“Let go and let God!”
People have different ideas as to what this phrase means and how to apply it because it depends on the context in which it is said. Context determines meaning and whether the statement, “let go and let God,” is true or not. Its validity hinges on what one lets go of, and what one lets God do. Regardless, one thing is true: it is not a comprehensive mantra for the Christian life.
When it is correct to say, “Let go and let God”
1. It’s correct to use this phrase when it comes to doing God’s will instead of our own. We are called to trust God in every aspect of our lives and seek first His kingdom not our own selfish pursuits. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33).
2. It’s correct to use this phrase when it comes to our worries. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 6:31).
3. It’s correct to use “let go and let God” when it comes to our burdens. Burdens are different than worries. Worry is mental, burdens are situational—afflictions, trials, disabilities, and problems. “Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall” (Psalm 55:22). Let go of the outcome you desire and let God accomplish His will.
4. It’s correct to use this phrase when it comes to having control of other people. There may be people in our life whose lives, addictions, or poor behaviours we try to control and change. “Letting go and letting God” sometimes means allowing those people to experience the natural consequences of their choices instead of bailing them out. It means stop putting all your energy into trying to get someone else to change.
5. It’s correct to use this phrase when it comes to God’s love. God’s love is something we receive, not achieve. We need to let go of performance-based living trying to earn God’s love and simply receive it. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4-5).
When it is incorrect to say, “Let go and let God”
One context where this phrase is often applied is in the area of our sanctification–becoming holy. The teaching is that when Christians struggle with sin and want to be victorious in that struggle they are to “let go and let God.” Here, the key to holiness is in complete surrender to Jesus as Lord, after which one is a Spirit-filled Christian living in constant victory. The wrong assumption is that in our sanctification God does everything and the believer does nothing except surrender.
This idea elevates passivity in the Christian life. To think that a faithful Christian life is a passive act of deliberately doing nothing will result in disappointment. God never calls us to passivity. And if we “let go” we are letting go of the means of grace God has given us to grow in holiness.
Another reason why this is not what we should do when it comes to pursuing holiness is that it creates two classes of Christians. There are those who purport to “have arrived” and there are those who still struggle with sin making them second-class Christians. Among those who struggle there is often disillusionment and frustration because they are the “have-nots.”
Those who claim to have arrived at holiness usually have a shallow and incomplete view of sin. Sin is minimized and generally viewed as not engaging in external sinful actions. What they ignore are sinful attitudes, thoughts, and sins of omission—things they should be doing but aren’t.
A better alternative to the phrase “let go and let God” is “trust God and get going!” Work out a strategy for ensuring you will not fall into sin again, and ask God to bless your plan. Go forward in His strength ready to say “no” when temptation next comes.
Wherever you look in the Bible, you will always see faithful people of God striving in active obedience as a result of the grace that has transformed them. When Paul spoke of his work for the Lord he wrote, “That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me” (Colossians 1:29). We are to daily resist temptation and put on the whole armour of God to fight against our enemy as we actively pursue obedience and holiness. Trust God and get going!