How To Rise Above Regret

I don’t tend to be nostalgic.

Though I must admit, I had quite a trip down memory lane recently when my wife and I got to see Paul McCartney in concert. There were a couple moments I did feel nostalgic during the concert, especially when he played “I’ve just Seen a Face”– one of my favorite songs from Rubber Soul and one which I’ve played over the years.

Though not overly nostalgic, I have found myself recently slipping into regrets about the past. Yes, I know – God has blessed me like crazy in my life. Far more than I could ever have imagined. So I have absolutely nothing to complain about. But as all of us find out sooner or later, not everything in life turns out the way we think it will. And if I’m not careful I can begin to dwell on my past failures, sins and mistakes, both before Jesus saved me and afterward. And if I dwell on these things too much I can begin to spiral downword.

So what do we do with regrets? Here is Paul’s advice:

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Many of us have regrets about the past. Any one of us could plunge into depression if we thought about our sins and failures. But we must remember, it does not matter what we’ve done – there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). NO CONDEMNATION. Jesus bore each and every one of our sins from the greatest to smallest on the cross. He was condemned that we might not be.

Jesus was condemned that we might not be.

Paul says “forgetting what lies behind.” This does not mean we can erase the past from our memory. But we’re not to dwell on it. Our past does not define us. Jesus nailed our ball and chain to the cross. We are free. If Jesus does not condemn us, then why would we condemn ourselves? We must make every effort to not dwell on our past failures. Obviously there may be times we should go to people we sinned against and ask their forgiveness but we’re not to go on in self-condemnation or self-pity for the past.

“Straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”– Straining, pressing – we are to put all our effort toward pursuing the prize – the upward call of God in Christ. We’re to pursue knowing Jesus more and more and becoming more and more like him.

Rather than meditating on past failures and regrets we should think about who we can serve or how we can love others more. Rather than condemning ourselves we should think how we can encourage someone. Rather than being filled with sadness at our failures we should rejoice in all God has done for us in Jesus. He’s washed away all our sins in the blood of Christ, made us one with Christ and freed us from sin’s dominion. He’s given us good works to walk in and wants his joy to be our strength.

Forget what lies behind. It might be a battle. Regrets may come to your mind on a regular basis. Satan, the accuser of the brethren, will accuse and condemn you. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Resist condemning thoughts. Replace them with thanksgiving to Jesus for his forgiveness.

We can learn from our failures. They can help us grow in humility. But God doesn’t want them to be a cross we carry. He already carried our cross so we can walk with him in resurrection life.

Mark Altrogge

I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I enjoy songwriting, oil painting and coffee, not necessarily in that order.