You Don’t Need to Look Back to Move Forward
You Don’t Need to Look Back to Move Forward
Why is this happening to me? This is a question that we have all asked ourselves. You don’t understand why things keep happening that hold you back. You sit in a chair at home, in the office or perhaps church and think about the job or the promotion that you didn’t get. If you had only made a different decision. You should have taken that high visibility assignment when it was offered, but your plate was already full. At home things aren’t going well either. You relive the argument you had with your spouse or child. You wish you could take back the hurtful words. You didn’t mean so say them, but they came out all the same. You feel like everything is going against you and you’ve reached the end of your rope. If only you could go back, you’d do things differently.
It’s times like these we seek someone to understand, empathize and commiserate with us. Many of us are life-long, maybe even charter, members of the club of “Life’s Regrets and Remorse.” Our lives are full of “shoulda, coulda, woulda” moments. We have all had them and will likely have them again. The Bible says, “so God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27, AMP). Fortunately, God did not exempt Himself from the pain of regret and sorry. There are many examples in which God’s regret and remorse are on full display:
“Then the Lord saw that man was very sinful on the earth. Every plan and thought of the heart of man was sinful always. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth. He had sorrow in His heart” (Genesis 6:6).
Surely, if we are made in God’s image and likeness there must be a purpose for regret and remorse beyond making us feel miserable. Regret and remorse, both negative emotions, are closely related but serve different purposes. Regret is associated with learning that a different action would have resulted in a better outcome. However, remorse is experienced when our actions are deemed to be shameful, hurtful, or violent. Moments of regret and the remorse don’t happen by accident. The Apostle Paul says:
“The sorrow that God uses makes people sorry for their sin and leads them to turn from sin so they can be saved from the punishment of sin. We should be happy for that kind of sorrow, but the sorrow of this world brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:10, NLV)
Got Questions states that regrets “arise from either foolish choices or sin choices, and each requires a different response.” Regret (foolish choices) places us in a passive state. We hold on to a past that can’t be changed. It is the proverbial “crying over spilled milk.” Isaiah 43:18 (GNT) tells us:
“Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago.”
This doesn’t mean to ignore your past. Just like driving, you want to check your side and rear-view mirrors before pulling into traffic to avoid accidents. You can’t change the past instead learn from it; but remember that you don’t have to live in it. Dealing with regret requires that we drop the burden and walk away. In fact, we are encouraged to do this.
“Give all your worries to Him because He cares for you.” i1 Peter 5:7 (NLV)
It’s like checking your baggage at the airport. You give them to the agent curbside, and they are delivered to your final destination. When you surrender your regrets, you can forget what is in the past, and with new knowledge, look towards a new future (Philippians 3:13, NLV).
Unlike regret, dealing with remorse requires us to be more active.
Pope Francis describes remorse as an “open wound, which when we have done something wrong, pains us” (Vatican Radio, 2017). Remorse happens because of decisions made to do, or prevent, something that causes harm to ourselves, but especially to others. Remorse results in shame, hurt, depression, or violence aimed at ourselves or others. To address and deal with remorse requires repenting and seeking forgiveness, changing our behavior(s), and when possible making restitution. These actions are not easy, but when we take them; we can draw on God’s promise (Hebrews 8:12, TPT):
“I will show loving-kindness to them and forgive their sins. I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12, NLV.”
We are lucky that neither regret nor remorse are permanent conditions. They can be either weaknesses or opportunities to turn to God. 1 Corinthians 1:30 (MSG) tells us that through Jesus, we have the chance for a clean slate:
“Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ.”
So, the next time you find yourself suffering with regret and remorse examine its cause and use the appropriate strategy to move forward. You get a clean slate but also have a way to help and serve others.
Challenge: We have all suffered regret and remorse and will again. When you find someone suffering with them, remember that encouragement is one of the best tools available. Share these strategies as much as possible. Like the commercial says: Encouragement, “Pass it on!.”
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