I’ve been thinking about regret a lot lately.
Out of all the negative emotions I’ve experienced in life, regret is the most hopeless feeling. It is dark and heavy and sends my mind in circles.
I should have . . .
I never should have . . .
If only I knew . . .
Why didn’t I . . .
For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. — 2 Corinthians 7:10
If our choices were the result of sin, at least we have repentance and the hope and freedom that comes with it. But what if we thought we were doing God’s will? What if we were earnestly doing the best we knew how? What do we repent from then? From ignorance? From blind faith?
I can’t find a bible verse that has an encompassing answer of how to deal with this kind of regret. I wish there was because holding onto one sentence of scripture that addresses something I’m struggling with gives me peace. The only thing I can do is pray. And when I do, it all comes back to a few simple things.
It seems like the ones who struggle with regret the most are those in the middle point of their lives. It’s not the beginning of their story, but also not the end. We don’t know what the future holds, how God will work it all out to good. But we can trust that He will, one way or another. And even if we are at the end of our story, we don’t know how God will use our past to affect the futures of the ones we love or had influence over.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28
Learn from Our Mistakes.
It’s never easy, and not always fair, the way we learn from mistakes, especially the ones that involve relationships. My oldest child is in some ways a wonderful experiment, and the younger two benefit from the mistakes I have made in parenting her (although not always in a way they enjoy!) I can’t get caught up in the guilt, though. If I want my kids to learn from their mistakes, I need to model this by learning from mine and moving forward – not in circles.
We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. – James 3:2
Focus on the Good.
Sometimes the windiest roads have the most beautiful scenery, and the twists and turns allow us to slow down and take it all in. Most of us have more to be thankful for than we have to regret, we just need to remind ourselves, each and every day, what those things are.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:6
I can do that. Trust, learn, be thankful. It’s not easy, but it’s a whole lot better than living in the ghost town of regret. After all, God has gotten me this far. I just need to keep turning the pages.