I have heard people say it time and time again: “If I could go back, I would do things differently.” When I hear a statement like this, I have several different reactions. First, I react the way most people do. I nod my head in agreement and say to myself (or maybe even out loud), “Yeah, me too.” I hate thinking about the sin from my former life. I hate knowing that I ever hurt or disappointed other people. I also hate knowing that I sinned against my God. I try to remember the bad things that I have done, while at the same time I try to remember my God and the forgiveness that He offers. I will usually quickly recall several of the things in my life I regret doing, saying, and sometimes even not doing. If this catches me on a good day, I will just smile and praise God that I am no longer living that kind of life. But the problem is that every day is not a good day in my mind. There are times in which my faith is shaken. On days like this I have a completely different reaction. Unfortunately, my list of indiscretions is very long. If I am not careful, I will find myself dwelling in the past and in regret. Dwelling in regret and guilt feels like a pit of despair with no way out, but there is something that I, and I believe we all, need to remember.
As Christians we need to remember the God that we serve and the forgiveness that He offers. I know that there are those that try to escape any personal responsibility of sin, and I hope that these individuals will repent and come back to the Lord. But we also need to be aware that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ struggle with regret and guilt even when they have done everything that they need to do in order to be forgiven. I think we all, and especially those that struggle with regret, need to remember that one of the beautiful things about being a Christian is that we do not have to live with guilt. While we may have things that we were guilty of once doing, and therefore may experience earthly consequences, we do not have to live with the guilt before God. 2 Corinthians 7:10 and 1 John 1:9 show us how we can get our relationship with God back into good standing.
Not only do we not have to live in guilt, we also do not have to dwell in regret. That does not mean that we forget everything that we have ever done. In fact, remembering sin in our past can help us remain humble as we live for God. But dwelling in regret holds us back from living the Christian life that we ought to live. Do we really believe God when He says He will forgive us? Do we trust in His Word and the promises He has made to us? I think at times we fail to grab hold of the salvation that has been offered to us because we are still scared of not being good enough and of relinquishing control to anybody other than ourselves. The reality is that we are not good enough. That’s why we needed Christ. But don’t let this statement devalue us as individual Christians. God knew that we would struggle. He knew that we would sin, and that is why He offers us a way back through His Son. The control that we so desperately desire is actually holding us back from living the Christian life that we could be living. We sing in worship, “I Surrender All.” Do we mean it? I believe for those of us that struggle with regret we need to remember that we are to surrender our all to God (Galatians 2:20, Romans 12:1-2).
We also need to remember that as Christians we have been given another great blessing: the Church. It is with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that we can learn together, share together, and grow together (James 5:16). Being open and honest with our God, as well as open and honest with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, can help us deal with the regret that has plagued our lives and will help us remember the blessings that we have in Christ Jesus. Let us put away the guilt and let regret be a thing of the past so that we can live each day for God to the fullest and lead others to Him.