A Mom’s “If Only” Regrets

For me, one of the most painful parts of motherhood is watching my child suffer because of my sinful past. Oh, I wasn’t a bar-hopper, I didn’t cheat on my husband or beat my kids, but I was a sinful mom.

I was selfish.

Sometimes I was lazy.

I procrastinated.

Often I was disconnected rather than intentional in my parenting.

My good intentions often ended in colossal failure.

I was harsh. I was emotional. I was way too tired much of the time.

I messed up. 

I’ve never met a mom who didn’t have parenting regrets. I’ve never met a mom of a prodigal child who felt she’d done everything right. Every prodigal mom I’ve ever met has expressed to me that, in some way, she was to blame. Even moms of “successful” children have parenting regrets. I’ve never met a mom who was totally satisfied with her efforts—even though most of the moms I know strive to do their best in raising their kids.

Moms that love Jesus, that want to cultivate an environment for their children to love and follow Jesus—even those moms mess up. Regret stalks the best of moms. 

Regret is a wearisome task-master.

Regret is a wicked soul-minder.

Regret brings torment and despair. It rakes our soul across the cold ashes of past mistakes and enslaves us to the wasted toil of the worrisome “If only . . .” treadmill. When I get caught on that thing, I’m like a hamster on a wheel that keeps running and running, thinking I’ll finally get to the end of the road but instead, no matter how hard I run, I just keep circling the same regrets  that keep me running—never getting off or finding relief.

I’m unable to change what I’ve done and I’m unable to change the outcome, I’m only left with regret. 

Know what I mean?

What do we do about that? Is that glorifying God when I climb on the “tread-wheel of regret?”

No, it isn’t.

God has provided us with some clear instruction for how to respond when regret creeps up on us: 

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ . . .” (2 Cor. 10:3–5)

This passage warns us about the battle we’re involved in and explains how to use the weapon of truth against the enemy.

When my mind is filled with regret, it zaps me of all hope and plunges me into despair, because regret is something that focuses on a past action that can’t be repaired or undone. Regret is not the same as repentance at all. Repentance is turning from a current sin, changing our heart’s direction and turning fully to God. In contrast to that, regret is a morbid focus on past actions that cannot be changed—they’re finished.

Regret swallows my peace in the present and slays my hope for the future. 

Regret overwhelms me with loss and painful self-condemnation. 

Regret fills my mind with empty speculations because it centers on thoughts set in the context of “If only . . .” dreams that can never become reality. I can never go back and change what I’ve done, how I’ve parented, choices I’ve made. I can only make choices that affect today and the future.

But no matter how much I may want to, I can’t change the past. And pining for that zaps my emotional energy, drains me of courage for today, and sucks the desire to worship God right out of my soul.

Wallowing in regret isolates me and traps me in despair. 

Dwelling on past regrets cripples my current relationship with God. 

I’ll explain why tomorrow and provide you with the battle plan I use when regret threatens to drown me.

Are you struggling with regret? Ask the Father to flood your mind with truth, to fill your heart with confidence in His sovereignty and power to work in spite of your past mistakes. Ask the Spirit to provide you with hope for the future.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)


  1. Posted by Vivian Etherington

    “There is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 Wonderful truths in this post, Kim! God is at work, unfolding His plan! His ways are so far above our ways, past finding out! Hallelujah! What a Savior! Much love, dear friend!


    • Posted by Kimberly Wagner

      So glad we have the comforting truth of the entire Romans 8 chapter! His mercy and sovereignty is what is holding my heart right now. Thank you so much, Viv ~


  2. Posted by Rebecca Einwechter

    Thanks for your honest, struggling blog posts. I am blessed by your desire and direction–always back to our only true answer–God. I am praying for you all there. Blessings and Faith abundant to you!


    • Posted by Kimberly Wagner

      Thank you dear Becky ~

      It means so much to know that you are praying. I see so many encouraging evidences of God working. Trusting He will accomplish an Ephesians 3:20 testimony through this.

      Blessings to you dear friend ~


  3. Posted by pamela lombardi

    I’m encouraged by your devotional pieces. please pray, this one on being a mom. I have a 16 year daughter who ran away. I’m praying she’ll come home like the prodigal son. Any thoughts?


    • Posted by Kimberly Wagner

      Hello Pamela,

      I am so ver sorry for the painful journey you are on right now. I know it is so hard. I’m sure you are crying out to God to have mercy on your daughter and to rescue her. Only He can bring about the true work of redemption that is needed. I’m sending you a link to the first day in a series of radio programs from Revive Our Hearts Ministries. I think it will encourage you. It is the story of a prodigal daughter who God returned home:

      https://www.reviveourhearts.com/radio/revive-our-hearts/how-heart-drifts/

      Pausing to pray for you and your daughter now ~


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