There’s no shortage of cleverly worded phrases that are spoken often amongst the people of God that are meant to encourage, exhort, and equip. This isn’t a problem in and of itself, of course, but it starts to become dangerous when phrases that are not in the Bible start to be thrown around and held on the same playing field as Scripture itself.
This could become a mini-series of phrases we should toss out, like cleanliness is next to godliness, or how about God helps those who help themselves. You won’t find either of those in your Bible, regardless of translation, but I digress.
For this blog, there’s one phrase in particular I want to zero in on that can be misleading at best and downright destructive at worst. Let Go and Let God. If I had to rank this phrase in the pantheon of popular, catchy phrases within the church, I’d put this in the Top 5. So what’s the issue with it?
Misleading at Best
The intentions behind “let go and let God” are often good in an effort to encourage ourselves and others to trust God and surrender fully to his will for our lives. We are, by our sinful nature, control freaks who are prone to micromanage and govern certain aspects of life as if we were God. The call to trust God in every aspect of our lives and hold all things captive to his will is needed, but the question becomes, how do we go about it?
Let go and let God implies that in order to trust God, you must stop. Stop trying, stop striving, just sit back and allow God do all the work. If you follow this line of thinking, then it leads to the thought that the best possible approach to living the Christian life is to do nothing and assume that any effort on our part will ultimately lead to failure. So what is this counsel actually saying? Sit on the couch and wait? Stare at the clouds and search for the answer?
In the church, we are called to carry one another burdens (Gal 6:2) encourage one another in the faith (Heb 10:24), and speak boldly into one another’s lives (James 5), and the way to do so is to spur one another forward, not encourage one another to come to a halt.
In the Bible, trusting God is never equated with doing nothing. While the intentions behind the saying may be solid, the phrase itself is misleading at best.
Destructive at Worst
The meaning behind this phrase finds its roots in Keswick Theology, which sprung up in the middle to late 19th Century, where Christians seek to attain a “higher spiritual life” that is attained by a passivity where one deliberately does nothing. A person just “rests” in the power of Christ in order to allow the Holy Spirit to work through him or her.
“Let Go and Let God” elevates passivity in the Christian life, as if God calls us to put our arms down and just wait out this life until we’re called home to Glory.
Again, you can see how that appeals to so many people and sounds spiritual, but it falls apart both Scripturally and experientially. To think that a faithful Christian life is a passive act of deliberately doing nothing will set you up for disappointment. While men and women are passive in their justification (Eph 2:8-9), God never calls you to passivity in the Christian life as a result of being saved (Eph 2:10). To “let go” in life is to relinquish yourself from the means of grace that God has supplied to sanctify and grow you into the image of his Son.
Not only will a deliberate passivity not accomplish that which we seek, but it will stunt our spiritual growth and threaten our perseverance in the faith. You’ll be left to agonize over why you can’t overcome sin or see relationships restored, and the only solution will be to try harder to do nothing, which will lead to crushing guilt over the fact that you haven’t done enough of nothing. It’s a maze of anguish that will be difficult to spin out of and it is destructive to a life of vitality in Christ.
A Better Alternative
In his book, In Step with the Spirit, J.I. Packer provides a better alternative to the mindset of “Let Go and Let God”, one that is far more Biblical and significantly more effective. Packer writes:
Souls that cultivate passivity do not thrive, but waste away. The Christian’s motto should not be “Let go and let God” but “Trust God and get going!” So if, for instance, you are fighting a bad habit, work out before God a strategy for ensuring that you will not fall victim to it again, ask him to bless your plan, and go out in his strength, ready to say no next time the temptation comes. Or if you are seeking for form a good habit, work out a strategy in the same way, ask God’s help, and then try your hardest.
Trust God and get going. This is the phrase we should start encouraging one another with.
Regardless of where you look in the Bible, you will always see faithful men and women of God striving in active obedience as a result of the grace that has transformed them. Active, not passive. Moses had to go to Egypt and confront Pharoah, David had to gather his stones and step in to face Goliath, and Paul consistently speaks about how he strives towards Christ, laboring hard and straining toward the goal that is ahead. We don’t put down our arms and do nothing in life once we are saved, we daily put on the armor of God and fight against the enemy (Eph 6) in pursuit of active obedience.
Are you struggling to wait on the Lord? Do you desire to see men and women in your life repent of their sin and trust in Jesus Christ? Are you fighting to rest in Him and trust in His power to break a bad habit, form a good one, or see a relationship restored?
Then trust God and get going. Actively obey his commands and trust that as you walk in faithfulness in the areas you do know, that God will in time reveal to you that which you don’t know yet.
God has created you for this, and he has saved you for active obedience in which you carry out the good works that he has prepared for you by the power of the Holy Spirit within you. This will not work against the work of God’s grace and power in your life, it will highlight it, and He will receive all the glory.