have all the confidence in the world. He has promised and he will be faithful to do it.
Because God is faithful, there is a real sense where I can let go and let God sanctify me. In other words, I can trust him to do what he promised. I can trust him to take me from one degree of glory to the next, shaping me more and more into the image of Jesus. I can trust him to finish what he started in me.
Do NOT Stop Fighting For Holiness
Again, this may sound like a contradiction, but scripture also calls me to work hard when it comes to pursuing God.
I’m called to fight against my sin.
To put to death the flesh.
To fight against the temptations of Satan.
As it says in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…”
There are no days when it comes to fighting against sin. Satan prowls about like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. As John Owen famously said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
Jesus spoke strong words when talking about pursuing holiness. He said that if our hand causes us to sin, we are to cut it off. If our eye causes us to sin, we are to gouge it out. This is not passive language.
When it comes to pursuing holiness, we don’t simply let go and let God. We fight. We struggle. We run hard after God. We pray and ask for his strength.
Embracing The Paradox
The phrase “let go and let God,” highlights a paradox in scripture. One the one hand, we truly can trust God to provide for us and care for us and help us grow in holiness. We can rest in these glorious truths. We can stake our very lives upon them.
God will be faithful to do what he has promised.
On the other hand, we’re also called to strive hard after God. To fight against worry and selfishness and lust and pride. We’re called to put to death our sin. The Christian life is a battle.
Scripture never attempts to reconcile these two things. It simply tells us to be encouraged by the work God has promised to do while at the same time to work hard in our pursuit of God.
It’s not an either/or. It’s a both and.
Let go and let God. Pursue God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Never try to separate them.