“Let go and let God.”
It’s likely most people who use this phase have no idea where it came from. The Keswick Convention, begun in the late 19th Century, popularized this phrase. The “let go” means to surrender everything to God. The “let God” means to yield to His guiding and directing of our lives.
Let me clarify. “Let go” means letting go of your pride, of your desire for reputation as a holy person or a cool person, of your desire to be able to physically walk for the rest of your life, of your need for affirmation from others, of your desire to look yourself in the eye and feel good about yourself. Everything. Even the good stuff that is going well. Even the sin you are ashamed to really talk to God about. All of it.
Let me clarify again. “Let God” doesn’t mean you release the steering wheel of life and expect God to do the driving for you. It means you let God tell you where to go, and you live with the understanding that no matter what it is – going to Africa, staying at home and living a boring life, getting a ‘worse’ job, or witnessing to that person over there that you are scared of – that if He leads you, you will do it. So it’s not fatalistic: it’s moment-by-moment really letting Him guide you. You aren’t letting go of the steering wheel: you’re letting go of the steering will. It means you might not go where you want to go – not because God magically puts you there, but because He tells you to go there and you promise to obey His lead no matter what.
Sounds pleasant and easy, right?
Not at all. This is the most difficult thing we humans might ever have to do. And it requires a tremendous amount of trust in God and awareness of His love for us. CS Lewis put it this way:
“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’.”
But here’s the ‘secret.’ Without Gethsemane surrender, there is no resurrection victory. It is when we surrender ourselves fully to God’s indwelling presence and direction that we are led both to the Cross and to call God, “Abba, Father,” in intimate fellowship with Him and the “sufferings of Christ.”
The Christian life is one lived in the shadows of Gethsemane, which are illuminated by the victory of the risen Light of the world – Jesus Christ. These are connected by the work of Christ on the cross, and communicated to us by the Holy Spirit as we give ourselves to Him fully.
CS Lewis put it this way:
The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself…”
It is in this place of terrible, joyful surrender that you are truly yielded to God. And it is only here – this place where the Spirit has all of you – that the Spirit can flood you with His own love, and joy, and peace, and patience… all the fruits of the Spirit. It is here that we experience the sweet fellowship of the Triune God’s eternal dance of love.
And that’s the positive part of “Let God.” When you open your heart to give everything into His care -even the things you are afraid to let go of – then you can have an open heart to receive Him. Not just His blessings, but Him – the fount of all blessing and joy, the source of all goodness and love.
And that is far better than the things we try to hold on to.