“I Regret My Life Choices”
Who does not have those moments of saying, “if only?” “If only…I had finished school… taken that job rather than been afraid… not made those bad choices… left that relationship sooner… listened to better advice, etc.” We can often dwell in regret and find it hard to let go of the past.
Along with wistfulness or outright sadness about the past may be the thought, “I’ve missed it. The chance I had to live a better way, a fuller life, contribute more, came and went.” This kind of thinking can fill you with pain and “stall” you. You can get lost in backward looking self-disgust.
A movie about letting go of the past
We watched a movie the other night called “Bottom of the Ninth.” The lead character was a man who forfeited a promising baseball career and the hope of life-long love with a young woman he was dating. It happened when, in a fit of rage, as a 21-year-old, he got into a street fight and accidentally killed another young man. He went to prison for 17 years.
Once the man got out, he found his mind going back again and again to that night. It seemed his life was over. He felt he simply had to release all dreams and just get by. He felt unending loss was all he could hope for.
God Redeems the Past
But God does not have endless regret as the plan for our lives.
For a long time, I used a daily study bible and in the front of it I had written a portion of this verse, 2 Samuel 14:14 NIV. It says this: “God devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.” I wrote that verse down and treasured it. The reason for this is that I heard this in it: “When you mess up and you feel that you have moved away from God and you’ve missed ‘it’ – your golden opportunities – God is always seeking a way to bring you back, restore you, and help you thrive again.”
Redemption of the past in God’s heart
That is what I was hearing God say through His Word. It is what I believe is always in the heart of God – redemption. God is concerned with our overall, eternal redemption through Christ. And He is also concerned with His plan for our earthly life – that we realize it and complete it here.
The Most Important Step in Having No Regrets
The most important choice we will ever make in this life is to receive the forgiveness that comes by faith in Jesus Christ. Surely the biggest regret is to someday face God – and we will – and find out we did not make the one decision that matters in order to live with God eternally. That decision is to believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. When we believe that and choose to follow Christ, we cross over from death into life. (John 5:24)
There are many Bible verses about being freed from regret. Here are some about losing regret through repentance and salvation:
Three Bible verses on losing regret
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 NIV
“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:5 NIV
What do these verses tell us?
These three verses speak of repenting and looking to God for the salvation and new life that come only through Christ and His cross. When we take this step and continue to live our lives for God, our faces do become “radiant.”
And, they “are never covered with shame.” Regrets flee in the light of our new, cleansed life, and transforming relationship with Christ. We can let go of the past.
Walking with Him is an adventure filled with feeling loved and accepted. We experience loving God and loving others, forgiving, sharing, contributing, and never perishing.
We Can Let Go of the Past
With the help of God, we can also let go of the past in this life and move on. The beautiful thing about the heart of God is that He gives second chances, actually, many chances. His grace does not run out. When we fail for some reason, as we turn back to Him, seek His face and His heart, He does find ways to “restore the banished,” to bring us back.
In the Bible, God is quoted as saying, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” Joel 2:25-26 ESV
God can heal your past completely
God can bring you back and erase every “if only.” He can make the past become the past, be settled and forgotten, as you trust in Him and start over.
I know many men and women like the man in the movie, “Bottom of the Ninth.” They are people who have lost years in drug addiction and/or prison. As they have come out, repented, given their lives to Christ, or returned to Him, and made the decision to be His steadfast followers, He has brought such redemption to them. The past gets left behind in the dust. Wonderful doors of hope and opportunity open up. That is the way of God.
This is so important to remember: Every part of what happens to you good and bad has a way of shaping you into who you ultimately become – from that “ugly duckling into a swan.” If you have made a mistake or grave mistakes, God can redeem you and redeem the time lost as you turn to Him. He can help you start over and “catch up” and even “zoom ahead” by His grace and favor. Trust Him that He makes all things new. (Rev. 21:5)
I would tell you the end of the movie, Bottom of the Ninth, but I do not want to spoil it in case you watch it! I will just say this, the ending is happy – full of redemption.
We can overcome too. Look to Jesus Christ and keep looking ahead. God is not counting our sins against us when we are truly sorry. Jesus came to give us life that is abundant (John 10:10) which begins now and goes on forever.
Sayings of Jesus about redemption
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10 NIV
“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them…” 2 Cor. 5:19 NLT
Yes, God does still answer prayers. And this morning He did it through your blog post. Yesterday I learned a few things about a lost relationship that turned my fake acceptance of how it ended, to deep feelings of regret. I went looking for anything that would tell me what the Bible says about dealing with regret. The search results were varied, and I passed over the first instance of your blog. But then I was redirected when I realized the date was today. He whispers quietly so I have to strain to hear His Voice but the voice is so beautiful that I now long to do the work to hear Him. Thank you for these words today.
I am so glad that these words were of help to you today. Praise God! He does not want us to look back continually or to feel crushed under the weight of regret. I am so glad and humbled that you heard Him through this post. God bless you!!
I loved this! I need to check out that movie: I’m trying to get rid of the “what if’s” in my life and this is a huge help.
Thank you, Jessie. We love “second chance” movies in our house and this was one. I know what you mean. We are often so hard on ourselves about what we feel we have missed. But God is so good to bring us to where we need to be.
These past weeks, I’ve actually been struggling with events that happened in my youth and all the things I lost that cannot ever be regained as a result: “When you mess up and you feel that you have moved away from God and you’ve missed ‘it’ – your golden opportunities – God is always seeking a way to bring you back, restore you, and help you thrive again.”
The Lord has been my only comfort in this, for it’s not really something those near to me understand, so I cannot rehash it with anyone. And so these words you wrote are like a balm, “This is so important to remember: Every part of what happens to you good and bad has a way of shaping you into who you ultimately become – from that ‘ugly duckling into a swan.’ If you have made a mistake or grave mistakes, God can redeem you and redeem the time lost as you turn to Him.”
I’m an awkward swan, lacking some things that I thought were essentials, but with so much more that the Lord has blessed me with and ways he has enriched my life. Because of what I lack, I can do some things that I wouldn’t be able to do if I had been able to regain everything that was lost. I know God is good, and he is sovereign, and he does all things well, including making ugly ducklings into swans.
Thank you for such a heartfelt sharing. I identify with all you have said. What a journey it has been. I must say when I read what you have to say in your writing, on social media, etc, I think, “This is one wise swan!” The other day, a song came on in a public setting – Send in the Clowns – which is sort of melancholy, but at that moment, I felt a great stirring from God – a peaceful sense that, “It is all ok,” and He brings us into our own skin. That’s when I saw a mental picture of a swan and it stirred me to write.
Rev. Pam, this is a much needed reminder. One of those God-truths we must revisit because in real life we see so few second chances. But in God’s hands, He can remold us into shapes and designs more beautiful and more useful than we could have imagined. He can use our past mistakes and sinful choices to bring something good. Wounded healers. Thank you for this message of healing and hope.
Melissa, I love your mention of being “wounded healers.” Such a good description of what God causes us to become. Thank you for your comment!
“If onlies” have held me down in the past; trusting God is the solution. I think of Mercy Me’s song “Dear Younger Me.” It has a line stating that the choices I made then are the choices that made me. Good word, sis!
That’s a wonderful song! Love that idea of singing to a “dear younger me.” Bless you!