The Sting of Regret

Moses hit the rock, so God kept him from seeing the promised land (Exodus 20:12). David slept with his soldier’s wife, so the child died (2 Samuel 12). Peter denied Christ, and was wrought with guilt (John 18:15-27).

Sin has many consequences, but I want to focus specifically on regret in this post. Your soul stings when you have caused yourself unnecessary suffering. Left unchecked, regret will take you by the hand and lead you spiraling into despair. It poisons our faith in God’s goodness.

Like everyone else, there are regrets I live with – needles of the conscience that nag and call for attention. I have learned one very important lesson as a result of dealing with the things I wish I could take back.

Avoiding regret requires self-discipline. Either I will experience the pain of disciplining myself, or the pain of God’s discipline as He corrects and redeems my faulty living. 

Holy living comes at a cost, but so does obstinate behavior. Faithfully obeying God is never as severe as the devastation of sin. So, for those of you wrestling between right and wrong, the choice is simple. Either you will experience the joy of obedience (for righteousness sake, 1 Peter 3:14) or you will pay for disobedience later (as a result of sin, James 1:15).

Since we all have regrets, here are two things we can rejoice in as Christians.

  1. God has promised to work all of actions and circumstances for the good of His children (Rom. 8:28). God can turn regrets into powerful life lessons. We learn deep truths about Him when He corrects us. As we experience His discipline, we come to know His character better and appreciate His awe-inspiring holiness much more. Since His discipline is rooted in love, we are drawn closer to Him, even through the pain we have caused ourselves (Hebrews 12:6).
  2. Regret can be turned into a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 34:18). Regret has a tendency to break us. Why is God close to the broken in spirit? Because His love is compassionate, and the broken in spirit are pliable. They’re tender to the voice of the Savior. They see the truth about themselves compared to the God of Scriptures. The need for intervention is magnified, and there is an increased longing for the Spirit of God. God loves when we learn to rely on Him for all we need. As a result, He draws near to us and we experience a greater intimacy with Him, even though we have messed up. That’s grace.

Regret can be a powerful toxin that discourages the soul. Ask God to reorient your focus when you fight with regret. I also recommend reading Psalm 34 when regrets arise.

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