How should I think about regret? How should I handle regret?
How should I think about regret? How should I handle regret?
Regret can come about for a lot of reasons. The word regret means “sorrow or remorse for a fault or an act.” There are certainly reasons and times to feel regret, but we should not wallow in regret. Non-sinful forms of regret (like a wrong decision) can lead to lament. Lament is essentially laying out our loss to the LORD. It’s taking our cries, complaints, and cares to Him.
When regret leads us to the Lord or to repentance it can be a good thing. Though, it still should not be an all-consuming thing. Regret, however, is often more like worldly repentance, than godly repentance (see 2 Cor. 7). There’s a sense of loss, but not the will to change. Regret, like worldly repentance, often has sadness without the solid resolve to change. Whereas real repentance leads to life change and life, simple regret is not lifegiving (2 Cor. 7:10); it’s without hope and therefore deadly. Regret doesn’t take the transforming message and good news of Jesus into account.
Repentance and regret
Repentance is a biblical word and learning is a biblical word… Like learning from the wrong we’ve done and changing. Scripture calls us to repentance when we’ve done wrong. Not mere regret.
If there was someone who you think would be lost in hopeless regret, it would be the apostle Paul and, come to think of it, the apostle Peter too. Paul persecuted Jesus, and Peter denied Him—three times. Talk about regret. They didn’t just ruin their life, they turned their backs on the Author of life (Acts 3:15). Wow.
Yet, this is what Paul says: he forgets what lies behind him and strains forward to what lies ahead. He presses on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14). And Peter reminds us that through Christ Jesus, we have been cleansed from our former sins (2 Peter 1:9). So, regret turned into repentance, and repentance turned into rest in Jesus and resolve to live and die for Him.
Both Peter and Paul, and you and me, have things that we regret. Yet, Jesus cleanses and recreates. If we trust in Him and repent of our sin, He makes us new. Acts 3:19 says, Repent, turn back, “that your sins may be blotted out.”
So, Scripture calls us to repent—change our ways by the empowering grace of God—and not wallow in regret.
The Bible does relate that there are consequences for sin. Yet, it also tells us we can start over. Jesus makes us new. When we sow seeds to the flesh, what grows up is fruits of death—enmity, anger, and animosity. Whereas when we sow seeds to the Spirit, we get the fruits of life and righteousness—peace with God and relational prosperity.
Regret looks inward, into self, and tries to find resources there. That perspective is fruitless and flawed. There is not help enough there. Repentance, on the other hand, looks outward and upward for help from Christ the Creator and Recreator. He—as the Boss of the universe—has resources to help us with our deepest and darkest regrets.
Three categories of regret
Think of three regrets in your own life. List them out. Now we’re going to categorize them and consider how you should respond to them. Here are three categories of regrets:
- Sinful: what you regret was flatly wrong (e.g., stealing)
- Wrong choice: in retrospect, your choice was not the best (e.g., could have chosen a career you’re better suited for)
- A confusing mix of sin and wrong choice: the situation is so extensive you can’t sort it out (e.g., a marriage that ended in divorce)
How does Scripture tell us to respond to the three categories of regret?
Sin should always be repented of
First, sin should always be repented of. Sin always leads to brokenness and is an offense to a holy God. Therefore, we should turn away from all sin and ask for forgiveness. The Bible teaches that when we do this God grants forgiveness. We, therefore, don’t need to live in shame and guilt. For those in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1).
If you have a regret to repent of, certainly do that! And even make restitution (Luke 19: 8 cf. Ex. 22:1; 2 Sam. 12:6) and reconciliation (Matt. 5:23-26; 2 Cor. 5:18-19) wherever possible. But God does not call us to condemn or flog ourselves. God instead makes us new creations in Christ and forgets our sin. Do not remember something God has forgotten. Do not carry something Christ has buried. If God has thrown your sin into the depths of the ocean never to surface again (Micah 7:19), why do you recall them? Could it be the father of lies bringing them up from the dark depths to destroy and condemn?
Some regrets do not require repentance, though they may require tears
Second, some regrets do not require repentance, though they may require tears. I regret not spending more time with certain loved ones that have died. I regret misunderstanding when a particular assignment was due because it resulted in a bad grade. Yet, I don’t need to repent of all my regrets because not all my regrets were the result of sin.
Some regrets are a source of frustration because we have more information now than we did when we made our choice. Or you may feel like you are a different person now than when you made the choice. Or… a thousand different things. But you did make the choice, and now, in some sense, you’re stuck with the choice. And you regret it.
So, what do you do? How should we respond to this type of regret? Trust and lament.
We trust the Lord is with us and for us and is good, even in the midst of our less than stellar situation. Even if our life never feels finally fulfilled, or it seems like it could’ve been so much better if we would’ve made a better choice, as Christians, we know that we are not home here. Nothing will actually be a perfect choice here. Instead, heaven is our home. We are strangers and exiles here.
We know the world reels and regrets, as a result of the Fall. Things are not as they should’ve been and won’t be until Jesus comes back to fix the world. So, in one sense, regret is natural now and expected because of the broken world that is our address.
We also lament. We talk to the Lord in song and prayer, and we tell Him what we don’t like and why. Yet, even as we lament and lay out our losses and regrets to the Lord, we also trust.
Sometimes it’s hard to sort through our regret
Third, sometimes it’s hard to sort through our regret. Sometimes it is hard to label it and put it in a specific bucket. Yet, we know the One who knows our hearts better than we know our own. So, we cry out to the Lord, and we ask Him to help us. We ask for direction and we trust that when we don’t know the way, He does.
We also know that even while Jesus never sinned—never made any wrong choices whatsoever—He does understand where we’re coming from. He does know and did experience this messy and messed up world (Heb. 4:14-16). So, He can sympathize with us.
When regret is a riddle that we cannot figure out, we can and must still lean on the Lord. We turn to Him (that’s really what repentance is) and away from wallowing in despondence.
So, take your regrets, categorize them as best as you can, and respond appropriately: repent, lament, or a combination of the two. But don’t wallow in self-pity or condemnation. Self-pity and condemnation forget the gospel; they forget that Jesus has promised us the Kingdom and given us His righteousness.
Ultimately, the solution to regret of any kind is trusting and remembering Jesus’ gift of perfect righteousness and His coming reign where all regrets will be washed away (Rev. 21:1-4).
Take some time and respond appropriately to your regrets.
Reflection questions to help you process regret
- Read 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. What is the difference between “godly grief” and “worldly grief”?
- Do you have places in your life where you have regret that is merely “worldly grief” but isn’t leading to healthy life change?
- What are a few actions steps that you can take to purposely and intentionally turn away from and defeat sin in your life?
- Read Psalm 51:1-7. What did king David, the author of Psalm 51, regret? (Notice the introduction to the Psalm)
- How did king David respond to his regret?
- Did David hold out hope that he could be forgiven for what he did?
- When your sin is brought to light, what is your response?
- Read Psalm 51:8-19. David clearly regretted his sin. Yet, he wasn’t totally hopeless even though his sin was terrible and tragic. In the verses you read, where do you see signs of hope?
*Photo by Nathan Dumlao
4 Points to Pop Pride
The last thing Christians should be is puffed up with pride. Below are four points to pop pride.
Pride is damaging and is at the heart of what damned the devil himself. We would be wise to destroy pride before it destroys us (Prov. 16:18).
1. Group Connection
Pride protects us from the penetrating eye of others, at least, until it is too late. To kill pride we must let at least a select group pry; pry into our lives and our inner motivations. We must let them lovingly dive-in and help dig out roots of sin that we can’t see because the seed hasn’t yet sprouted and blossomed its poisonous plume (see 1 Tim. 5:24; Heb. 12:15).
When I drive with my wife you can often hear me say, “Clear right?!” As soon as she says, “Clear!” I’m making that lefthand turn. I’m squealing the tires (in our minivan…).
I ask her because I can’t see what’s coming. And I know that blind spots can cause big problems. So, I need her help.
Blind spots are no less dangerous on the road of life. We need each other to see what we don’t see ourselves. What’s going on in our own hearts is hard to truly understand. We need wise brothers and sisters to help us discern what’s going on (cf. Prov. 20:5).
Connection in an honest and loving community is vital for health. We need spiritual wellness exams. We want to kill cancerous sin before it grows and brings forth death (cf. James 1:15). We need to be sharpened (Prov. 27:17) and we need the occasional friction of rebuke (1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 4:2).
Like a horse, we need a goad to guide us to good works (Heb. 10:24-25). Like a rope, we need to be interlaced with others to be strong (Eccl. 4:12). Like a general, we need counsel to wage war wisely (Prov. 24:6).
Ironically, if we’re going to pop pride, we need people in our bubble.
2. Gifts are a Gift
Gifts are given. They are not deserved. If we have a gift, it’s because we received it. We didn’t own it on our own. Therefore, we shouldn’t boast as if we did not receive it (1 Cor. 4:7). And no matter what we have—strength or smarts, artistry or arithmetic, wealth or wisdom—it’s all a gift given by God (Jn. 3:27; James 1:17).
And gifts are given, not for our own good, but for the good of others (1 Pet. 4:10; 1 Cor. 12:7). Gifts are given with an understanding from God that there will be a return on His investment. It is required of servants that they be faithful (1 Cor. 4:2). But, that is nothing out of the ordinary. A servant is supposed to be faithful (Lk. 17:10).
If they are a servant with more gifts entrusted to their care, they are just being faithful with what God has given them, which is really not much different than the other servants. Except that they may go through more pain and have more of a demand on their life.
Also, it should be remembered that no body part, whatever that body part is and how gifted it is, functions on its own. In the same way, the quarterback may lead the team but he’s not the only one on the team. If he were, he would be crushed.
We all have different parts to play in the body (1 Cor. 12:12-31). The different parts have different roles, different gifts, as God assigned. But, notice, it is God that arranged and appointed it that way (v. 18, 28). It is not as if anyone earned their particular gift or role in the body.
So, since gifts are given they should never be a cause of pride.
3. Given Identity
The Bible teaches us that we don’t earn an identity, we are given an identity. Anyone in Christ, for example, is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). That is who they are. They are new. They are an adopted son or daughter of God (Eph. 1:5).
Paul David Tripp’s book on leadership is very helpful here. I shared a few quotes from his book recently. Here’s one that’s especially applicable here:
“Ministry leadership identity produces fear and anxiety and will never produce the humility and courage that come with identity in Christ. Looking horizontally, as a leader, for your identity, meaning, purpose, and internal sense of well-being asks people, places, and position to do for you what only your Messiah can do.”
We don’t boast in who we are, we boast in the Lord (Jer. 9:23-24; 1 Cor. 1:31)! Therefore, we don’t falter when we fail and we don’t overly seethe with success. And we don’t compare ourselves with others because we’re not looking for commendation from others (2 Cor. 2:12, 17-18). We’re looking for a smile on our Father’s face, even if it brings a frown from others (Matt. 25:21; Rom. 2:29; 1 Cor. 4:5).
So, we rest in our God-given identity—who we are in Christ—and not in any merely earthly identity.
4. God’s Glory
Everything we have, we have been given. And everything we have been given is to be given back to God in the form of praise. All we do is to be to His praise and glory, even when we eat (1 Cor. 10:31).
Everything is about Him, it is the height of folly and stupidity when we make it about us. That’s worse than an ant that thinks it deserves praise for moving a speck of sand. The ant is nothing and its work is nothing compared to the might and majesty of God. To think that God would owe us is worse still (see Job 35:7; 41:11; Rom. 11:35)!
All things are about Him (Col. 1:16) and the fact that He chooses to use mere humans only highlights His glory (2 Cor. 4:7 cf. 2 Cor. 12:8-10).
So, we pop pride when we see that it’s all about God and His glory.
 See “The Pastoral Long-Suffering of Spurgeon and Boyce”
 The success of the body rests on the individual parts of the body and not on any one part on its own, no matter how gifted that part is. Tom Brady knows this. He gave up millions so that the other important parts of the team could get filled up.
*Photo by Hamed darzi
Fear & Flourish
“…Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh…” (Proverbs 3:7-8)
These verses stood out to me in my reading today. They’re important to understand and even more important to apply. There are three main points and they build sequentially upon each other.
1.Fear the LORD
This is essential. If God is not rightly respected the following points of the verses fall flat.
Fear of the LORD is the beginning (Prov. 9:10) and the beginning of freedom from sin.
2.Turn from Evil
We must turn from evil. The cold hard truth, however, is that we won’t unless we know and love the LORD. Actually, we’ll even have confusion as to what evil is.
But, we must turn and even run from evil. If we don’t it will be our downfall. It will be our downfall in a million ways. The start will be subtle but the end will be slow suffocation. Choking out life.
If we turn away from evil, we will…
God, as God, knows how life is to be lived. He knows because He created all life. When we turn from the destructive nature of sin, we turn to the good God intended for us. And it’s life giving. It brings medicine to our bones (v. 8).
So, let’s fear the LORD, turn from evil, and experience the flourishing God has in mind for humanity.
“Hello, My Name is ______ and I am Transformed”
This post is from chapter 11, “Hello, My Name is _____ and I am
an Addict Transformed,” from my book, Gospel-Centered War: Finding Freedom from Enslaving Sin.
The Bible does not deny that we were various things—addicts, homosexuals, hateful, prideful, pornographic masturbators—but that is what we were (past tense) (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Titus 3:3-5). The emphasis in Scripture is on what we are and what we are called to be. The Christian does not say, “Hello, my name is _____ and I am an X Y or Z.” The Christian says I was dead, but now I am alive. The Christian says I am a struggling sinner, yet I am a saint. The Christians says, I am a new creation; I am transformed.
We must remember however that we are “simultaneously saint and sinner.” This is the biblical balance. We are holy in Christ and yet we are progressively becoming holy (see 1 Cor. 1:2; Heb. 10:14). I like how John Owen says it: We, who are freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it our business all our days to kill the indwelling power of sin.
Paul wrote a letter to a church located in Ephesus back in the day. The people there had many struggles. Many of them use to worship various false gods and perhaps were even involved in cult prostitution. But you know what Paul called them when he wrote to them? He called them “God’s beautiful creation,” “God’s masterpiece” (Eph. 2:10). He didn’t say, “Now church, make sure that you are constantly reminding yourselves that you were part of the occult. In fact, when you meet together say, ‘Hello, my name is ______ and I am an occultist.’” No! He said, “You are new! In Christ! Transformed!”
One of the problems in claiming the identity of “addict,” “alcoholic,” or “overeater” is that we deny that addiction is a habit that can be finally overcome. I am not saying it won’t be a struggle. I am not even saying that it will even finally be overcome in this life. Yet, the Bible teaches the freeing and empowering truth that in Christ we are currently a new creation. It says we are adopted children of God. We are even God’s beloved; His treasure.
Labeling may not seem like a big deal but it is. In hospitals, it is important for people to be labeled correctly. If someone has a gunshot wound on their leg, they should not be taken to a cardiologist and someone that has the flu, they should not be life-flighted. Labels are important for treatment. Labels are important for our own treatment. The treatment of ourselves. How we look at ourselves, talk to ourselves, think of ourselves.
Our Hope in the Midst of the Virus
This is a difficult time for many of us. Yet in the LORD we find comfort that transcends our earthly struggles. What hope do we have in the midst of this time of difficulty?
Zephaniah recounts for us a lot of really difficult things. Zephaniah is not a lighthearted read. It is heavy. If Zephaniah was a painter, he wouldn’t have used pastel colors. Instead, the canvas would be filled mainly with black and red.
Yet, there would be a glimmer of light, a glimmer of hope in the darkness. What hope is that and who is it for?
Layout your Lament to the LORD (Psalm 10)
The Bible teaches us that we can layout our lament to the LORD. We can cry out to Him for help or to honestly share our disillusionment. Lament psalms make up around a third of the book of Psalms and is the most numerous type of psalm within Psalms. And so we see, “The vast majority of psalms were written out of a real-life struggle of faith.”
The Bible teaches us that we can layout our lament to the LORD. We can cry out to Him for help or to honestly share our disillusionment.Tweet
Here we’re looking at Psalm 10.
Cry for Help (v. 1)
The first thing we see the psalmists does in this psalm is cry out for justice. “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”
We too can take our honest wrestling to the LORD. In fact, that is what we must do. We must bring our laments to the LORD.
Statistics and Comfort in Calamity
Photo by Ben White
Does the 2% death rate statistic comfort you? What does the Bible say about comfort during calamity?
Some sources are saying that the mortality rate of COVID-19 looks to be 2%. However, it is too early to say. The percentage will be bigger or smaller depending on various factors (such as the age of the people infected, access to the needed medical treatment, etc.). I think we should acknowledge a few things about the statistic. First, 2% looks like a small number. And it is. At least, relative to a larger number.
Second, to put it into perspective, 2% of the population of the world is around 140 million people. That, as we can see, is a lot of people. COVID-19 could rival the AIDS epidemic. Of course, it seems highly unlikely that everyone in the world will get the virus. But even a fraction of that number is a lot of people. And it’s important for us to see the numbers from this vantage point so that we don’t play the numbers down.
He is the Faithful God
“Know that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
How surprising and sad that we need to be reminded so often of God’s truth. And yet we do. I’m thankful that God accommodates to our forgetful ways.
We are told to know something. Our knowledge is not to be merely intellectual. Though it is intellectual. We need to know actual things about God. In this verse, we are to grasp with our minds that the LORD God is actually God.
It is not only that the LORD is really God but that the LORD your God is really God. There is a relational aspect to our knowledge of God. The LORD your God is the supreme being and Creator of the universe. The LORD is not distant and uncaring, He is not a god, but our God.
Wow. That’s a game-changer.
It doesn’t stop there, though.
The supreme being and Creator of the universe that is our God is also faithful. Amazingly faithful.
Deuteronomy 7:9 heaps good news upon good news. If you have the LORD as your God then that means that God—The supreme being and Creator of the universe—is your God. It means the Faithful One is your God.
Our intellectual knowledge of God has a huge practical impact on our lives. It means we do not need to be afraid because the LORD our God is powerful (Deut. 7:18).
So, fight forgetfulness. Work to remember and intimately know your faithful God. And don’t be terrified because the LORD your God, a great and awesome God, is among you (Deut. 7:21).
Holding on to Hope: 10 Action Steps to Fight Depression
1. Call out to God
There are all sorts of Psalms in Scripture in which the psalmist calls out to God in distress. The Bible encourages us to call out to God and be real with Him about where we’re at.
2. Fight Against Depression’s Lies
Depression often says things like: “You have no hope” and “You’re not worth it.” Those statements, however, are in flat contradiction to what the Scripture says. For example, look at Lamentations 3:21-24: “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’”
3. Fight Against the Lie that says Life’s Meaningless
I agree with Matthew McCullough, “It is resurrection or vanity.” Thankfully, through Christ Jesus, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” (Eccl. 1:2) is not the end of the story. In light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have purpose! Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are called to work hard for the Lord, knowing that our labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). This is good news! There is something in life that counts, faith expressing itself through love (Gal. 5:6).