Someone shared with me his terrible regret over past sins. He said, “I don’t deserve to live.” I felt terrible for him.
Regret can weigh us down like a ship’s anchor on a tiny rowboat.
Regret can be the result of a sinful mistake, or missed opportunities, poor decisions, wasted time, financial blunders, words we wish we could take back, and on and on.
Just a small mistake can lead to a lifetime of regret.
How can we cope? How can we keep the anchor from sinking our rowboat?
Here are 5 biblical ways to deal with regret and move on today:
01. Receive Jesus’ Forgiveness
Truly moving on in any struggle of life begins with salvation.
If you have not received salvation through Christ, you are missing a huge burden lifter. Through Christ we know that all our sins are forgiven forever. Through Christ we also know that all our mistakes will be made right.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)
Salvation is a gift freely given to all those who will receive it. To some this just seems too good to be true. But it is God’s promise, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ESV)
Click HERE to learn how you can be saved.
02. Believe God’s Promise of Forgiveness
It’s one thing to be forgiven through Christ. It can be an altogether different issue to accept and internalize it.
Some have great trouble doing this. I believe the real issue is who you believe:
The devil who is the “accuser of the brethren” who accuses believers “day and night.” (Revelation 12:9-11)
The Lord who says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12 ESV)
Forgiveness is God’s promise in Christ Jesus. Who will you choose to believe?
Do you realize that the 3 greatest writers of the Bible were all murderers?
Moses, author of the first 5 books of the Bible, killed an Egyptian slave master. (Exodus 2:11-12)
King David, author of over half of the Psalms, engineered the murder of his lover’s husband. (2 Samuel 11)
The Apostle Paul, author of 13 of 66 books of the Bible, had the blood of many Christians on his hands before becoming a Christian himself. (Acts 22:4)
Do you believe that God forgave these 3 men? If yes, then don’t you think he forgives you also if you’ve receive salvation?
Even if your regrets don’t relate to sins but just to mistakes you’ve made, knowing you are forgiven by God helps you forgive yourself. Since He doesn’t condemn us, we can stop condemning ourselves.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 ESV)
Who are you believing?
03. Make Amends When Able
The bigger word for this is restitution. It is a biblical concept.
The story of Zacchaeus is informative. He was a tax collector who had defrauded many.
“Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!’ Jesus responded, ‘Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.’” (Luke 19:8-10 NLT)
Genuine repentance leads to a desire to right the wrongs. Restitution doesn’t produce salvation but it is evidence of salvation. It helps us heal when we do what we can to right the wrongs.
The problem I have seen too often is that people would rather feel guilty than make amends.
Restitution involves some self-denial: it can cost money, time, etc. But it is worth the price!
04. Learn from Your Mistakes
“Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11 ESV)
Learn from your mistakes.
Every difficult situation is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you ask questions to help you learn from your mistakes. (These questions are inspired by a great book called Prayer Coach by James Nicodem):
What prompted me to act in the way I did?
Were my actions sinful, or simply a mistake?
If sinful, in what way/s is that sin, most significantly, a sin against God?
Who else is impacted by that sin? How?
How could this mistake be avoided in the future?
How could a sinful response be avoided in a similar situation in the future?
Recently I listened to an interview with speaker and author Bob Goff. Bob shared how he helped train himself to avoid saying unkind things he knew he would regret later. He said that if he spoke sharp words, he would immediately go into the next room and donate $500 to a charity. He shared that $500 is about the cost of a flight to Hawaii. He learned to ask himself before saying unkind words, “Is this going to be worth a trip to Hawaii?”
You and I might not have $500 to give, but we could choose an appropriate amount and implement the principle: make words that are painful to others painful to us personally. Doing something like that can help us learn and avoid a similar bad response in the future.
05. Leave Your Regrets at the Cross and Press On in Peace
After learning from your mistakes, press on in peace.
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b, 14 ESV)
Leave your regrets at the cross.
At New Song Community Church in Oceanside, CA, we sometimes use an 8 foot tall cross to help us put regret in the past. We write our sins and regrets down on small cards and with spikes that fit into holes in the cross, we symbolically nail them to it. This is a helpful symbol of our forgiveness in Christ.
You might want to do something similar. Perhaps write down your regrets on a paper and tear the paper into a cross shape. Then thank God for forgiving you, leave your regrets on that cross and move on.
Press on in peace!
For more help with overcoming regret and guilt, check out these articles I’ve also written: