Most of us have to deal with regret from time to time. Sins we committed in the past. Or maybe sins we committed yesterday. People we’ve hurt. Poor decisions we made.
I can be tempted to regret mistakes I made with my children. Time I have wasted. Failures as a pastor. Things I wish I had done differently in life and ministry.
Though we all have done things we can regret, God doesn’t want regret to rob us of our joy in him or cripple us in our glorious pursuit of him. Here are seven keys to overcoming regret:
Here are seven keys to overcoming regret:
STEPS TO OVERCOMING REGRET
silence the accuser by remembering Christ saved us by his blood
We have an enemy who loves to remind us of our sins and failures. He’s called in Scripture the accuser of the brethren:
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. REV 12.10
If Satan can’t keep Jesus from saving us, he will do all he can to impede us in our walk. By accusing us he can get us to focus more on our failures than our Savior.
He would have us dwell on our sins or wallow in self-pity rather than serve others. How can we overcome this accuser? How can we move from our own feelings of regret to overcoming regret?
And they have conquered him (the accuser of the brethren) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. REV 12.11
Christ’s blood has washed us clean of all our sins. Jesus paid for every failure, both before and after we believed in him. We silence Satan’s accusations by turning to Christ every time he accuses us.
Yes, we have failed, but every failure was paid for in full at the cross.
Remind yourself there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. RO 8.1
Early in my Christian walk, I struggled with condemnation. But someone taught me that every time I felt a stab of regret for sin, I should declare “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
And to thank God for this truth. At times it seemed I had to fight condemnation every few minutes, but the more I thanked God the less I felt condemned.
Overcoming regret requires remembering that there is no condemnation for us.
Forget what lies behind and keep pressing toward the prize
“ …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
Paul could have had many regrets. He persecuted Christ’s church. He threw believers into prison. He may have separated parents from children. He watched and approved when Jews stoned Stephen.
But he said he didn’t dwell on his sins. He said he “forgot” what lay behind. Does this mean he couldn’t remember his sins? No. It means Paul intentionally did not focus on them, but focused on the prize, and put his energies into pursuing Christ.
We too should forget the past and focus on the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Thank God that he causes all things, even our failures, to work together for good
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. RO 8.28
God causes all things, even our sins, to work for good. This doesn’t mean we should sin intentionally, but it means that we can know even when we have blown it, somehow God will turn it to our good.
So when tempted to fall into the pit of regret for past failures, turn it into praise. Say, “Father I praise you, that you are sovereign, and somehow by your infinite power and wisdom, will cause even my failures to work for good.”
Remember it is God’s will for you to be fruitful and he has good works for you to walk in
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
We can be tempted to think that our failures throw a permanent shadow over our possible fruitfulness. No matter how much we have failed, God’s word says he has good works for us to walk in. So when we fall we need to get back up and get back to work. He’s not done with us yet.
My Dad, who died at age 96, spent his days serving others however he could – he painted birthday cards for everyone he knew, he took mentally challenged guys shopping, he delivered blood to nearby towns for the Red Cross. There’s always something we can do.
Turn regrets into thanksgiving
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 TH 5.18
Thank God in ALL circumstances – even in the midst of temptation to regret. Thank God that he saved you and has forgiven you of all your sins, that he works all things for good, that your failures remind you of your need for God, thank God for his patience and longsuffering with you, thank him for his steadfast love
let your failures keep you humble
Though we should not wallow in our regrets, they can help us be humble. I can’t look down on anyone because I have sinned in so many ways. My past failures remind me that I’m capable of anything apart from God’s grace.
I know I’m susceptible to temptation, so I need to pray regularly for God to deliver me from it.
God does not want us to be paralyzed by regret. So let’s not focus on them, but like Paul, focus on and press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.