When “Let Go and Let God” Goes Bad

People use the phrase “Let go and let God” to acknowledge that there are some problems that are too big to handle and there is no hope of resolution except for letting God work things out. You don’t have to live very long to experience that moment when you realize you’re in over your head and there’s nothing you can do to get out. The second day on a new job after the introductions are over and you’re expected to actually get stuff done… The first day after the honeymoon and you realize that she’s chosen to see you like this every day of the rest of her life and you should probably do something to make it worth her while… The moment you have to figure out how that car seat is supposed to fit in the back of your Prius so you can take your new bundle of sleep deprivation home… And so… “Let go and let God.”

The phrase may be sparked by good intentions to make us warm and fuzzy inside, but next time you get cut off in traffic and see it on the bumper sticker you were almost forced to rearrange, I don’t suggest taking it’s advice seriously. God can drive your car for you… but He probably won’t. You’ll probably crash, and that will cause the guy behind you to spill his Starbucks in his lap. He’ll probably have to go home to change his Dockers, which will probably make him late for that job interview he finally landed. He’s not going to get that job now, which is really unfortunate because he already told his old boss he was quitting and just leased a new boathouse counting on his signing bonus. He was letting go and letting God, too.

But it gets even worse when we use this kind of thinking to justify our own lack of effort. I’ve had one of the toughest years I’ve had in a long time and it’s tempting to just throw in the towel and hope God will sort it all out. And He can. But usually, God works through people who do work. We’ve launched some incredibly creative and gifted kingdom workers out of our youth ministry recently because God worked through our efforts to create an environment where students could connect to Jesus and figure out what He could do through them. Honestly, it would have been easier to imagine that I’m helpless and just play games and pray that God would show up and do something awesome. But instead, we bought art supplies and imagined what it would look like when He did. We dug deep into the words of God and challenged students to pass on what they learn. We encouraged kids to pick up instruments and tools and we wrote songs and tore down walls and fed the hungry together. We even played some games.

And God has shown up.

And He has changed lives like only He can.

And He was pleased to touch those lives through the lives of others who were willing to do the work He’d enabled us to do.

Could He have done it without our efforts? Of course He could have. But then His body would have missed out on the joy of fulfilling His mission – the very mission we’ve been created for!

Did we rely on our own efforts for transformation? That would have been pointless. We can’t change anybody! We pray like crazy and trust God to do through us what only He can do for them.

Maybe I’m just talking to myself here (which, I suppose is one of the perils of writing a blog without possessing any skill at self-promotion), but maybe 2013 has been a struggle for you, too. It’s almost over, though. Don’t give up. Do what you can. Try something new, then try another thing new… Keep praying for God to work and keep working hard to see what He’s doing. Then work hard to position yourself to give Him full access to every shred of effort you have and every piece of potential He’s given you.

Maybe that’s part of what Jesus meant when He said to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. Don’t just let go and let God. Pick up the hammer or brush or towel He’s put in front of you. Hold on tight and let Him work through you.

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