Dana Ortiz, executive director of Lawrence Family Promise:
The New Year serves as a convenient time for reflection, which may also include the evaluation of regrets.
I have a couple of big regrets this year that have caused deep pain. Regrets can be disruptive to our life goals, to career and educational plans, to relationships with family, friends and community. Regrets can trap us and keep us from growing in our faith and experiencing God’s abundant grace.
Even the Lord is described as having deep regrets, sorrows and grief. In the book of Genesis prior to the story of the flood, we read, “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth and his heart was filled with pain (Genesis 6:6 NIV). First Samuel 15:35 says, “The Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.”
The question is not necessarily how to avoid regrets, but rather what do we do with our regrets.
It seems clear that pain can be an indication of something not quite right in our lives. If it is physical pain, we try to find the answer by going to the doctor, or taking an Ibuprofen! If it is emotional pain, hopefully we will seek out help through a loving friend, mental health professional or spiritual adviser. If it is societal pain, like what our country is feeling following the tragedy of Newtown, Conn., we enter a time of mourning, discourse and hopefully actions to better protect precious life. Regrets and pain can propel us forward with hope.
We can try to falsely build a life of emotional and physical safety and not venture out to experience the vulnerability of life, but that caps the experiences of all of life, the pain as well as the joy. Regrets, like some pain, can be viewed as a God-given guide to help us stay on course to move forward.
Conversely, we can choose to let regrets trap us in a cage of negative self talk, guilt and pain. This trap becomes disruptive to our lives and further damages our relationships. God, however, desires so much more for our lives than to live trapped in our regrets. In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul wrote, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorry brings death.”
Prayer, offering as well as receiving forgiveness, honest examination of our own journey, repentance, confession, sharing with a close friend or clergy are all possible ways to bring our regrets before the Lord. Clearly the deeper the pain, grief and regrets, the more abundant the grace and love from God that brings all healing.
God desires our repentance. He wants us to understand why we have regrets, and to cast them upon him. He is there with his arms open wide, just waiting for us to come into the presence of his love and grace, so we can be filled with his joy and the peace that surpasses all understanding.
— Send email to Dana Ortiz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Paul Gray, senior pastor, New Life in Christ, 619 Vt.:
When you know and understand the finished work of Christ, it’s possible to have no regrets. What a freeing gift to know that God doesn’t condemn us!
I’ve experienced — and then wrote about in my book, “The Fish Net Experience” — what God says in Romans 12:1, “There is no condemnation for anyone who is in Christ Jesus,” and 2 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance which brings a fresh cleansing of grace leading to no regret.”
God took away all of our sins, reconciled us to him, doesn’t hold our sins against us, and chooses not to remember them again! Once we believe Jesus, the spirit of Christ lives in us — we’re “in Christ” and have no condemnation or shame, ever, from God.
Sure, God will let us know when we’ve done something that doesn’t honor him. But he never condemns us. He will gently and lovingly tell us that what we did was not what he wants, but he never condemns us — who we are.
Then we’ll experience “godly sorrow” — we’ll feel sorry for our actions (but not who we are). Then we “repent,” which means to change our mind about the guilt and regret we had and thinking that God is mad at us and wants to punish us. That leads us to experiencing a fresh cleansing of grace, and he then wants us to go on with NO REGRET!
Now I may regret that I didn’t spend more time with my family or didn’t maintain an exercise regimen this year, etc., so I ask God to help me with that, and he will. Since his opinion trumps ours, we can truly live a life of no regrets! Thus any thoughts of regrets you have comes from outside evil sources — not you or God. Don’t believe them.
— Send email to Paul Gray at email@example.com.