How Do I “Let Go and Let God”? Does Working Hard Mean I’m Not Trusting God?

sunmoonandmyrtle asked a question:

Hi JS, I was wondering about the balance between trusting God and making your plans/taking action. I am a bit OCD about planning. My journey at the moment seems to be learning to let go of trying so hard and have faith in God to provide. On the other hand, I don’t want to be the kind of person who says God will bless them yet doesn’t work hard or look for ways to work smart. I’m not looking for a quick solution, but would be glad to just hear what you think. (I hope you’re having a nice day.)

Hey dear friend, I really wrestle with this too: When do I let go and “let God”? If I hustle and pursue, does that mean I’m not trusting Him?

Here are a few things I’ve learned about trusting God:

1) It’s a false dichotomy to pit “working hard” against “trusting God.”

I have trouble with the Christianese church-ish notion that “working hard” is at odds with “trusting God.” I think this has been a pretty terrible lie we’ve been told about God’s activity. I don’t believe it’s a case of either/or, but both/and. You can work hard and trust God at the same time.

Saying “let go and let God” should never make us passive and hands-off.

In fact, it’s weird to me that we would “let go and let God.” This might look good on an Instagram quote, but in real life, what does this even mean?

A Christian is called to excellence. Like DC Talk said, If it’s Christian, it ought to be better. There’s no excuse for mediocre, subpar efforts and then simply hoping that “God’s grace will cover the rest.” We’re called to reflect the aesthetic beauty of a glorious, captivating, breathtaking divinity.

Paul wrote the 1st and 2nd letters of Thessalonians to people who had totally stopped working because they thought, “Well Jesus is coming back anyway.” Paul says, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Not only that, but if you’re not working hard, then in some sense you’re limiting the gifts and abilities that God has apportioned you to do good on the earth with the little time you have left.

When we say that “God provides,” this doesn’t mean we sit there with hands wide open. It doesn’t mean “thoughts and prayers.” A faithful life requires action, petition, movement, and going. Never be ashamed for trying your best and putting sweat, tears, and muscle into your life’s calling.

If you look at our social and political climate right now, it would be irresponsible to simply declare, “God is in control.” Too often that’s said as an excuse to not help, rather than a motivation to join God’s activity. By saying God is in control, that also means He has entrusted us with very real resources to serve those in need.

2) Trusting God is less about what you’re doing and more about the person you’re becoming.

Now if you lean towards perfectionism, over-exertion, and seeing fatigue as a badge of accomplishment, then of course, this will kill you both inside and out.

If you’re controlling others and the systems around you to get the results you want, whether by subtle manipulation or aggressive power plays, this is obviously not what God wants for you.

Your motives matter. Trusting God is about trusting His divine wisdom, His order, and His decree for peaceful harmony in all you do. It’s not that “working hard” is bad, but why we work hard is what we must examine.

In the earlier passage in 2 Thessalonians, Paul says to people who are scrambling, “[Some of you are] doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.” In other words, some people look like they’re working hard, but internally, their motives are just to look like productive busybodies. It’s not actually hard work.

Trusting God, then, is not simply saying, “Okay God, I did my part, you do yours,” but saying, “Work with me and through me on every part of this, that I would do these things for the right reasons and in a way that loves people.”

3) But yes, there’s only so much you can do. Waiting on God is insanely difficult and frustrating, but so we must wait.

Having said all this, there will be times you’re completely lacking control. You did your best, you turned in your paper, you prepared all you can, you delegated that project, you’re waiting for an answer, you don’t know what’s next.

In these moments, I remember what the Psalmist said, Take heart and wait on the Lord. It means that I’m not God. I can’t know all the outcomes. I can’t force anyone to do anything. I can’t make everything happen. I might fail, I might be rejected, I might be fired, I might be abandoned, regardless of how hard I carefully put in the time. You might not be able to provide for yourself or your family for a while, and maybe you’ll need charity. It will hurt, there will be grief and shame, and it will probably hurt for a lifetime.

But here, God does not want to equate a ratio of your work with your worth.

In the waiting: trusting God means trusting that you are still loved, still cared for, still seen. That’s never determined by your results, rewards, or recognition.

The parameters which the world has placed on you for “accomplishment” are chronologically determined by your era, culture, and social norms. Five-hundred years ago, you were a success if you killed a bear and built a house by puberty. Today, it’s sitting at a desk for eight hours a day and saving enough to move to the suburbs. Who determined these things as a standard of working hard? So much of the work we strive for is just a result of indoctrinated ideas that will fade away or morph into some other arbitrary goal-post. We hustle for these weird finish lines that we keep moving around.

Too many of us think that when we fail after trying, that that’s it, and I shouldn’t try again, or I didn’t trust God enough, or I pushed too hard—we make it my fault, or blame God, or blame people. But to “take heart” means I remember that the outcome is not a measure of who I am as a person, as a child made in the image of God. There is no shame in asking for help when we can no longer provide, and really, it only reminds us we’ve always been dependent on Him anyway.

You can do the best you can do, with clean motives, and let your work speak for itself. The world does not speak for it. God sees who you are as you’re working as He works through you. Trust that He’s working. Trust that you’re still His even if you fail for a season.


Photo from Images Catalog, CC0 1.0

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