“Let go and let God.”
We hear the phrase often. Perhaps we’ve used it ourselves. But is it really helpful?
When faced with someone else’s painful situation, it can be tempting to want to offer quick-fix phrases such as, “Let go and let God.” But broad terms like this can lead to confusion and misplaced guilt.
Condensing biblical instruction, such as having faith in God, into trite phrases offers an easy answer, yet fails to lead to the gospel. “Let go and let God” suggests that those who struggle are somehow in God’s way and thwarting His ability to intervene. Pain is then dismissed, and the person is left feeling alone in their struggles. One might consider it helpful to compress gospel truths into a one-size-fits-all, feel-good phrase–but Scripture was never intended to be reduced to “your-way-right-away” sentiments.
Being invited into someone’s hurt lends us a unique opportunity to invest in that person’s wellbeing. By sharing their pain, they are seeking compassion and wisdom, trusting us to take great care in the words we choose.
With this in mind, do we tell the terminal cancer patient to “let go and let God,” or do we come alongside them, tissues in hand, sit with them in gospel hope, and soak in every possible moment?
Do we tell the couple who had to say goodbye to their stillborn child that they need to “let go and let God,” or do we walk next to them while they grieve, offering prayer, compassion, and care?
Do we tell the single parent who just lost their job to “let go and let God,” or do we show up with dinner for their family, prayer, and let them know they aren’t alone in their trial?
“Let go and let God” is nothing more than a verbal Band-aid used broadly, ushering those hurting off to the side. Trite phrases pat us on the back with our well-meaning intentions, fueling our excuses and revealing our lack of empathy for those hurting. They give us a pass to take our hands off of a situation without requiring honesty or investment.
Genuinely lost for words, we will better aide the hurting by making our presence and support known. Words are not always necessary to let someone know we are available and trustworthy.
Here are five gospel truths we can and should embrace instead of a “let go and let God” mentality:
5 Gospel Truths to Embrace
1. Trust God’s Sovereignty
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. Psalm 135:6
God is all-knowing and all-powerful (Isaiah 40:28, 55:8-9; Psalm 147:5). The issue with the idea of “let go and let God” is the implication that we control God. Humanity is not powerful and cannot let God do anything.
The majority of what God does is beyond our understanding. Instead of allowing this reality to make us frustrated, we can instead use the opportunity to rest in His sovereign will. This is where we say, “Okay God, what work do you have for me today?” And then go and do it to the best of our ability, trusting in His perfect plan, whether we understand it or not. We walk through fire and cry out to God for His strength, support for our footing, and guidance out of the inferno. He knows the way and together we battle the flames.
Knowing God’s plans for our lives have already been determined allows us the opportunity to experience genuine rest and focus on our responsibilities in fulfilling those plans (Genesis 20:18; Genesis 29:31; Genesis 30:22; Proverbs 16:9; Ephesians 1:4-6; Psalm 139:13-16; Isaiah 44:2).
Letting go of our desire retain control frees us to relish in God’s sovereignty, trusting His perfect plans for our lives. Our confidence in God needs to outweigh our doubts and fears–relentlessly moving forward on the path He has chosen for us.
2. Fulfill Your Responsibilities
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23–24
Urging someone to “let go” may lead them to completely take their hands off of their responsibilities within the situation. Roadblocks challenge our confidence in God’s plans, growing our faith and provoking us to move forward in our responsibilities. Sin enters when we sit back and wait for God to push the rubble aside, ignoring the tasks He has given us to accomplish. It is vital that we take care not to become complacent, neglecting the work He has for us.
In turn, carelessly slapping a trite slogan onto a person’s struggle incorrectly suggests working harder will change the outcome–that they hold complete control over their situation. Advising a person to “let go” may inappropriately place the blame for the situation on the person enduring it. This asserts they are holding onto something and therefore letting go will dissolve the hurt. We need to fulfill what is within our realm of responsibility, bearing only what has been given to us.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18
Prayer offers us an intimate connection with God. We are invited to have a continual conversation with Him, the God of the Universe. He is available to us all hours of the day and night, and never grows weary of our voice. Although God already knows our every thought and deed, He asks us to bring everything to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6; Jeremiah 29:12).
Willing to run to the foot of the cross in prayer, we aren’t as hurried to accept His answers when they aren’t quite what we had in mind. Plans for our life have already been mapped out according to God’s will. While He hears and answers every request, our situations are not guaranteed to alter.
Implying that God will give us all we ask simply because we pray suggests once again that we are powerful enough to control God’s will. Through prayer we seek His wisdom, comfort, peace, and strength. Prayer opens the door to request relief from our burden and the ability to not only endure it, but bring Him all glory through it. God will not abandon us when we are troubled. Although the circumstances may not change, He will walk alongside us through the turmoil.
4. Trusting God Doesn’t Promise Sunshine and Unicorns
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4:8–12
God has written our stories and the journey won’t be easy (Romans 8:28-30). Hardship and suffering will besiege each one of us at one time or another (John 16:33). Deep valleys with treacherous terrain will appear on our paths. Life’s battlefields will grow our faith and endurance as we trust and persevere through the plans that God has for us (Joshua 1:9; Jeremiah 29:11).
Striving for faith that moves mountains will not prevent us from experiencing pain and hardships. “Let go and let God” implies that acknowledging and feeling pain equates a lack of faith or trust in God’s sovereignty. Those who are struggling need someone to walk with them through the situation. Casting them off into the shadows with empty sentiments will only add to an already difficult circumstance.
5. We Can’t Get in God’s Way
Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2
By saying, “Let go and let God,” we assert that God is only present if we get out of the way. Thankfully, no blockade will ever stand in God’s way or thwart His plans. God’s will prevails even when we won’t let go. I am wholly grateful to God that I can’t be in His way. I don’t want such a tremendous responsibility or to be that powerful. Believing we are able to obstruct God’s plans brings on a number of heavy burdens, which may not be ours to carry. Being able to get in God’s way means we are questioning His sovereignty, which is a dangerous path to walk.
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. Romans 15:1-2
Abandon empty sentiments that drain the soul. Instead, provide nourishment by emulating God’s love. Carry the burdens of others and fill each other with God’s Word. And keep praying.
Confident in God’s promises, we journey through life knowing He will not abandon us. The plans He made for us are for our good and His glory. Unable to get in God’s way, He directs our footsteps and lights the path.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:2