What To Do With Your Regrets

Do you ever have regrets?

I’ve been sitting here thinking about how different things would be in my life if I had only studied a little bit harder in school, used a little more discipline, acted in a different way, stayed away from Hurricane Andrew when I lived in Florida, been a better husband, not moved to Atlanta, been more obedient, been …

I don’t know about you, but when I’m a little down or something hasn’t gone exactly the way I wanted it to, my mind always goes to what might have been. I know. I know. It’s a sin to dwell on the past. After all, I’ve been forgiven and God is sovereign. Nevertheless, on occasions I’m guilty of having a pity party and doing traffic with the demon of regret.

Someone has said that life isn’t a dress rehearsal. That’s true but wouldn’t it be nice if we could do it over again and do it right? Wouldn’t it be great if we could only go back and fix it? Things would be a whole lot different.

Whenever I have these times, I have an exercise I go through, asking myself a series of four questions that usually will give me some peace with my present circumstances. I thought I would share the process with you just in case you have some regrets too.

The first question I ask myself is this: What makes you think that if you did it again you would do it any better?

Knowing my track record, I suspect that it could have been worse. The man who went to his employer because he was angry about being passed over for a promotion said to his employer, “He has only been here for two years and I have twenty-five years of experience with this company.” “No,” his boss responded, “you’ve had one year’s experience and you have repeated it twenty-four times.”

The second question: Do you think God made a mistake?

There is a wonderful passage of Scripture in Acts 16:6-8 where Paul was on his way to Asia. Luke writes, “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.” You see, Paul had Asia on his mind … but God was thinking about Troas.

Ruth Graham was once asked if God always answered her prayers in the affirmative. “Of course not,” she replied, “If God always said yes I would have married the wrong man … several times.”

I look back over my life and, while I would have done things different, God was in charge. I suspect if He had wanted me in a different place doing something else, He would have had me in a different place doing something else. He does, as someone has said, as He pleases and He does it right well.

The third question I ask myself is this: If things were different and you had fewer regrets, would God love you more?

I suspect that our regrets come when we try to measure our lives on a scale of zero to ten, with zero being the place where we create regrets and ten being the place where we do it right and have no regrets. But, you see, God doesn’t allot His love on the basis of a scale. God doesn’t love the pastors of big churches any more than He does the pastors of little churches. God doesn’t love the smart people more than He does the dumb ones. God doesn’t have a special place in His heart for the winner of the Miss America Pageant and He doesn’t give points on the basis of how far a man can throw a football. And, maybe more important, God doesn’t love the “good” people any more than He loves the “bad” people.

Jesus said that the well people didn’t need a physician and that He had come to call the sick and the sinners (Matthew 9:12-13).

If the only way I can know the Great Physician is to be sick, I’ll leave out the vitamins every time.

You know something? It is only at the place of regrets that I can really know God’s love. Love in response to goodness (or right decisions, or obedience, or wise actions) isn’t love. That’s reward. Love can only be demonstrated in the face of that which isn’t lovely. When I look back, it is the valley of regrets where I discovered God’s love.

The fourth question I ask myself is this: Where do you learn — in the places where you do it right, or in the places where you do it wrong?

It would be nice not to have any regrets. But, then, if I had no regrets, I would never grow. Regret is a sign of two things. First, it is a sign of God’s working in my life and secondly, it is a sign that God wants me to do it different next time.

What is your regret? Just go to Him and respond to His love. It makes whatever it was that caused the regret seem to be a gift of His love. You see, He will love you and clean up the mess.

Question: Do you have regrets you haven’t let go of? What will you plan to do about it?

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