I’ve never met anyone who didn’t struggle with regrets from their past. Regrets crop up regularly in our thoughts. It can happen just driving down the road and passing a familiar street from our childhood, running into someone who knows about some shameful past event, or watching a loved one suffer because of our sinful choices.
But, is it right or helpful to dwell on regrets?
What is regret?
I think it’s a recognition of something I’ve done wrong coupled with a deep yearning to go back and change that action, do a re-do, get a second chance at that event.
I can rewrite a messy blog post. I can rip out a crooked seam and redo it. I can rip a page out of my journal and start over on a fresh sheet of paper.
But I can’t redo my past choices. I can’t change the past.
In other words, the kind of regret I’m talking about is the desire for the unattainable. Longing for a dream that can never be fulfilled. And that’s vanity. It’s a “vain” or “empty” imagination because it can never actually occur.
Don’t misunderstand me, there is great benefit in evaluating past actions in order to recognize root issues that might need to be confessed and dealt with, or changes that need to be made today that will affect the future.
What I’m talking about is: the sinful state of wallowing in the dark pit of regret over choices I made in the past and can do nothing about today.
Regret is a huge bully in my life! Can anyone else relate to what I’m saying here?
What is wrong with dwelling on regrets?
Regret takes me to a place of doubt and blinds me to God’s faithfulness.
Yesterday, I shared with you that we are in a spiritual battle and we looked at 2 Cor. 10:3–5 because it provides us with instruction for how to respond when regret creeps in. That passage challenges us to “take every thought captive.” Our thoughts must line up in obedience to God’s truth. In other words, my mind needs to be renewed, to be filled with God’s thoughts, in order to think rightly and battle the lies the enemy throws at me. Whether it’s the enemy throwing out ugly accusations, or my own stubborn memory, I need to take those thoughts “captive” to obey Christ.
Philippians 4:8 describes what my mind is to be filled with:
[box]Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.[/box]
Whatever is “true” must be saturating my mind. A yearning to return to the past and imagining a redo of all my mistakes is yearning for something that can never happen. It’s yearning for something that isn’t real or true. Dwelling on those regrets and pining for a different past is a trap of the enemy.
If I stay there long enough it slays any desire to move forward. It keeps my focus on me and off of God’s sovereignty.
The truth is, yes, I’ve messed up, you’ve messed up—we live with regrets. We’ve caused heartache and pain, we’ve not parented perfectly, we’ve not loved our husbands well, we’ve been selfish and hateful, we’ve wronged our friends, and the list could go on and on. We need to confess to those we’ve sinned against (God being the first and ultimate One we’ve sinned against), walk in fruits of repentance, seek to grow in our love for God and others, but also remember and focus on God’s faithfulness.
Rather than dwelling on regret, I need a fresh reminder of God’s redemptive character.
When my mind floods with regrets, the truth I must remember is that God is sovereign and He (in the most amazing ways) is able to take my mess ups, to take what the enemy meant to use for destruction, to take the awful scars of my past, and create a beautiful redemptive story that brings Him great glory.
Dwelling on regrets keeps my focus on me (never a good choice).
Dwelling on regrets is an indicator of my pride (Did I think I was going to be a perfect parent, perfect friend, perfect whatever?).
Dwelling on regrets zaps my confidence in God’s sovereignty.
Dwelling on regrets does not bring God glory in any way.
The enemy (and my own mental state) uses regrets to pound me with condemnation. And that’s never a good thing. More on that tomorrow.
How are you handling your regrets today?