Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Freedom From Regret

Regret.  I wish I had no regrets, but the truth is that I sure do.  I always wonder when I hear someone say, "I have no regrets."  What do they mean by that?  With further questioning, I sometimes find that what they mean is, "I have learned from my mistakes, therefore I do not regret my mistakes."  Other times I find that what the person means is, "I have convinced myself that I have done nothing wrong in the past, and that even if I did it's in the past anyway."

Could either of these two views of regret be correct?

Here I go with the dictionary again:

Regret: 1. To feel sorry, disappointed, or distressed about. 2. To remember with a feeling of loss or sorrow; mourn.

Yes, the past is the past.  Yes, I have learned from my mistakes.  But yes, I do have regrets.  There are many times that I remember an event, relationship, words I said, words I didn't say, etc with a feeling of loss and disappointment.  I regret those times.  Though I am thankful for those lessons learned I sure wish I could have learned them another way.  Thankfully those lessons have many times prevented me from going down the same dangerous path again that would lead to further regret.

So what is the deal with regret, then?  Why are so many people afraid to admit they have it or even afraid to deal with it in order to move forward?

That is just it.  We cannot move forward, fully, until we have dealt with those regrets.  Sometimes the dealing-with-process comes with the need to appologize and ask for forgiveness - with both God and man.  This is not always easy, but it is the only way to freedom from regret.  This is what separates a regret that turns into a lesson eventually bringing good and a regret that continues to fester, churn, and hold captive the one who lives in it.  This festering usually leads to others getting hurt, as well, by my problem.  Everything we do affects someone else, other than ourselves, either positively or negatively.

Recognizing a regret for what it is - disappointment (in myself and/or others and/or circumstances) - is different than dwelling on that regret.

To Dwell: 1. To live as a resident; reside.  2. To be in a given place or condition.

So the question is am I dwelling in a regret?  Am I living there?  Or do I simply recognize it as a disappointment or sorrow?  Have I let it go and moved on?  Am I willing to?  Or am I simply either ignoring the issue or being held captive by it?

These are questions I have had to ask myself many times.  There is a process I have realized is necessary for gaining freedom from regret.  I guess it really comes down to being real about my past, taking it to the Lord, and asking Him to make me whole again each time.  As I was thinking more about this, I identified these steps:

1. Realize my need for Him: I have to realize that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  This includes me - thankfully I am also "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).

2. Seek Him: I should then ask the Lord, "Search me, O God, and know my heart.  Test me, and know my anxious thoughts" (Psalm 139:23).  What is going on in my heart?  What can I do about it?  The Lord can show me because He knows me even better than I know myself.

3. Seek forgiveness: I have to ask if there is forgiveness needed from me and/or for me.  "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us..." (Luke 11:4).  This must be sincere, but it's not about a feeling.  Forgiveness is a choice.  The feeling can come later...

4. My responsibility: I am then to do my part.  "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18).  I can only do my part.  I cannot make the other person forgive me, and our relationship may or may not be restored.

5. Move forward: "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. 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" (Philippians 3:13,14).  Stop dwelling in regret.  It just doesn't do anyone any good.

6. Rest in His peace: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).

7. Enjoy freedom: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1). 

This peace is true tranquillity that comes with the assurance that God is in control and that He "causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”" (Lamentations 3:22-24).

Now, go have a day without regrets, knowing that He walks beside those who call on His name.  Oh yeah, and be sure to call on His name.

Thanks be to the Lord, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, and King of Kings.  Amen.

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