I just finished writing an article for In Touch magazine on the topic of regret, which was also a major theme in my latest book, Shades of Morning. As I was thinking about the topic, I thought in might be helpful to share a few of the questions and answers about regret that I've been talking about on the various radio interviews I've been doing. So, if you're interested in living beyond regret, consider these thoughts:
Q: Why do so many believers struggle to let go of their regrets?
A: I think there are two reasons. First, as believers, we are keenly aware of the cost of our sins and mistakes to the One we love. Jesus suffered and died on the cross for us. So we wish we could have done better, chosen better, lived in a way that would always bring honor to God. But of course, we haven’t and we didn’t and we won’t. Not always.
And that’s when the little whispers of fear set in – whispers that tell us that we missed God’s best for us. That if only we’d done better, chosen better, lived right, then we would be the people God wanted and be living the life He wanted too. But now, the whispers say, it’s too late. Our mistakes are too great. Now we can never live God’s dream for us.
Hogwash! There’s a reason that our enemy is called “the accuser of the brethren” – it’s because those whispers are not from One who loves us, calls us, transforms us. They are lies from the one who accuses. They are meant to paralyze us and keep us from following Paul’s example in Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV), “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Q: How can we find forgiveness and healing from those past regrets?
A: This is the important thing: God calls us to repent, not to regret. And that’s what we need to do. All of us have made mistakes, have chosen poorly, missed opportunities, done things we wish we’d never done. But we don’t need to dwell in regret. Instead, simply confess, repent. move on. It’s like riding a horse. If you keep looking behind you, the horse stalls, wavers, gets confused. You have to keep your eye on where you want to go. Repentance keeps you looking forward. Regret causes you to keep looking back.
And worse, a bigger problem with regret is that it denies the primary power of God – the power to transform anything in our lives to His glory. It says, “This is too much for God.”
But the God who transformed an implement of execution, the cross, into a symbol of salvation has proven that He can transform anything – past, present, or future – into something that points to His glory. Think about that. Before Jesus, the cross was a symbol of horror and disgrace and misery. It was the most horrific way to die a criminal’s death. But after Jesus, it became a symbol of redemption and wonder and love. If God could so change the meaning of the cross, He can also transform those ugly things in our lives for His glory.
So, we need to take off the band-aid and expose our regrets, repent of them, and simply leave them in the hands of God, looking forward in expectation of His transforming power, even when that transformation seems impossible.
Q: Regret often keeps us from going deeper in our relationship with God. How does your main character, Marnie’s, relationship with God change during the course of the Shades of Morning?
A: Regrets will shape you if you give them the power, if they become what you treasure in your heart. And that’s exactly what happens to Marnie. She hides from her regrets by locking them away. She doesn’t think they can touch her there. But instead of being free from them, she’s really just carrying them with her.
That’s how it is with us. When we lock away these parts of our lives from God and ourselves, we are really just hiding them in our hearts, making them our treasure.
Marnie learns that she has to face her regrets, confess them to those she hurt and to her friends, and only then can she be healed of them. And with healing, she finds that can see God’s presence in her life and how He’s been working in beautiful and wondrous ways to transform those regrets into something new and good in her life. But as long as she hides her regrets in her heart, she simply can’t draw close to God and experience the power of his healing touch.
For her, and for us, it’s about trusting God enough to face regret and let it go, to believe that God can take anything and make it beautiful. To believe that God truly does forgive our sins and forget them. And that He can take our mistakes and remake them. That’s what the cross is all about. That’s what life in Christ is about too.