Fundamentalists: “Give it over to God”?

So I was watching a documentary yesterday and in it was a teen that was struggling with promiscuity and she said that she finally realized she wouldn’t be able to handle it herself and so she gave it over to God. I’m a godless atheist here, struggling to understand this thing. I’ve heard Christians before saying things about having to give something up to God, over to God, let go and hand it to God and similar comments. Even have seen bumper stickers “Let go and let God”.

Initially to me, (remember I’m the godless atheist) it smacks of absolving myself of any personal responsibility for my behavior or any need to be an actor upon my own life and choices. You give it over to God and you don’t have to think of anything you do as your own fault any longer.


I think I’ve thought it through enough to get an idea of where Christians are coming from here, and my initial interpretation has it wrong. I’d like to check about this, because while it is a very foreign concept to me and the way I think, it seems so very effective for those who believe.

I’m not interested in snark from other non-believers – I actually want thoughtful responses to help me work my way through this concept in a respectful way.

So starting with the premise that I’m Christian and I have something in my life that I want to change badly and I’m not doing a good job on my own:

I’m not happy about…oh lets say watching too much TV. I can’t help myself from watching too much TV, TV keeps calling to me, sucking me in and I just don’t have the willpower to not watch TV. My family is hurt and saddened by how much TV I watch but even that isn’t making me stop watching. It is so damaging and overwhelming that finally I give it over to God. God, who will hold me accountable and provide consequences for my TV watching. I can’t do it for myself or my family but God my Father and Jesus my Savior are watching, loving me. And knowing they are expecting me to do better will make me be better. Because I don’t want to disappoint God, even more than I don’t want to disappoint my family or even myself.

So it isn’t about “::Shrug:: I can’t help myself, I gave it over to God, if I’m still TV watching it must be because he’s not made me change yet”, but a question of being beholden, answerable to God, a greater power and love than anything in the world…instead of some earthly or internal thing which, while important isn’t the prime force in life.

So. Am I headed in the right direction here? And many thanks in advance to anyone who take the time to answer my questions here…or who kicks me in the pants because I’m an idiot and still am getting it all wrong. And finally I understand it might mean different things to different people and while I’m not really posing a debate, I figure this post fits here better than in IMHO. If a mod disagrees please move it with my thanks.


I’ve heard the expression a fair bit and it usually seems to refer to ‘not striving’ - i.e. not deliberately attempting to force (what you believe to be) the right thing (or ‘God’s will’, if you like) to come to pass; not relying on ‘your own strength’, but throwing yourself into God’s care; makes absolutely no sense at all if you don’t accept that God is in any way real and sometimes still doesn’t quite make sense even if you do.

I’m probably not going to do a very good job of explaining, but I’ll try :).

To use your TV example:
It’s saying “God, I’ve tried to stop watching TV on my own, and I can’t do it. But you can. Please help me to stop watching TV”. You still keep trying, but now you’ve got God backing you up. This means that you’re still accountable and responsible for your actions, but you’re also God is helping you to make the changes you need to make.

The principle is that when you’re strong (good at something, don’t need help etc), then you don’t really need God, and God has no opportunity to show himself through your life. It’s when you are weak and can’t do something on your own that you need God. By asking for his help and acknowledging that you can’t do it on your own, you’re basically giving God the opportunity to show himself, because if you can’t do it in your own strength, and yet you do achieve whatever it is (having asked God for help), that shows God’s power and how much he loves you by choosing to get involved.

Think of it like a kid who is trying to tie his shoelaces and just can’t do it. Mum is watching, but if mum tries to help, the kid pushes her away saying “I can do it, mummy”. Finally, the kid realises that he can’t do it, and asks mum to help - gives it over to mum. Mum puts her hands over the kid’s hands and together they tie the shoelace. The kid still had responsibility for the shoelace - if he tried to run without a tied shoelace, he’d trip over; he could have kept trying on their own; he could have refused to put his foot out for mum to help; he could have fought off mum’s hands over his own, but it was only when he let mum be involved that he was able to achieve the goal, if he hadn’t he would still have untied shoelaces and it would still be his fault. That the child has a tied shoelace shows that he has a mum who is a) able to tie shoelaces and b) loves the kid enough to tie his shoelaces for him. It shows this both to the kid and to anyone around the kid who knows that he can’t tie his own shoelaces.

Not quite, that particular phrase is more about being empowered, strengthened by God. So, (to someone that believes) while the TV watching compulsion may be more than she could cope with on her own it is very conquerable if she relies on God to get her through it.

If someone were to say “::Shrug:: I can’t help myself, I gave it over to God, if I’m still TV watching it must be because he’s not made me change yet” - it would still be a lame ass answer.

Being answerable to God is a different set of catch phrases.

“His strength is made perfect in our weakness” is a line from the letters of St. Paul.

The general idea is that human beings, while created in God’s image, have inherited a tendency to sin or a taint of sin, which keeps them from being able to resist temptation and live according to the moral code that they know they should live by – but that God, all-powerful, has the strength to accomplish anything, and will empower the individual, through His Holy Spirit dwelling within him/her, to resist temptation and grow in grace.

However, “the Holy Spirit is a Gentleman,” to quote the slightly tongue-in-cheek comment of a British evangelist, and He will not enter in and do His thing without an invitation. Contemplate the “Give it over” or “Let go, and” remarks as being the first step in a Twelve-Step program – the admission that there are some things one is just not able to do on one’s own, and needs the help of God to accomplish. They invite the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen the individual to more nearly live a sinless and Godly life.

That’s the idea in a nutshell – and obviously far more can be said about it than that. But it should give you a handle on the expression.

yea…what Polycarp said… :slight_smile:


So I did have it all wrong, but thank you all for explaining it. Not sure I can quite get it very deeply but I have a much better understanding now.

The way I understand it is; when your life becomes chnged by salvation, God puts the Holy Spirit in you.
This gives you power to avoid the addicitons and temptations you had before.
It means you can try and try, but it won’t work.
Let God do it, our works are nothing.

There is also use of this phrase when a person is truly powerless to do anything about the situation in question on their own. Most of the time, it seems to be in connection to parents and their adult children who are in a situation that the parent simply cannot control, fix or minimalize the damage from in any way. Legal troubles or addiction problems or, in a timely example, a child in harm’s way in the military would rank high on the list.

In such cases, it means that instead of allowing the situation to dominate their every waking moment and the fear and pain to weigh them down, the person has realized that only God can make a change and so they have surrendered their burden to him. They still care, they still pray, they still wonder and worry, but the debilitation that they faced from their preoccupation with the issue is gone.

I’m not a fundamentalist (at least, I think I’m not) but for me, it is the realization that God — His spirit, His goodness, His love — are real, while the universe — its atoms, its laws, its entropy — is not. I want to hang my hat on something eternal, not something that was born to die.

Well said, Liberal.
But at this moment, atoms Are real.

What TeaElle said, plus this regarding worries and anxieties:

Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt.11:30).

Fundimentalists are not the only Christians who follow this belief. As a Catholic, I prescribe to it on a regular basis and help others overcome the worries and anxieties of things that they have no control over. If I can make a difference and have some control of it, I ask (pray) for guidance and strength to take the right actions to solve the issue/worry/anxiety and then face it. As a very shy person when I was younger, I’ve become more outgoing, since most of my issues were with other people for different reasons…good, bad or indifferent.

From my experiences with Christians (and a brief bout of it myself) this is a very good explanation.

There is enormous relief in “giving up” on worrying about something, and telling yourself that God will take care of it. Since most of the things a person worries about never come to pass anyway, it can be a real stress-saver.

There is a lot of consolation in the idea that God is watching over you and your problems, and that somehow He will make everything right in the end. It’s the one thing I miss since I gave up religion.

I was intending to write an eloquent and insightful post on this subject. However, at this moment words are failing me so I have given the task over to God, who will be along shortly to explain everything in an intellectually complex yet staggeringly simple manner.

“And now I give to you a new commandment, that you love one another.” — Jesus

I must compliment Somnambulist and Liberal for perhaps the most perfect straight-line-and-comeback ever posted here! :slight_smile:

::: Poly does happy dance from the sheer joy of reading those two posts ::: ;j

This has put a smile on my face that inexplicably refuses to go away. :slight_smile:

Y’all handled that so well, here’s one I’ve always wondered about: what’s the deal with “offer it up to God”? Usually used in reference to some sort of pain, anguish, and/or suffering, such as the death of a loved one, an extremely painful condition or terminal illness, etc.

Why does God want your pain? I’ve just never understood what this was about.

Thanks everyone!

post-preview ps: I dunno where that extra underline keeps coming from, but I can’t get rid of it!

I think the idea is to replace your heavy burden with a light one.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” — Jesus

Incidentally, I believe that passing moral judment is placing a heavy burden on the people we condemn, putting us in direct opposition to Christ’s own words. To condemn a gay man, for example, for his alleged “sin” is to place upon his shoulders the heavy burden of condemnation.

I think that what is meant by that is the hope that God will take the pain and suffering and teach you something from it, or help you become a better person through it.

Christians (and others) often see suffering as a necessary evil; for a quick-and-dirty comparison, think of exercise. If you never exercise, you’ll be flabby and weak, yes? And the more training you do, the stronger you are. But training usually involves quite a bit of pain, which is the price you have to pay for strength and ability.

Likewise, suffering is no fun but can, if used the right way, strengthen you and turn you into a better person than before. So people offer their pain to God and have faith that he will help them deal with it in a constructive manner that will heal, teach, and strengthen rather than weigh down and break them. “I’m offering this to God” is a way of saying “I’m praying for help in dealing with this.”

Disclaimer: I may not be entirely correct, since my own religion doesn’t usually use that exact phrase.