“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands” (Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG).
How often do you play the “If only” game?
If only I could do it over again.
If only I had listened sooner.
If only I could erase the past.
If only I could forgive myself.
The thing to remember is that no one is perfect. We all have regrets. We’ve all made bad choices and said foolish things. We’ve all wasted time and hurt ourselves and others.
How do you release your regrets? In my experience as a pastor, I’ve seen several strategies we tend to use that simply do not work:
You try to bury your past. Burying the past will never help you get past your regrets. You can try to minimize (“It wasn’t a big deal”), rationalize (“Everyone does it”), and compromise (lower your standards), but your regrets are still there, and if unresolved, they’ll keep coming back to haunt you over and over again like a creature in a horror movie.
We blame others. This tactic is as old as Adam and Eve. When Adam sinned, he took it like a man: He blamed his wife! We use blame to balance out our guilt.
We beat ourselves up. We try to pay for our guilt unconsciously through illness, depression, setting ourselves up for failure, and other forms of self-punishment. The problem with beating up on yourself is this: Your conscience never knows when to stop! Some people spend their entire lives in self-condemnation.
What does God want you to do with your regrets instead?
Admit your guilt. Own up to it. Don’t make excuses. “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance” (Proverbs 28:13 TLB).
Accept Christ’s forgiveness. He’s waiting to clean your slate. Ask him to clear your conscience. Romans 8:1 says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (NIV).
Forgive yourself, and focus on the future. “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands” (Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG).