Repenting of Regret: Your Future Determines More Than Your Past

regretWhat kept Abraham from being crippled by regret over Ishmael, whose progeny would plunge two lineages into millenia of violent conflict? What kept Joseph from the bitter regret of losing the prime of his life to wasted jail time, betrayal, and abandonment? What kept David from despairing in regret over Bathsheba – not only losing their child, but the perpetual consequence of the sword in his own household? What kept Peter from the regretful shame of denying his Lord and Master three times? And what steadied Paul when he could have easily plunged into guilt and regret over his former life as persecuting Saul?

What will keep you from a life crippled by regret? What will bring you hope?

There’s only one medicine that can cure the cancer of regret.”Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).

Ed Welch states on this verse: “He is reminding us that life in Christ rests in what Jesus has done and looks forward to what he will do. We are visionaries. We look ahead. We hope. We aim to be drawn by the beauty that is almost within reach rather than be restrained by the regrets of the past.”

This is Paul’s line of thinking in Philippians 3:12 – 14

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. 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.

Jesus’ past is your future when we rest in Him by faith alone.

Where are you prone to regret? As you look at your marriage, your job (or the one you wish you had), the past decisions, the child rearing… or the lack thereof, it is easy to think about what could have been. Where do you look back with regret?

How do we deal with regret? Through repentance. Welch again:

Maybe you believe your regrets will be your protective talisman to help make sure you don’t repeat past sins. That makes sense and sounds spiritual, but it’s a false gospel. It is the sweet mercies of God that compel us to fight sin. One way to identify the nefarious nature of regrets is that they do not give mercy the prominent seat at the table. These regrets might be so stubborn that they will only leave through repentance. While you have been repenting of your perceived contribution to past regrets, the real reason to repent is much closer to the present: you are saying, “Lord I don’t believe that you cover my past, though you probably cover the pasts of other people, and I certainly don’t believe that confidence in your goodness and hope for tomorrow is even permissible.” Call it unbelief. If you want to get nasty, call it pride, in which you believe yourself rather than the Lord. Either way, repent.

I have my own regrets—you have yours. God’s mercies are stockpiled even higher.

Amen. Repent and believe!

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