Regret is the worst feeling there is. Wishing you could turn back the hands of time and have a “do over” hurts. It comes in waves. You think you are okay and the flash flood knocks you down again. Over time the waves spread out. But when they come crashing down again they threaten to take you under. Fear grips your heart. Will I make it back to air….to safe ground?
I believe regret is a human creation. God forgives us fully. It is like we are washed clean having never sinned. Sometimes regret isn’t born from our sin. Sometimes it comes from other’s sin or just plain circumstance. However, in our human capacity, even if we did not directly create the circumstance, we feel we should have done something to prevent it.
If that were the case, then we would be the one in control. And we aren’t.
So where does that leave us. How do we escape regret and bitterness that threatens to harden our heart in the midst of one of the crashing waves.
I know that with most things of God we need to call on Him and wait. And that is probably true in these circumstances that threaten our health and sanity, but I propose to wait actively.
I know it is probably my personality, but God created me the way I am so I want to go with it. Some of you may be like me. You may hate to sit around waiting. Mostly I hate it because I fear that I am not strong enough to fight off the regret and bitterness passively.
I want to participate and help God, even though I know He doesn’t need my help at all. So I will participate by actively seeking HIm. Here is what I have learned in times of regret.
1. Face the situation head on. In a wave I am usually hit the hardest if I just stand there. The best way to save my energy is to jump up over the wave, if possible, or duck under it. This seems like a lame example, but when my dog was hit by a car at a year and a half, I was heartbroken. She shouldn’t have been out. We could have kept this from happening. I was so upset I couldn’t do anything but cry. To help us through it, my son and I sat down and wrote out everything we could remember about Sadie. Every characteristic, event, or feeling we had about her in her short life. It was heart wrenching, but cathartic in it’s own way. If you have a difficult hardship in your life, blocking it out and compartmentalizing only serves to let the bitterness incubate.
2. Review the entire situation. What can you learn from it? What could you have done differently? Anything? I had a boss once who said we all make mistakes. Mistakes have an impact on us. However, the true tragedy in a mistake is if we hang on to it and let it impact our future as well as our past. All we can do is face the situation and see if there is any learning. If yes, take it forward. If not, move forward without bringing the mistake into your future.
3. Pray about it all. Ask God what you are supposed to learn. Pray that He will be your comfort and get you through. Even if your regret is from your own sin, ask Him for forgiveness. Don’t hide. You can’t anyway. Pray that He will redeem you. Pray specifically that He will help you find your way forward.
4. Focus on Jesus. I don’t know about you, but when I stay focused on me, I get so sick of myself. I can’t stand to think about me for one more minute and feel sorry for God that He has to listen to the same old prayers over and over again. Once I get this way, I ask Him to put me to work on something else, someone else. I look for ways to help others. I try to serve. There are many other ways to focus on Jesus; this is my best way.
5. Let go and let God. I know. I hate cliches too. But this one really works here. When the wave of regret comes again when you aren’t expecting it, the power isn’t quite as strong as the initial storm. Sometimes it is better to just let go of any resistance and let the wave take you. It will soon pass. God has you and will plant you back on your feet once still water comes. He loves us no matter what. He is in control and He can deliver us.
These steps may not feel like action to you, but trust me, they take hard work.
More importantly, they lead to healing.
They lead to a closer relationship with Jesus.
They lead to an open heart.
They lead to no regret.