Dealing With Regrets

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We got sidetracked in our Bible study last night. It wasn’t a bad sidetrack, but it did open a wound. We are finishing off the last few weeks of a series of studies on forgiveness and one of the participants mentioned that the hardest part of forgiveness was forgiving herself. She looked back on her child-raising years and wished that she had been walking with the Lord more closely then. Perhaps it would have made a difference in the lives of her children who now have nothing to do with God. That got the group talking about their own spiritual journeys, the wasted years, and family members who are not walking with the Lord. You could feel the pain.

As I was reading Matthew’s genealogy again this morning, I read this verse which brought me back to last night’s conversation. “...Ahaz was the father of Hekekiah, Hekekiah the father of Manasseh...” (Matthew 1:9a, 10b). I went back to the synopsis of the story of these three men found in 2 Chronicles 28-33.

Ahaz was an evil man who surprisingly produced a righteous son who in turn, because of one unwise request, produced a son often described as the most wicked of all the kings. Did Hezekiah mourn for his father and all the evil that Ahaz’s life had produced and that he, as king, had to try to repair? Probably. Did he see the seeds of Satan in the son he had produced in his old age and wish he hadn’t asked for those extra years of life? Probably.

The person who says he has no regrets in life in lying or deluded. We all have regrets. And when they threaten to overtake us and condemn us, it is then that we need to rest in the promise of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Having laid down the burden of guilt for whatever responsibility we bear, then we follow the advice of Paul in Philippians 4 and take those people and our pain for them to the Lord. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!…Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (vss. 4-7).

We repent. We rejoice. We request. Then we renew our minds. Paul continues: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (vs. 8).

An old but familiar prayer applies here: The original version, attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr and given in a sermon in 1943,  follows:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Good advice all around.


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