Updated: May 13
I love the phrase that gets tossed around in our Christian circles: “Let go and let God.” It means we are supposed to put our problems at the feet of The Creator and trust Him. We are not expected to carry our burdens alone because we serve a powerful, loving God who wants to help us. However, I’ve encountered a problem with this phrase. It feels like people often use this phrase when they’re dealing with something or someone that they would rather just ignore. I’ve heard it get twisted around into phrases like, “well, I’m just going to let God handle that one” or “I’m just not going to worry about them anymore and let God deal with them in His own time” or my least favorite “I’m just going to pray for them.” And yes, all of those are important things for us to do, but we are also called to be the hands and feet of God. We cannot just sit on the sidelines and pray that God solves the problems of those around us.
James 2:15-17 says, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Let me translate: If another human being (no matter how different they are from you) has needs, and you say to them “my thoughts and prayers are with you” and you walk away, what good did you just do? So too, having faith without actually doing something is meaningless.
Now let me give you a real life example: I used to coach this guy; his name is Sean Burrell. He is fast. Like, he will run in the Olympics one day, fast. One of Sean’s favorite events was the 4x400 meter relay. For my friends out there that are unfamiliar with track events, in this event four people each run 400 meters to equal what’s considered a “track mile.” Now Sean was such a good runner that there were some races where he could have run all four parts of this mile by himself and probably have won the race. But that’s not what a relay is; each team member has to do his part to get to the finish line. It doesn’t matter that Sean was that fast; it’s a relay and he’s only responsible for part of the work. His team members can’t run 350 meters and just assume Sean would do the rest of the work. That’s not how the event works. In order to have a successful race, Sean’s teammates have to be in step with him. They have to create a situation in which Sean can help his team succeed.
I recently came to understand that these relays are a lot like our callings from God. God can win the race on his own; He’s that powerful. But that’s not what He’s called us to do; that’s not life’s event. God didn’t choose to run a race on His own, and He does not expect us to complete the entire race on our own. He created man and woman to be in partnership with Him. He wanted to be part of a relay. The book of Galatians tells us in chapter 5, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” We have to create a situation/ an environment where God wins in a blaze of glory. What an honor it is that we get to be on God’s team, that He chose us to run in step with Him! But it is a team and we as Christians have to do work in order to stay in step with God. Just sending “thoughts and prayers” is like warming up before the race; it’s only part of the process.
It’s spring right now, and I recently built a vegetable garden with my husband. We spent the whole weekend selecting just the right spot in our yard and lining up the wood just right to frame the garden. We got some some really good soil and added manure and compost for some extra nutrients. We planted a wide variety of vegetables, but I’m really excited about the tomatoes we put down. Tomatoes are pretty versatile; they can even grow in an upside down bucket or a dark closet. You can take the tomato off of your fast food burger and throw it on the ground and it can sprout and it may even produce fruit. The tomato plant will produce fruit wherever God wants it to and it will only produce fruit if God wants it to. If tomatoes can grow in such strange places, why had we spent an entire weekend building this garden? It’s because, as gardeners, that’s what we’re supposed to do. We’re supposed to create the best possible environment for God to work.
He can do anything without our help, but that’s not what he asked us to do. God asked the athlete to finish this part of the race; He asked the gardener to prepare the earth. Not because He needed help, but because He wanted it. He wants His people to be “in step” with Him. God wants a partnership with us.
Next time you’re in a situation where you’re tempted to just send “thoughts and prayers,” ask yourself if you could be part of God’s solution. There is so much power in love, but sometimes love takes a physical form. How can you be the hands and feet in this relay? What nutrients can you add to the soil, so that God’s work can truly flourish?