Have you ever done something that looking back you think: How could I have done that? Or how could I have said that? Or how could I NOT have weighed the options and made a better decision? Surely if you’re human you’ve lived long enough to have at least ONE regret! And if you’re a single parent, you’ve likely had two or three:
⦁ How could I have lowered myself to that standard?
⦁ How could I have acted that way?
⦁ How could I not have seen the long range result of my actions?
One thing is for sure: regret leaves a wound that badgers your integrity. It hurts deeply. It leaves one questioning their discernment. It leaves one bewildered in how to let go and pick up the pieces. It leaves one sad, and that’s understandable, because one of the side effects of regret is the feeling of deep loss: I’ve lost my reputation. Or I’ve lost someone dear to me, or I’ve lost a great benefit. Regret is painful. OUCH! It stalks you in the day and wakes you up at night. Usually, regret has this component: you can’t fix it – all you can do is learn to deal with it. And the worse part? YOU did it.
I haven’t felt the aching wound of regret for many years until recently, and I can tell you, it’s a difficult reality to overcome. In my new book for single moms, The Single Mom and Her Rollercoaster Emotions, I wrote an entire chapter on guilt and shame. But regret is a tad different (I wish I’d written a chapter on that topic – I’d be reading it about now for myself).
As a child of God, am I the only one who’s experienced regret?
Definitely not. I found biblical co-hearts: Peter, when the rooster crowed three times; Judas, when he returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priest. David, when he committed sin with Bathsheba. These men felt regret. Maybe your regret is from a sin committed, or maybe like me, your regret is from sheer lack of insight and downright stupidity. Either way, it’s a killer!
So what are we to do with our regrets? While driving home today, God spoke very clearly to me. “Pam – submit them to me, expect from me, learn from me, and thank me.” Let me share each point of restoration:
Submit Your Regret to God
If you hold the regret inside, it will do one thing: EAT YOU ALIVE! But when you yield it to God, you are saying, “Lord, this is bigger than me. I am not able to strip it out of my mind. The consequences are too grave, so it’s all yours, God. You say you’re the healer and restorer of lost dreams? Then… Good. This one is for YOU! I completely entrust it into your care.
Expect from God
I’m fully convinced that we have not because we expect not. It’s hard to expect from God when we’re buried ten feet under in regret. But expectation is a choice we exercise, one that usually does not come naturally, and if it did, its result would not be supernatural. God says in his Word, “I work ALL things together for good” (Romans 8:28). My regret is in that “all” word. When we submit, our pain becomes God’s possibility.
Learn from God
Regret comes camouflaged in a valuable lesson. It sets into motion character development: Lord, what do you want me to learn from this? Lord, how can I better listen to you next time? Lord, do I believe that you will protect me in this? Regret is the perfect soil to commune with God on a deeper level. Godly character always grows out of adversity, not in the soil of ease and comfort.
Oh, my! This is so hard. Are you serious? Thank God for this horrible feeling? Thank God for the consequences? How can we thank God when we’re beating ourselves up? Friend, God never said that we had to feel thankful, but that we had to offer the attitude of thankfulness. And why do we give thanks for this dreadful feeling of regret that we brought on ourselves? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 commands, “And this is the will of God in Christ Jesus, be thankful.” Why be thankful? Simple. It’s God’s will; therefore, I’m to offer it even if I don’t feel like it.
I suppose the greatest promise while in the muck of regret is remembering that God never wastes one sorrow, sadness, or sense of loss. He will eventually turn our mourning into joy and our regrets into something of a redeeming value. Oh, happy day!