Unshakable Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Overcoming Regrets

Do you ever feel like your regrets are haunting you like ghosts from your past?

I used to allow regrets over things I’ve said or wished I had said and things I’ve done or wish I had done, to steal my joy, peace and hope. I became so aggravated with these condemning “ghosts” of regret that I finally decided to figure out how to defeat them. The following “battle-plan” (for conquering regrets) has helped me and I hope it might help others dealing with this problem too.

Defining this enemy
Even though I knew what the word regret meant, I began by looking up the definition, which, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is: “sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one’s control or power to repair: an expression of distressing emotion (as sorrow)” 

I also noticed that repent is one of the synonyms for the word regret. I suppose this makes sense in one way; it’s the same thing to feel regretful and repentant (over something we’ve said or done). But, from the Christian point of view, there’s a contradiction between the definition of regret and the synonym of repent. The definition says that regret is “beyond one’s control or power to repair,” but the Bible repeatedly tells us that repentance is the “power to repair” (regrets, guilt and shame). I just had this thought: If regretting and repenting were synonymous, repenting of something we regretted would be redundant. 

The Apostle Paul wrote; “…the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world (by Webster’s definition) produces death.” (spiritual, emotional and even physical death) (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Here’s an example of what Paul meant: Judas regretted betraying Jesus (Matthew 27:3), but he didn’t repent of his betrayal and his failure to repent “produced death.” Whereas Peter regretted denying Jesus (Matthew 26:75), but he repented and moved on.

Defeating the enemy

I know that Peter, Paul and all Christians regret mistakes and past wrongdoing, but if we truly believe that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), we’ll get to the place where our regrets no longer have the power to control our emotions; we’ll begin to put them into perspective by understanding how God is making good result from our failures.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, I’ve come to the conclusion that these feelings of oppressive regret and condemnation are not from God. I think that many of us won’t release these feelings of regret because we wrongly believe that to feel regret is to be repentant. But the Bible tells us that the Christian life is a spiritually and emotionally “abundant life;” a life of joy, peace and hope. These uplifting things that sustain us through even the most difficult trials cannot possibly coexist with feelings of guilt, regret and despair.

I believe the first step to putting your regrets behind you, where they belong, is to quit allowing them to attack your mind as a force – divide and conquer them. When regrets come to your mind, begin to categorize them. For instance, if the regret is over something that’s in your power to resolve; like apologizing to someone or paying back money you’ve borrowed etc, take the actions needed to resolve that regret. This category might be what the Bible calls “the conviction of the Holy Spirit,” which prompts us to act according to God’s will – it works with our conscience. It’s vital to resolve this category in order to have a good (guilt-free) relationship with God – “…if our conscience is clear, we can come to God with bold confidence.” (1 John 3:21 NLT)

Another category, which was a big “ghost” for me, was regrets I harbored regarding things I said or wished I had said to loved-ones that have passed away. I am no longer haunted by this ghost; he faded away when I realized that I don’t want my memory to evoke feelings of guilt and regret (for my family and friends) when I’m gone, and I know those that I’ve lost didn’t want me carrying around that burden either.

There are many other categories of regret;  parenting and relationship mistakes, bad investment mistakes, times we’ve sinned against God and hurt others and so on, but none of these categories controls my emotions any longer, and I believe it’s God’s will for every Christian to overcome oppressive feelings of guilt and regret.

You may wonder, as I did, what the source of these feelings of regret and false-guilt is if it’s not from God, as the Bible says – “…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

That means the source must be our carnal nature (“self-condemnation”) and/or an outside dark spiritual force. I believe it’s probably some of both. The Bible tells believers that our old nature is at war with our new nature: “…the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh…” (Galatians 5:17). The Bible also says that Satan is our “accuser” (Revelation 12:10) and that he attempts to negatively influence our mind, will and emotions through people and in other ways.

But regardless of what the source is, it’s clear that the last thing any negative source wants is for regretful thoughts to provoke thanks-giving to God, so this is the most powerful weapon against these things. Form a habit of thanking God for forgiving you (of the things you regret) every time a regret comes to mind. I promise you that the power these regrets have to cause sadness and feelings of shame and condemnation will begin to diminish and you will start to see your past in its proper context – God’s context.

The Apostle Paul is an excellent example of putting regrets in the proper context. He repeatedly referred back to his regrets of persecuting, imprisoning and even participating in the killing of Christians; he even said that he wasn’t even “fit to be called an apostle…” (1 Corinthians 15:9). But then he added the following words that I’ve adopted and hope every follower of Christ will apply to themselves – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain…” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

If we’re allowing our regrets to affect our joy, peace and hope, His grace is proving to be vain to us; we’re essentially telling Jesus that His suffering and death wasn’t enough to take away our former sins and mistakes. It’s a new year; it’s time to let your regrets go!

“…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“… one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching 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)

“You can’t go back and change the beginning,
but you can start where you are and change the ending.” C.S. Lewis


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184 thoughts on “Overcoming Regrets

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  1. I love this post. So much wisdom and truth in this! Thank you!

  2. This helped me so much. I know you did not intend for that, you don’t even know me, but my understanding of God’s grace, forgiveness and not forging chains of regret is clearer. Thank you.

  3. Brilliant! Simply brilliant. Thank you.

  4. Our 15 month old baby was clearly not feeling well last Sunday. He started crying before we went to mass & throughout. I could tell his stomach was bothering him terribly but assumed it was just that – a very bad stomach ache from something he ate. My husband suggested we bring him to ER & I dismissed it assuming it was nothing major. We have him montrin & gas drops which seemed to calm him down a bit and then he threw up. Once he threw up, I was convinced I was right & it was his stomach. 4 days later his sac had swollen & was red and after a series of events we found out his testicles had twisted (must have been what the pain was on Sunday) & he had emergency surgery to remove the now dead testicle. We would have had 6-8 hrs from the time they twisted to get him to the hospital and they likely could have saved his testicle. I am devastated by my situation not to take him to the ER and therefore eliminating our chances of having saved his testicle. I know there was no way of knowing what exactly was going on but it doesn’t change the regret I feel as a mother for not better assessing the situation. Why couldn’t I just have gone along w/ husband when he suggested we go to the ER? I held my baby in church asking God what was wrong w/ him & then left mass convinced it was just his stomach. What I would have given for a sign from God that day telling me to bring him to the hospital? The regret I feel is overwhelming.

    • I’m so sorry for this horrible outcome. I think our greatest regrets are actions or inaction raising our kids. But, as you rightly said (“…I know there was no way of knowing what exactly was going on…”) This was an honest mistake. It’s obvious that you are a good mom and love your son very much (if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be haunted by this situation). What a great world it would be if every mom was as loving and caring as you are.
      (Forgive me for the delay in posting this, I just discovered several old comments).

  5. Pingback: Overcoming Regrets – Learning to trust God with ALS

  6. K Baldwin on said:

    My Mom was ill for over a year. Our roles ended up reversed… Me feeling like the parent. I loved her dearly. I thought I did everything possible to make sure I would not have any regrets when she went to be with Jesus. Since she passed I have learned that the caregiving facility fooled me into thinking they really were taking care of her but in the end she was shamefully neglected and overmedicated.

    How does a Mother deal with having rationalized some of her concerns but then finding out later that her child wasn’t treated properly? That’s how I feel. But it too late to make it right.

    • I’m sorry that your mom passed away, especially under those circumstances, heartbreaking. But, you shouldn’t feel guilt or regret for something others did. Do you think your mom would want you carrying around this heavy burden of regret? No! I think she would want you to live your life in joy and peace, especially in regards to her memory. If I could look down from heaven after death, I don’t think I would be able to enjoy all the joy and peace that heaven offers if I knew one of my loved ones was living in regret. For your mom’s sake, live in joy and peace – throw this heavy burden off and never pick it up again.

  7. Thank you for your post and for reading my blog. It is hard to not look back and have some regrets, but as Christians we are meant to look forward with HOPE and FAITH and to keep our eyes towards Heaven looking for CHRIST’S return. May we all encourage each other to persevere! James 1: 2-3. May GOD BLESS YOU in all your writings.

  8. Pingback: Overcoming Regrets | Reasoned Cases for Christ

  9. jeanie montgomery on said:

    I have regrets of not raising my children right. my children are grown. If they had a better upbringing, they would have content lives and a solid foundation and direction because of knowing how to apply the Bible to their lives. I considered myself a Christian when raising my kids, I did not know the extent of living as a christian, nor did my husband. God blessed us with children and we abused That gift by Not raising them appropriately. On top of all that, we divorced. I never had an attitude when getting married to divorce. I couldn’t be more sorry for how my children had to live. Thank you for your help. I’m going to read these scripture verses and believe God will help me to live with out this constant reminder of how I did wrong.

    • Thank you for your heartfelt comments, Jeanie. We all make so many errors raising our kids. Just pray for them and be the best example of a Christian. And, if you feel it necessary, ask your children to forgive you of your parenting mistakes. Lastly, forgive yourself – this is so important.

  10. I could really relate to this post.. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  11. Wonderful words of wisdom my friend. My wife recently brought to my attention that I hav a tendency to live in,or dwell on the past far too much. Especially failures from the past. Like you,I know all the scriptures and have used them to encourage many over the past four decades.

    Still,when it comes to ourselves,it is not easy to let go of those failures and disappointments,especially when we are presented reminders of them.

    • Thank you, Ron.
      Yes, I think we all have a tendency to dwell too much on our past – so self-defeating. Of course we would have done things differently with the benefit of hindsight. We just need to press forward, Ron.

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