Thursday of Invocavit: Let Go and Let God

“If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down.”

How many people recognize in Satan’s second temptation the popular piety, “Let go and let God”? “Throw Yourself down,” said Satan to Jesus, because God’s angels would surely bear Him up and save Him from all harm.

According to this temptation’s modern incarnation – Let go and let God – the piety assumes a cosmic context that’s not exactly the biblically accurate way. Say someone “feels in his heart” he should – or, God says he should (because if he’s feeling it, must be God, right?) – give up his job and go on a mission in a faraway place. But how could he make this happen? All sorts of questions and anxieties attack his soul. How will I pay for the trip? Where will I live? How will I begin my mission? What about my family I’m leaving behind? What about my job?

In the face of this – because, after all, it’s God telling him to go – he finds comfort in the words, “Let go and let God. Just stop worrying and thinking you’re driving this plan. Sit back and let God take over. He will get you to where you want to be. Because, if God’s the one telling you to do something, surely He’ll make it happen, right?”

Hand in hand with this piety is the “surrender” piety you occasionally see referenced. “Just surrender to the forces at play and you’ll find inner peace.”

The idea actually finds its roots in Medieval mysticism, but has an element of stoicism in it as well. The assumed cosmic context is that God is what we name this universal divine force out there steering everything toward its ends. We find inner peace insofar as we work with this divine force instead of treading upstream against it. It communicates with us internally, in that “still small voice” sense. So, if you just turn down the noise and chaos of everyday life and listen to your heart, you’ll sense what the divine force is leading you to do, and once you surrender to it, you’ll be destined to where you should be and have that peace.

Medieval mystics like Meister Eckart used the term gelassenheit (“releasement” or “let it be”) to describe the piety. The Anabaptist traditions as well embraced the concept, relating it to Jesus’ words, “thy will be done.” The philosopher Heidegger resurrected Eckart’s gelassenheit as a component of his ultimately gnostic philosophy, which believed man has a role in bringing about “being,” by “being willing to not will” and be open to the mysteries of being, which in turn is related to God’s emergence.

The problem is not with the idea of setting aside one’s own corrupted will and “letting” God’s will prevail. The problem is where and how we interact with knowledge of God’s will. For the Anabaptist, mystical, and Heideggerian traditions, “letting go” means some sort of disengagement with external truths, most particularly as revealed in the Scriptures, but also as they are revealed in nature.

A wife and mother who “feels in her heart” that God wants her to get a job in ministry or missions, but is worried how she will take care of her family and other such details, is not being directed by the external truths revealed in Scripture and in nature. Scripture provides her calling, and nature backs it up: she’s a mom! She has her ministry and mission staring her in the face.

The “let go and let God” way of the devil would be to surrender to the heart’s feelings and pursue whatever mission she feels God’s sending her on. The “thy will be done” way of Christ would be to become obedient to what Scripture and nature are saying, not arguing with nature and calling motherhood a “construct” but seeing it as a reflection of God’s own will.

We could say the same about the callings men feel they are called to, or the gender changes others feel called to, or so many of the callings our hearts tell us to do. In many ways we’re testing God when we do this.  “Sure, God made me a male, but I feel God has made me a female trapped in a male body; and I feel He wants me free, and I’m going to go with that feeling.”  That’s testing God, and it’s a test that usually fails miserably.

God never told Jesus to jump off temples. And for us, God outlines clearly in His Word what His will is for us.

Most people remember that silly exercise at retreats where we have to close our eyes and fall backwards, trusting someone will catch us. That’s supposed to be analogous to God, how we should just fall backwards – whatever this means on a personal level for each of us – and trust God will “bear us up.”

We need to be careful with this, because it’s the second temptation of the devil. “Thy will be done,” yes. And His will is clearly outlined in written, external words, not in “still small voices” heard in your heart.

This again is an act of projection-idolatry masquerading as “Christ” or “God.” And its antichristian. Christ is not you. He’s not whispering in your heart. He teaches clearly from the outside. Why? Because He’s flesh and blood. There’s a clear point where His body ends and yours begins. The only way He communicates with you is the normal way any human body communicates, from lips to ears. And the only way He enters your body through flesh and blood is when these elements are accompanied by the words, “Given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins.”

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