Dear Regret: It’s Over . . . Three Ways To Get Past the Past
- Written by Jody Vickery Jody Vickery
- Published: 26 May 2017 26 May 2017
If you never lie in bed wide awake at 3:00 in the morning being emotionally water-boarded by should-haves, if-onlys and what-might-have-beens, please feel free to click on the Archives and read another post. But if you have a past that likes to hang around and remind you of how dumb or awful or gullible or sinful or reckless or destructive you were, this is for you.
Regret is not just a nuisance. A mosquito buzzing in your ear is a nuisance. A rock in your sock is a nuisance. Regret is what drove King Saul insane. It nearly put Peter back in his fishing boat. It’s what tied the noose around the neck of Judas and it will take us to some mighty dark places, too.
So how do you get past a past you regret?
Break the Silence
In Psalm 32, David mused about how blessed the forgiven were – how their sins were covered and no longer held against them. I haven’t checked this out, but I bet the Hebrew word for blessed comes from a root word that means awesome. It’s awesome to be forgiven.
Then he remembered what it was like to live with regret. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away, through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me, my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Regret is not awesome. It leaves you feeling wasted, groaning, heavy and sapped. The first step in breaking up with regret, for David and for us, is confession. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgression to the Lord.”
If you haven’t confessed the cause of your regret to God and to another person, you are going to be in for some long nights going forward. I know from experience that confession is painful. Yet within seconds of breaking the silence, a weight is lifted. Even if the word or act that burdened you with regret is simply a mistake or morally neutral bad decision, taking responsibility for it helps. It’s the first step in regaining the respect of others and your own self-respect.
All by itself, though, confession doesn’t always eliminate regret.
Jesus once met a vertically challenged gentlemen – and I use that term loosely – named Zacchaeus, (Luke 19:1 – 10). Zacchaeus was fabulously rich. He collected taxes for the occupying Romans and provided himself with a lavish lifestyle by overcharging people and keeping the excess. Regrets? He had a few.
When Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house, he was overcome. “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Zacchaeus’ response is consistent with Old Testament teaching about restitution, (see Exodus 22:1 – 7). Restitution wasn’t just about compensating victims for their losses or punishing the guilty for bad behavior. It was also about putting the past where it belongs.
Clearly, we cannot always make amends. You can’t unsay an unkind word or retrieve a bit of juicy gossip that ruined someone’s reputation. Eggs can’t be unscrambled. But when we can, it helps to try and clean up the messes we make. So what do we do with our regret when restitution is not an option?
I don’t know why this is, but for many believers, the passages that condemn sin seem to carry more weight than the passages that promise forgiveness. It’s like the Thou-Shalt-Nots are made of lead and steel and the Neither-Do-I-Condemn you passages are all feathers and fluff. So try this – the next time regret wants to take you on a tour of the ugly past, go with it. Only go further back. Go all the way back to the cross. Walk up that ragged hill and witness again what God had to do, what God was willing to do, to solve our sin problem.
If that’s what the Son of God had to do to deal with sin, you and I were outmatched from the beginning. No wonder we fell. Sin is so powerful, God had to enter human flesh, be born of a virgin, live a sinless human life, die on a Roman cross and walk alive out of a borrowed tomb to defeat it.
So when He says …
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us . . . (1 John 1:9);
And . . .
If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come . . . (2 Corinthians 5:17);
And . . .
Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved,(Ephesians 2:1 – 10);
He means it. We really are forgiven.
Next week, I’ll share four more ways to break up with regret. Hang in there.