Do you have any regrets in life? These regrets might be very significant, such as who you married, or didn’t marry; how you raised your children; how you have handled significant relationships in your life; or perhaps vocational decisions you have made.
Perhaps you’re like Frank Sinatra, when he sang in “My Way”:
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again too few to mention
But my guess is that we all have at least a few regrets in our lives.
Recently, I listened to an interesting Ask Pastor John podcast with John Piper as he answered a question about regrets from a 72-year-old man about how we should handle our regrets. You can listen to that episode here.
As I find myself closer to the end of my journey than the beginning, this episode really resonated with me. My nearly 38-year career with a Fortune 50 organization is now complete, and I’m in a new season of life, with different goals and opportunities to serve. But I do have regrets, some of which are:
- I could have loved Christ more.
- I could have been a better husband, son, brother or uncle.
- I could have been a better leader at work and church.
- I could have been kinder.
- I could have loved more.
- I could have shared my faith more.
- I could have been less self-centered.
Perhaps some of these resonated with you as well. Although we have regrets, we must realize that we can’t do anything to change the past. It does no good to “beat ourselves up” over our regrets. But how do we handle regrets that we do have and find healing? Some regrets aren’t sins – we made decisions such as where to live, and the choice didn’t turn out so well. Always remember Proverbs 16:9: “A man’s heart plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” God is in charge, and He’ll get you where He wants you to go through His divine providence. Other regrets may be about broken relationships. If so, offer your hand of reconciliation and ask for or offer forgiveness if needed. If the person responds positively, rejoice together! If not, talk to God, repent and God through Jesus will forgive that sin and mend your heart. Pray for the healing of their heart too. No, don’t continue to look on the brokenness and regret, but turn your eyes to Jesus, the great Physician.
In the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper shared four points, and from those points here are a few thoughts that I wanted to highlight for you. He said:
- It’s good to remember our sins and feel regret. It’s good. It’s good to feel regret up to a point.
- A life without regrets is built on a mirage. If you don’t see sins when you’re looking back over your life, and you don’t regret those sins, you’re not seeing reality. You’re not feeling reality. You’re seeing a mirage. We all have sinned. There were plenty of attitudes, words, deeds that were not for the glory of God but selfish, not loving but uncaring, not from faith but from fear. There were plenty of things that came out of your mouth that were not designed for upbuilding, and plenty of good paths taken with defective motives.
- Christ died to cover a million regrets. That was really comforting for me.
- Whenever remembering begins to paralyze us with the weight of failure and remorse so that we don’t love Christ more, or cherish grace more, or serve with greater energy, then let us forget and press on by the power of grace for the little time we have left. That’s the main word: press on in faith toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ.
I hope that Piper’s words help you as you reflect on how to handle any regrets that you have in life. Some last thoughts on Philippians 4:8:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
“When we make a poor decision: Truth enables us to face it and speak honestly about it; Honor reassures us that our worth does not rest on our good choices; Justice leads us to repent, receive forgiveness, and move toward repairing the situation; Purity teaches us to reflect on why our heart made the choice in the first place; Loveliness reminds us that good things are worth the sacrifice; and Euphēmos (things spoken in a kindly spirit, with goodwill to others) guides us to confess our mistakes to each other so that we grow.”
From the book All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment By Hannah Anderson,