Have you seen the funny Internet picture of a young man with a misspelled tattoo below his neck? It ironically reads, “No Ragrets” (instead of No Regrets). I would certainly think he regrets at least a single letter from that decision!
I don’t know about you, but “No Regrets” is certainly not my life credo. How many moments of my selfishness disrupted our marriage? How many times did my self-centered plan for parenting children get in the way of God’s plan?
How many conversations do I wish I could take back? How many ministry opportunities did I miss? Probably too many to number.
I’m sure you are like me in this regard. You wish you could do it the right way this time. You wish you could have wiser eyes, sharper ears, a clearer mind, and a more tender heart. But there is no going back.
If you’re a sinner living in a fallen world, it’s impossible for you to look back upon a legacy of perfect choices. Therefore, it’s vital that we equip ourselves with biblical approaches for dealing with regret when it strikes.
The first step when dealing with regret is this: Enjoy the freedom of confession and embrace the gift of forgiveness.
Confession is the freedom to say about yourself what both you and God know is true, without fear of rejection, condemnation, or punishment.
Forgiveness means that God chooses not to remember the darkest, most shameful, and most regrettable parts of you and me.
Remember David? I would think that he regretted a decision or two! He experienced freedom when he confessed: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (Psalm 51:3-4)
Confession then allowed him to embrace the gift of forgiveness. The same David wrote, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:10-12)
Confession is more than an obligation; it is one of the beautiful freedoms of our new life in Christ! Because he lived perfectly, died sufficiently, and rose victoriously, we are free to own up to, without fear, the darkest of our thoughts and motives, the ugliest of our words, our most selfish choices, and our most rebellious and unloving actions.
God, whose memory is exhaustive and complete, chooses to remove our sins from his memory. “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34). This doesn’t mean that he is weak and forgetful, but that he chooses not to think of us in light of all the wrongs of heart and behavior that we have committed.
If God turns from these things, we are free to turn from them and move on as well. We do not have to live in the paralysis of remorse. We do not have to live looking backward.
You can look your regret in the face, call it what it is (sin), identify yourself as who you are (a sinner), yet not be overwhelmed or paralyzed.
Through the freedom of confession and the gift of forgiveness, God releases us from our bondage to regret.
Paul David Tripp
1. What is something minor and silly that you look back on with regret, but are not overwhelmed with guilt and shame? Why are you able to laugh at yourself?
2. What is something major and significant that you look back on with regret, that overwhelms you with guilt and shame? Why the difference between the two?
3. When was the last time you experienced the freedom of confession? What did you confess, to whom did you apologize, and how did that provide relief and liberation?
4. Are you currently holding out on confessing a sin? What is holding you back? How is this stubbornness to admit guilt actually keeping you in bondage?
5. Is there something from your past that you think is outside of the forgiveness of Christ? What about you, or your previous words and actions, do you think God struggles to forgive or has not yet fully forgiven?
6. Are you withholding forgiveness from someone? Why are you choosing to remember their sin?