There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends
I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all
--In My Life by the Beatles
These lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney capture the poignancy of looking back over the years and fondly reminiscing. The beginning of a new year often finds me replaying scenes from my life. Sometimes I can experience a pang of regret over past sins, failures and mistakes. Ever happen to you? Praise God who has given his children a biblical way to deal with regrets.
First of all, the Cross covers all our sins and failures
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
God knew about every sin we'd commit before he created us. And he sent his Son to pay for every one of these offenses on the cross. Because God punished all our sins in Christ, no punishment remains for believers. So if you feel condemnation for sins in your past, you must regularly remind yourself that Jesus Christ took that condemnation and there's none left for you.
Think of Peter. He denied Jesus 3 times. He could have struggled with regret and condemnation for the rest of his life. Then there's Paul. He stood by and approved of Stephen’s murder. He sanctioned other murders. He yanked Christians out of their homes and threw them in jail. Yet Paul said there's no condemnation.
If God doesn't condemn us, then we must not condemn ourselves. Maybe you say, "I know that God forgives me, but I can't forgive myself." This is an insult to God. Do you have a higher standard than God? Was the blood of Jesus not enough to take care of your sins? If God doesn't condemn us, then who are we to condemn ourselves? Despite the way we feel, we must stand on God's word not our feelings. If God says I'm not condemned, I'm not, no matter how I feel.
Secondly, God is sovereign over all our sins and mistakes
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
God works ALL things together for good, including our sins. God is in no way responsible for our sins, for he's not the author of sin. But God is sovereign over all our sins and failures. Somehow even these fall under the umbrella of his plan for our lives. Not even our sins can thwart his good intention for us. Joseph's boasting of his dreams to his brothers was immature and unwise, but it was part of God's strategy to get him to Egypt. Joseph even recognized how God used his brothers' sins to accomplish his purpose. He said to them:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Genesis 50:20).
David committed adultery with Bathsheba.Their first child died, but their second son, the son of a marriage that began with adultery, was Solomon, one of Israel's greatest kings. Excessive regret is an insult to God’s sovereignty, because by it we are saying that our sins are too hard for God to turn to good. So instead of dwelling on your regrets, praise God for his mighty power to work all things for good.
Thirdly, forget the past and press on
...one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).
If anyone could have looked back with regret, it was Paul, for he had hated Christ and persecuted the church. Yet he constantly put the past behind and looked to Christ. Constantly looking back with regret will not change anything. Forget the past, unless it motivates you to change in the present. Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.
In The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, a master demon advises his pupil to preoccupy his "temptee" either with the past or the future, but never the present. Satan would have us live in sadness for the past or fear and anxiety about the future - anything but focusing on Christ and his will for us today. The past is gone and most of our worries about the future won't happen, so focus on knowing, loving and obeying Jesus now.
Deal biblically with your regrets. Reject condemnation, rejoice in God's sovereignty, and press on, trusting Christ for the grace for this day.