How to Let Go of Control and Let God Work

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about God initiated-work and me-initiated work. I’ve written about that in this post entitled, “The Shocking Thing I Learned About Last Year.”

The past few weeks, I’ve been reading through the perils and joys of Israel, all their wandering, all God’s acts, how they conquered a land, etc. And I realized that when God recounted their victories (or they did), all pointed to Him as the One at work.


And when I look back at my career, I see this dynamic in action. Me working like a crazy woman, being obedient to agents and publishers, longing to be the “good” author who does everything asked of her. I’ve anticipated a breakout book far too many times to count, only to have success be mild, unremarkable.

Yet God hasn’t revoked the call on my life to write.

So I write.

And I work.

And I promote.

Which is good on one hand. It means that I am stewarding the gifts God has entrusted to me. But it becomes sin for me (for you) when the focus becomes making things happen in our own strength.

The Christian life is a great letting go. Of loosing our control and letting God be God. Slow down and remember. Look back on your life when God did great things. What did you do? How did you make those things materialize? You didn’t.

It’s time to slow down. To recount.  To give up. To listen.

“Listen to the village musicians gathered at the watering holes. They recount the righteous victories of the Lord.” Judges 5:11a Oh how we need to listen to those victories. To remember them. To wallow in them (in just the right way).

In light of that, here are some of my recent God moments, where He did the work, and I sat back in awe:

  • A conversation that changed the course of someone’s life.
  • A nudge from the Holy Spirit that materialized into a new quest for a friend.
  • An opening up of a heart, once cold, now warming.
  • Favor from leaders who have agreed to read my next book for endorsement.
  • An opportunity to travel overseas this summer to do significant, God-breathed work.

None of this I made happen.

Which is why God is cool, and I need to remember how important it is to let go of control, and let God do His thing.

What about you? When have you let go of control? When has God done something cool? What lessons have you learned about control and God’s initiation?


  • Leslie

    Hmm I just wrote about this myself!  God is trying to make sure I get it!

  • Abby Van Wormer

    I go to church and I can slip in and slip out without anyone saying anything to me. And I kind of like being able to feel anonymous and not have to interact with people I don’t know and be uncomfortable. But. Part of me does want to be noticed, at least a little. And I want it to be real, because someone cares, not because it’s a forced conversation (“Greet the person next to you!”). And so I had been thinking to myself, “What is the point!” Why go to church, sing some songs, listen to a message, and leave? I thought…how is this helping me, how is this good? But I kept going anyway, to show God I’m trying. Trying to be a good Christian. Trying to have faith that there’s some value in it.
    And then someone started sitting by me. She had a group of friends already that sat at a round table, so she could have sat with them. I don’t know why she decided to come and sit with me. She probably doesn’t even know that I refuse to sit at those round tables. I just sit in the normal rows of chairs. But each week, she has been sitting with me. Then invited me to her place for dinner with her roommates. And one Sunday when it was nice out, we went on a walk.
    This may seem like such a simple thing, but it meant a lot to me. And God did that! God knew what I was thinking, knew exactly what I needed, and brought someone to me. It felt like I was just sitting back and watching. Because the only effort I put forth was going to church. Just going. I decided I’m not going to try and get to know someone else. I’m too shy, too insecure, too afraid of saying the wrong thing, meeting new people. Too afraid of what people will think of me. So God brought someone to me, who I believe does care, and that is changing me. Changing what I think, changing my heart and my ideas. God is cool like that, how only He knows how to heal the broken, messed up parts of us.

  • Amaris

    Needed this today – oh, how I needed this.  Thank you Mary.

  • Walter Petticrew


    I just read the link, “to give up”, thank you for your prayer.   I have copied it and will set aside some quiet time and place where I can do this meaningfully.   I have been wrestling with this for well over a decade.  I ask for your prayer on this matter and to anyone else who may read this.   You are so spot on, submission and letting go as an exercise or from the core of my soul.  Oh how tightly I hold on to control and as I learned from “The shocking thing I learned about last year”… time to reflect on that I learn to discern my efforts – that I convince myself are God inspired, vs those that He brings about.   Your post was very helpful for me in seeing how to spot the difference.


  • greaternater

    I’ve preached a
    few times about a process of praying towards seeing God work. And it has come
    through with great results for me and for others who have followed this form.
    It is simple and it makes sense. People just have a hard time committing to God
    and God’s way of doing things. Like you said in your article, it’s about how to
    let God control things. A lot of us are control freaks.

    For those who want
    to try this prayer process:

    1. Pray that God
    will lead you to who to pray for. Listen until you know it was not your own
    idea (this takes time).

    2. Pray that God
    will show you what to pray for them. Listen until you know it was not your own
    idea (like a day for each step and sometimes more time).

    3. Pray for the
    person and the concern God revealed.  Ask
    God what your part is in meeting this need (sometimes he will lead you to pray
    even more, sometimes you become the instrument he intends to use to meet the
    need. Keep praying until you know it is not your own idea).

    4. Lean in and
    watch what God will do (You may want to journal about the prayer process so
    that you can see that yes God showed you who and what to pray for, and that yes
    he wanted to work in that situation, and that yes he wanted you to be a part of
    the process through prayer or otherwise).

    God Bless

  • Walter Petticrew

    Mary…. God is truly speaking to me through your post.  He is showing me why I am going through the period I am right now.  He is telling what he wants me to do, let go and submit.    He is speaking powerfully to me through you today.

  • heather.adams

    I love this! It can be hard to let go, but we really need to…

  • dianne

    I love this: “The Christian life is a great letting go. Of loosing our control and letting God be God.” Reminds me of something my pastor said in a message a few weeks ago, that “we practice our faith in a faithless manner.” If we don’t loosen our control, we will lose control eventually, won’t we? Might as well just hand it over to the One who wants to keep us all together. Great post.

    • Mary DeMuth

       Amen, good words, Dianne.