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Letting Go of Regret

We all have regrets. Situations where we’d like a do-over. Maybe it’s a failed relationship, a career path you didn’t pursue, words that shouldn’t have been spoken….or words you wish you’d said. One of my biggest regrets came about 10 years ago.

Her name was Tessa.

She was my favorite professor in college and I took a number of her world religion classes. She was intelligent, stylish, seemed dismissive toward Christianity and loved to talk about her specialized topic of study…Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka. She must have respected me as a student because right after mentioning that she no longer took students on overseas trips, she invited me to attend a conference with her in India where she would be presenting a paper, with the Dalai Lama in attendance. Unfortunately I never followed through. The semester ended and that was that.

Many months later I was praying one day and felt this overwhelming sense that I should contact Tessa. That’s all I knew…just get back in touch. I assumed at the time that God was nudging me to invite her to attend a large Christian event that was coming up in the city—which I thought she would hate—so I decided I just wasn’t going to contact her.

Not long after that, I found out that Tessa had died of cancer and had been in the hospital during the period of time I felt that urgency to contact her.

In retrospect I doubt God was trying to get me to invite her to that event. More likely He probably wanted me to contact her because He knew what she was facing and that it would be meaningful to me to see her before she died, and perhaps vice versa. Maybe He wanted to use me to communicate hope and love to her.

Does my regret sound similar to yours? Or do you have others?

Use Regret as a Catalyst
As I read through the Bible I find that even God expressed regret (see Genesis 6 & 1 Samuel 15). If God, who created us, is “allowed” to feel regret, so are we. But here’s the key…instead of wallowing in regret in the present or allowing it to paralyze our future, we can use our regrets as a catalyst to something better. How do we do that? By choosing to move forward with our life.

Paul talks of this moving forward when he says, “Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” (Philippians 3:13) When we are looking ahead to the goal, to the good things to come, and when we are actively working toward that good, there isn’t much time left over to dwell on “should haves”.

Practical Suggestions For Dealing with Regret
If you find yourself dwelling on your regrets here are a few suggestions to help you move forward. Surrender your regret to God and ask Him to transform it into something good. If your regret is a result of a specific sin, turn from that sin and receive God’s forgiveness and grace. If it involves something you have done against another person, make amends as you are able. And then…just keep going. As you keep your eye on the end goal, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:34)

Where are you in your life right now? And what regrets have you been holding onto? Even if you are on your death bed you can choose to let go of regret and look with hope toward Jesus. I used to think often about my regret of not contacting Tessa. But one day I decided to just hand it over to God. While I would do things differently if I could go back, today I am no longer weighed down or depressed over that regret. I have moved on.

I encourage you to set aside some time this week to take inventory and make a decision to let go of the regrets that are weighing you down. Make some new goals that make your heart sing and then move forward. Life is now.