We all look back on situations and we cringe. Some incidents from our past may be more than just cringe worthy – our behaviour has been destructive; we have damaged relationships, we have sullied our reputation. If only we could turn back the clock and do things differently. If only we could live in the knowledge of hindsight and so avoid the mess to begin with. Perhaps however, it’s not such a bad thing that our past remains what it is.
In the first instance, our sins and failures demonstrate how God’s grace has been continually extended to us. Through Christ we have forgiveness and the slate is wiped clean. Rom 4:7-8, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” Our past therefore provides a backdrop for God’s glorious character. It gives rise to thankfulness and devotion on our part.
Secondly, regret can serve to shape our lives in the present – that is if we learn from our errors. Knowing where and why we have gone wrong, we have the opportunity to take stock and address issues in our lives. Someone once said (usually attributed to Einstein but it probably wasn’t him) “Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results”. Are some Christians guilty of a kind of spiritual insanity? We continue in ways which have caused regret as though the outcome may be different. Regret can and should be the Lord’s rod for learning and change.
• Has anger led to regret? Use it to cultivate self-control and calmness. Consider the ugliness and damage caused by unrestrained anger. Outbursts of rage cannot be taken back but by God’s grace anger can be subdued and channelled appropriately before it gets to that point.
• Have decisions led to regret? Use it to wait upon the Lord when faced with difficult choices. God’s wisdom and clarity in a situation often come after patiently waiting upon on Him. Better to proceed slowly and even miss out than live with consequences which cannot be undone.
• Has the tongue led to regret? Use it to consider the power of words. We have control over what we say and don’t say, but once words are spoken we have no control over them. James ch3 likens the loose tongue to a raging fire.
Regret is painful, but not all pain is bad. In fact, no pain is dangerous. What is it about yourself that has caused you the most regret? Use that regret to help shape your character in the present.