‘Cause I could spend my life just trying to sift through
What I could’ve done better but what good do “what if’s?” do?
From “Forget And Not Slow Down” by Relient K
I have a lot of regrets.
Actually, “a lot” may be a bit of an understatement.
They come in all shapes and sizes.
Here are just a few, from the common and inconsequential to some that have had more lasting effects: the countless times I’ve stayed up too late, or hit the snooze button one too many times, almost every time I’ve gone back for a second helping on something, no matter how good it was!, not purchasing something the first time I saw it (only to never find it again), losing my patience, the times I missed out because I was “playing it safe” or didn’t want to go alone, every time I withheld forgiveness, was bitter towards someone, slow to apologize and ask for forgiveness, the countless times I wish I hadn’t procrastinated or when someone was needing a listening ear but I was unwilling to lay aside my own agenda, all those ugly moments when I insisted I was right or on doing things my own way rather than cooperating and collaborating with those around me, the myriad of times I’ve said things I didn’t mean or did not say something I needed to say… or the thousands of times I’ve regretted not what I said but how and when I said it…
And these are just to name a few.
I am not sure how comforting it is to consider the fact that all of us who are members of the human race, are all too familiar with the concept of regret.
I feel like this topic is something the Lord has been teaching me about for some time now.
It recently occurred to me that regrets can generally fall into one of two camps:
1) those things we regret that we did (or did not do) or were done to us without a full awareness or understanding of all relevant facts and information pertinent to the circumstance or situation
2) those things we willfully did or did not do in full understanding of what we were doing
Here’s a simple and silly example of the first kind:
Shopping For a BBQ
Two summers ago, a friend took me shopping to buy a BBQ. I was hosting a BBQ a few days later and HAD to buy one, and soon! I stood in the aisle of the store we were at, deliberating for a good 10 minutes (or maybe more!) over which of the three or four models I wanted. When I finally decided on one, it turned out that the only one left was the one on display and it was missing an essential and particular piece.
We left the store empty-handed.
A couple of days later, I had no choice but to buy one from a store nearby and in the end, payed 10 euro more for the one I bought than if I had bought the same model a few days sooner. I kept thinking, “why didn’t I just buy it at the first store I had gone to a few days prior where it would have been a little cheaper?”
I am embarrassed to think of how often I let this question and others similar to it, ruminate in my mind in the days that followed.
But these thoughts are futile, a waste of time and thought. They steal the present from me by consuming my thoughts with things I can’t change now.
What’s done is done.
I can’t change the past.
I can and should learn from the past but I don’t want to waste my life wishing things of the past were different. It’s not. It is what it is.
My last blog post: Hesitation, is a perfect, recent example of the second kind of regret, those things I consciously did or didn’t do.
I can kick myself all day long for not having stepped out and obeyed what I know the Lord was asking of me but doing so won’t benefit me or anyone else… and it won’t change a thing. It will only serve to waste my time and weigh me down with guilt.
Hmmmm…. guilt. I’m learning that if guilt is present in my life, it’s not from God.
Regret and guilt go hand-in-hand. While there is a place for us to truly feel remorse and sorrow whenever we disobey God and hurt one another or even ourselves, He doesn’t want us to stay in that place.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10
That’s why Jesus came. Jesus came to free us from our guilt and shame, not to pile on more. He calls us to freedom and though we were guilty before God, through Jesus, the Father has taken away all our guilt and we stand before Him as His redeemed, free of condemnation.
My favorite chapter in all of Scripture starts with this beautiful piece of very good news:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
God has forgiven me for every wrong thing I’ve ever done or ever will do. So why do I have such a hard time forgiving myself?
One answer is that we have an enemy who loves to render us useless and unproductive by seeing to it that we are chained to our past mistakes and failures. Satan’s very name means “adversary or accuser.” Fitting, no? Is he not constantly accusing us, reminding us of our shortcomings, failures and poor decisions?
I never thought of this before but in a way, for some of us, he (Satan) kind of preaches the gospel to us… at least the first part. The part about us not being good enough to be in relationship with a holy God, how we are unworthy to know God and unable to make things right again.
The part he doesn’t bother to mention is the best part of all! We have an advocate! The very one who has the right to condemn us before God the Father is also the one who died to restore us and make us whole again!
Part of that wholeness Jesus died to give us includes freedom from guilt and shame.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17
Jesus, please help me to not be weighed down by all my regrets and past mistakes. Teach me to fully receive your forgiveness and grace and to walk every day in the freedom you offer.
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14