Deal Biblically with Regrets

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends
I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all
–In My Life by the Beatles

These lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney capture the poignancy of looking back over the years and fondly reminiscing. The beginning of a new year often finds me replaying scenes from my life. Sometimes I can experience a pang of regret over past sins, failures and mistakes. Ever happen to you? Praise God who has given his children a biblical way to deal with regrets.

First of all, the Cross covers all our sins and failures

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

God knew about every sin we’d commit before he created us. And he sent his Son to pay for every one of these offenses on the cross. Because God punished all our sins in Christ, no punishment remains for believers. So if you feel condemnation for sins in your past, you must regularly remind yourself that Jesus Christ took that condemnation and there’s none left for you.

Think of Peter. He denied Jesus 3 times. He could have struggled with regret and condemnation for the rest of his life. Then there’s Paul. He stood by and approved of Stephen’s murder. He sanctioned other murders. He yanked Christians out of their homes and threw them in jail. Yet Paul said there’s no condemnation.

If God doesn’t condemn us, then we must not condemn ourselves. Maybe you say, “I know that God forgives me, but I can’t forgive myself.” This is an insult to God. Do you have a higher standard than God? Was the blood of Jesus not enough to take care of your sins? If God doesn’t condemn us, then who are we to condemn ourselves? Despite the way we feel, we must stand on God’s word not our feelings. If God says I’m not condemned, I’m not, no matter how I feel.

Secondly, God is sovereign over all our sins and mistakes

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

God works ALL things together for good, including our sins. God is in no way responsible for our sins, for he’s not the author of sin. But God is sovereign over all our sins and failures. Somehow even these fall under the umbrella of his plan for our lives. Not even our sins can thwart his good intention for us. Joseph’s boasting of his dreams to his brothers was immature and unwise, but it was part of God’s strategy to get him to Egypt. Joseph even recognized how God used his brothers’ sins to accomplish his purpose. He said to them:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Genesis 50:20).

David committed adultery with Bathsheba.Their first child died, but their second son, the son of a marriage that began with adultery, was Solomon, one of Israel’s greatest kings. Excessive regret is an insult to God’s sovereignty, because by it we are saying that our sins are too hard for God to turn to good. So instead of dwelling on your regrets, praise God for his mighty power to work all things for good.

Thirdly, forget the past and press on

…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

If anyone could have looked back with regret, it was Paul, for he had hated Christ and persecuted the church. Yet he constantly put the past behind and looked to Christ. Constantly looking back with regret will not change anything. Forget the past, unless it motivates you to change in the present. Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.

In The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, a master demon advises his pupil to preoccupy his “temptee” either with the past or the future, but never the present. Satan would have us live in sadness for the past or fear and anxiety about the future – anything but focusing on Christ and his will for us today. The past is gone and most of our worries about the future won’t happen, so focus on knowing, loving and obeying Jesus now.

Deal biblically with your regrets. Reject condemnation, rejoice in God’s sovereignty, and press on, trusting Christ for the grace for this day.

Comments

  1. Youngblood says

    I find that it is the sin ‘that so easily entangles us’ (Hebrews 12;2) That has people all bound up and living a life of regret over sin; a constant state of looking behind and thinking about the past instead of the future (one of the Devil’s sneaky tricks) but we are no longer slaves to sin, and sin shall no longer have dominion over you (both from Romans 6)
    This is a good way at starting a new year, deal with the last season, biblically, and then its a matter of; let go and let God, have his way with you.
    Praise him.

  2. Jason Park says

    Thank you for this post. What an acute, pointedly captured outline of such a common failure in our lives (in my life!).

    It’s great how you (by examining the text) always bring it back to God’s sovereignty–how a deeper grasp of that is the answer to our deepest problems.

    Thanks again.

  3. John says

    I believe everything you say but what about the hard things? Like abusive people in our lives that show no sign of repentence. Where does justice come in?

  4. Jonnathan says

    To John: No one was more abused by hardened sinners than Our Lord on the cross; He surely understands. It is also true that we must leave room for God’s justice in such ‘hard situations’ (“turn the other cheek”, “vengeance is mine saith the Lord”, etc.) That being said, God doesn’t expect you to subject yourself to abusive people or an abusive environment. If you have done all you can to endure or have found you don’t find the grace to forgive any longer you could try to be a martyr, or use common sense and wisdom (“wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove”) and LEAVE any abusive situation; it does glorify Christ for his children to suffer even die (“precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints”) but not for them to suffer unnecessarily. I hope this helps. Just remember when you’re at a safe distance (and I’m assuming a violent domestic situation here) you still must practice forgiveness to heal both your wounds and leave room for God’s sovereignty on their lives.

  5. says

    John,

    These are hard questions – I’m sorry I didn’t catch your comments. Somehow I missed them. With abusive people, we still must forgive and trust God in his sovereignty. In some cases, it’s appropriate to try to get out of the situation. Paul told slaves that if they had a chance to gain their freedom to take it.

    But if we can’t escape, we must still trust God, forgive, and know that ultimately he will bring justice to those who sin against us.

    Mark

  6. says

    Hey Kurt,

    Maybe I didn’t express myself clearly in my post. That song doesn’t offend me at all – it’s one of my favorites, for the very reason that it captures real and common human emotions…

  7. says

    Mark,

    My bad. I clearly misunderstood what you were saying. Forgive my confusion. I just get frustrated with a number of people, friends and family included, that for whatever reason hate John Lennon because they perceive him as being threatening to their religious beliefs. I have never understood why viewpoints that question dogma or question the belief system that most of us are indocrinated in results in such vitrol. Clearly my many other previous experiences led me to do what I cannot stand, and I apologize.

  8. Taf says

    thanks so much for this encouragement. I find myself living more in the past of what could have been instead of believing God for the future

  9. says

    You’re welcome Taf,

    God has plans for you, to give you a future and a hope! And his plans are only good. Keep clinging to Jesus and trusting him for your future – he cares more about your future than even you do!

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