My Love-Hate Relationship with “Let Go and Let God”

Two college sophomores, drinking almond milk chai lattes, encouraging each other, bearing each other’s burdens, and then it happens.

“You know what I did? I just had to learn to let go and let God.” Her friend nods in agreement while sipping, and adds, “You are so right. I need to let go and just, you know, let God.”

Is that what she needs to do? Is that what you need to do? Probably not. Or maybe it is.

Beyond Bible Beltisms

We could mobilize an army of Christian platitudes and faux-wisdom sayings—ones we’ve heard and ones we wield, as the kids say, with reckless abandon. But the reckless delivery of platitudes and abandoning biblical thinking should make us pause, and consider, maybe this isn’t such a God-thing. Let the reader understand.

When it comes to letting go and letting God, I’m encouraged and discouraged. I can pump my fist in agreement and also scratch my head and lean forward with concern.

We know why the phrase gets airtime in our churches and small groups. It’s catchy. It’s sing-songy. It’s like an old-school Tomlin-era worship hit—memorable, repeatable, and there’s truth to it. But, when truth gets canned into concentrate, we can’t ignore the fine print.

For Justification, Let Go and Let God

In conversion, being born again and made new in Christ, and justification by faith alone in Christ alone—we must let go of our ways and believe in God’s.

The gospel naysays all other attempts of salvation, giving the humble and holy nod to Jesus’s death and resurrection in our place for our sins. Abandoning our ways and agreeing with God’s.

Letting go of your morality and letting Jesus be your substitute is right. Even though “letting God” language makes my theological hairs stand up, we can take a deep breath and understand the sentiment. It means we agree God’s way is true. It is right to look away from our attempts to save ourselves and looking to God’s work, God’s gospel.

In conversion, we let go and look to Jesus. But for sanctification? Smh.

For Sanctification, Hold Fast, Strive Forward, and Trust God

Do we put sin to death by letting go and letting God? Does a man learn to love his wife like Christ loves the church by going into neutral? Is an enslavement to pornography shattered by standing still? Are idols destroyed by going idle? Of course not.

Growing in Christ, sanctification by the Spirit, is not taking our hands off the wheel, proclaiming, “Jesus take the wheel.”

I can see one instance where believers could be told to let go and let God, and it’s with anxiety, worry, and fear. When a swell of anxiety—a sense of losing control–strikes, we should be told, “You need to trust God. Your Father knows what you need. He feeds the birds. Aren’t you more precious to him than a pigeon?” If letting go and letting God is about trusting him, that’s true. We must continue to trust God in all areas of our lives. But rather than letting go, the New Testaments tells us to hold fast. Hands on the wheel. Ten and two. Pedal down. Plodding ahead.

Hebrews and Holding Fast

The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God,” we don’t let go and let God, rather, “let us hold fast to our confession” (Heb. 4:14 CSB). We clutch the truth of Christ and the truths of the gospel, endure suffering, battle temptation, and strive for holiness (Heb. 12:14).

In the battle of temptation, even if we lost, we don’t throw our arms up. We get a grip on our confession: Christ died for my sins—this sin!—and rose again for me. And then we, by faith, rejoice that, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need (Heb. 4:15–16). We hold fast.

Let’s not let go. Let’s go to the throne of grace for help.

Paul And The Coffee Shop

If the apostle Paul overheard these college students at the start of this article, what do you imagine he’d say to them?

“Sisters, what do you mean ‘Let go’? No, no, you should:

  • Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12—13 CSB).
  • Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11 CSB).
  • Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22 CSB).
  • “Sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:12–13 CSB).

Rather than letting go, we hold fast, surge forward in faith, believing God is really at work in our efforts. We walk by faith. We pray for God’s help as we approach a conflict in relationships. We believe the Spirit is helping us say no to sexual immorality. We let go of our cobbled together Christian-ish way of things and look to Christ. This is the Christian life.

“Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.” (1 Cor. 16:13 CSB)

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