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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144 thoughts on “Overcoming Regrets

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  1. It was good reading this again, Bill. I always draw spiritual nourishment from your posts. Your friend, A.

  2. Amen! Time to let those regrets go!

  3. Anonymous on said:

    tank u vry much 4 dis piec of encouragment cus 4 d past 18 monts i hav bin livin in mental tucho do 2 what i fald 2 relis ontime i hv bin filin gulty even afta confesin 2 god. d enemy makin me fil ashame of myself.

  4. Christine Lomas on said:

    Thank you so much Bill for your words on regrets. For the last 6 months I have felt really unhappy and depressed over something I did and wish I could go back and change, but can’t. It’s haunted me every day and the accusing voice in my head wouldn’t leave me. I have been stuck in the past re-living the event over and over. In spite of reading the Bible and many other words relating to forgiving oneself etc, on the internet, I have found little comfort, because I was repeatedly condemning myself for the mistake I made. Then I found your website and now after reading your words, I feel God has finally managed to break through to my heart! I still feel rather fragile after battling this depression alone, but I feel I can finally move forward into the light with God’s help. For the first time in what seems like forever, I feel a real sense of peace which is truly wonderful.

    Your own story and the way you have found real hope and comfort from God will never leave me.

    Thank you and God bless you!

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Christine. We must learn to forgive ourselves, which, I believe, is really the same as accepting God’s forgiveness. The best method for doing this is to begin to thank God (for forgiveness and for helping us move forward…) whenever those feelings of guilt or regret arise. For me this became a great habit that has really helped me move forward.

  5. Thank you so much for this but may i just clarify that all the advises you gave can also apply if my regrets is not necessarily bad or sinful? I regret that I didnt go the my desired university and degree that it always haunts me to a point that im having so much bitterness if i see people who i knew they went to that university i just feel so much envy and it made me regret my career path and feltvi wasted all my college years. It really is more bad than it looks and you may think a way to solve this is to save money and go to your university and its never too late bla bla but its just way too complicated than that and it will only be impractical (long story) I always just pray for peace of mind and acceptance for what i cannot change. Always but yeah, it still haunts me.

  6. Willie bunting on said:

    I have been struggling with many regrets for past year. Things I wished I had done more of in terms of helping my mom, dad, and even ex deceased husband. Regrets over my daughter’s childhood that could have been better had I made better decisions. Nothing really major or serious, just wishing I could do or say some things again…a different way. I can’t begin to tell you how much this article has helped me. Thnx so much..God bless.

    • Thank you for your comments. In one sense, I think the fact that we have regrets says something good about us – self-righteous and self-absorbed people generally don’t have regrets about not doing enough for others. We can transform our regrets into doing better now and in the future.

  7. the article has reli impacted ma lyf

  8. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I hadn’t given much thought to the difference between ‘regret’ and ‘repent’ until this article.

  9. I always find great wisdom in your posts, Bill. Regrets can be a real challenge for me. At times, my guilt (sometimes genuine, sometimes groundless) presses in on me, though I know we are forgiven. Thank you for this reassurance.

  10. This was so good! It really blessed me. Thank you for sharing it.


  11. I just read this post again. It is so true and something each of us need to embrace. To continually regret is to always live in a world of mental turmoil. To repent of past wrongs and to stop regretting the past allows the brightness of the future to shine through our lives. Thanks for your post and for you.

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