Is There a Need for Regrets in Life?

Is There a Need for Regrets in Life?

Have you ever had regrets? Regret seems to be a common human emotion. Some people, having lived most of their lives, feel that they have not achieved anything in life and hence regret living their lives in vain. Some people after losing their health regret not taking good care of their bodies. Or some parents see themselves distancing from their children as they grow up and regret that they have not spent much time with them. 

A world full of consequences is at the same time also filled with human regrets. Of course, we also have small regrets in our daily lives, such as our regret in buying a particular dress, regret in ordering a particular dish, regret saying the words that should not be spoken, or regret choosing to take up a particular job, or the students regret not preparing well for their test. In fact, people do not like feelings of regret, pity and self-blame, so when a person regrets, his natural reaction is to try his best to reverse the situation and try to rectify the mistake. Of course, if we can rectify it, we will feel a bit better. But there are certain things that even with regrets, there is no way of turning back. For example, time has slipped away, the relationship has broken, and things have reached a conclusion. Or, if a married couple chooses to divorce out of regret, they will suffer more regrets later.

Perhaps we may ask why God allows so much regrets in the lives of people? God is telling us two truths. The first is that there is no one person who can completely do no wrong, and hence we all need God’s mercy. In addition, no one knows his tomorrow, so God asks that we live by following the will of the Lord today, and regardless of tomorrow’s outcome, we know in our hearts that it is under the guidance of God and everything works for the good of those who love Him.  The emphasis lies in these two points. The point is not whether we can correct the mistake, or let ourselves feel good or be untangled. Of course, if it is possible, everyone would want to rectify their mistakes. But what is most important is our understanding after our regrets and not the reaction after our regrets. Many people react more than understand. Hence, they do not walk a sanctified path after their regrets. They only learn to manage the problem because of regret. Many people do not love God more or rely on Him because of regret, but instead, have mastered a set of skills (such as the skill of doing things and speaking). In this way, there is no real repentance in our hearts. Neither are there changes brought about by repentance.

Why did the Israelites not survive the wilderness? Even though there was a bad report after exploring the land of Canaan, isn’t God a merciful God? If a person repents, wouldn’t God relent and not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened? <Ex 32:14>. But their regrets have never produced the fruit of inner repentance. Therefore, after being disciplined for a situation and regretted, the person lands in another situation which offends God. This is how some people’s lives continue to revolve around problems in the orderliness of living, finances, interpersonal relationships, etc. When he encounters a bad outcome, his heart will indeed regret, but the solution he adopts is not to humble himself to obey God. But when the situation changes, the same weakness appears. Indeed, our regrets are to bear the fruits of repentance, so that we can see the new grace given us and everything we do.

There is also a type of person who says, “I never regret. Since I have done or said so, and so it is.” Such people do not like to admit their feelings of regret or be entangled in thoughts of regret. In fact, such a person seems to be very confident, but he is self-righteous and is deceiving himself. From another point of view, he is also a stubborn person, and he gives others the impression that he is excessively hardened in the heart. Of course, there is another kind of person who regrets for his whole life. Such a person is very confused and does not know what the Lord has taught him. Most of his life is affected by the changing environment, and he does not do things based on fixed principles. In fact, there is no one who cannot be taught after experiencing regrets. God tells us to learn humility and obedience in the process of regret, and at the same time know how to have mercy on others. 

In believers’ regrets, there is God’s good intention

Has God regretted before?

The most contradictory phrase in the Bible is about God regretting – “The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth” <Gen 6:6>; “Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened” <Ex 32:14>; “Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you” <Jer 26:13>. Think about it, how can the all-knowing, all-powerful and perfectly good God ever regret? It turns out that God’s regret is different from human regret. Human regret comes from human weaknesses and mistakes. However, God’s regret is to reveal God’s righteousness and mercy. This is like God originally created humans and all things to be good, but after man sinned, it provoked God’s righteousness and made Him regret, thus wanting to destroy the world. Furthermore, after man fell into sin, the righteous God will certainly bring about punishment, but after man repented, this moved God’s compassion, making Him relent and not send disaster. Then, does this mean that God changes easily? Certainly not! Does it mean that God is muddled? Even not so! God is omniscient and knows the final end of mankind and all matters. However, in order that we weak and fickle-minded humans can do what pleases Him, God let us know that He is a God who can relent and change His mind, so that we will not be proud because of the current success and will also not despair due to the present failure.

God likes our heart of turning back

In <Mt 21:28-29>, Lord Jesus told a parable about a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Sometimes, because of our own weaknesses, we cannot make a wise choice at that moment in time, but we give in to our flesh instead. However, a blessed person will always repent of his own mistake. In particular, when we grieve God’s spirit and are temporarily overcome by transgressions, it is even more beautiful if we can turn back to God at that point. After turning back from going through weaknesses, we will be even more assured of our identity and belonging in Christ, and will no longer be blown and tossed by the wind of our circumstances. Sometimes, our faith journey is like the prodigal son, after regretting and coming back then we will all the more cherish the grace at home.

After turning back from going through weaknesses, we will be even more assured of our identity and belonging in Christ, and will no longer be blown and tossed by the wind of our circumstances.

This is like what <2 Co 7:10> says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” Sometimes, turning back is even better than not falling. This does not mean that we should always fall, but in our faith journey, there are indeed occasions when we turned to our own ways, yet when God’s love sought us back, that kind of faith and testimony can bless many people.

A leader who has received the heart of God will surely have moments of regrets

In <2 Co 7:8>, Paul said, “Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while. Paul contradicted himself here, because in the beginning of his letter, he wrote more harshly, but after writing, he regretted (because he worried that he might hurt believers’ weak hearts), but later on, because he saw that the believers repented because of their sorrow, his heart did not regret, but he thanked the Lord instead. This is the heart of a father. We who are parents sometimes have no choice but to severely discipline our children when they are disobedient, so as to snap them out of their wild nature. In the course of disciplining them, our hearts will have some regrets, but after seeing them changed for the better later on, our hearts no longer regret.

But the critical thing about regrets is not about right or wrong, but about the worry of whether that person can be humble before God.

Thus, as we love people and teach others, we inevitably have to go through the struggles of regrets. But the critical thing about regrets is not about right or wrong, but about the worry of whether that person can be humble before God. The person who received discipline can sometimes change immediately, but some need a long time, others may even turn back only after detouring for half their lives, yet it is always good to be able to turn back still.

After having regrets, two ways will emerge

Man regrets over a certain thing because he sees the value of that thing

Think about it, why do we regret? That is because we see what was lost as something valuable. Example: Time is precious, relationships are important, family is valuable, etc. Thus, when we lose these things as a result of our own folly, our hearts will feel regretful and sorry about it. Some people regret over losing time, others regret because they said the wrong things and caused a crack in relationships, yet others regret because they suffer loss after investing their hard-earned money in virtual currency. But do we not know the value of all these things? Do we not know the importance of time and relationships? Are we not aware of the importance of eternal life?

Therefore, the Lord who loves us uses consequences to put in us regretfulness, so as to awaken us.

In fact, we know, but when we do not quiet down to focus on the value of these things, our eyes are clouded, such that we cannot distinguish the degree of their value. The world and desires of the flesh always disorient us, such that we let materials replace relationships, temporal pleasures take over time, money substitute God. Therefore, the Lord who loves us uses consequences to put in us regretfulness, so as to awaken us. Hence, the way by which we go through regrets is very critical. For most people, after they regretted, they try to make amends, change some outcomes, but the blessed person confirms and understands the truth in the process, and obeys the Lord’s will henceforth.

After man has regretted, two ways will surely emerge

After some people regretted, they repented afterwards; some other people committed even greater sins after regretting, taking a more foolish path. After Judas betrayed Jesus and saw Him being condemned, he regretted in his heart and committed suicide <Mt 27:3>. Indeed, many people do not turn to God in their misery. They only see that they have offended people, or they blame themselves for not having wisdom or for being useless, but they never truly turn to God. Yet, blessed people in the Bible such as David was broken and contrite after being disciplined, Peter was miserable after denying the Lord; their contriteness and misery led them to turn to God. God desires that our sorrow produces repentance that leaves no regret, it is at this moment that God’s discipline will stop. Indeed, sometimes we see that certain believers are always regretting and feeling sorry, yet their choices afterwards never change. Some parents regret that they have not loved the Lord in the past, thus their children also do not love the Lord and have left the church, but they only remain in regrets and still do not seriously lead their church living. Some people regret that they have not worked hard in the past so they are without any achievement, yet till now they are still lazy. Indeed, this is self-deception.

Until we produce repentance that leaves no regret, it is very hard for us to see true hope.

God dwells in our hearts, and He will absolutely not be deceived by our hearts. Until we produce repentance that leaves no regret, it is very hard for us to see true hope.

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near <Isa 55:6>

Every time when we encounter things that make us regret, it is opportunity for us to turn to God. Because that is the moment God shows us grace. <Isa 55:7> says, “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” If we turn from our ways to God, we will surely see His mercy and forgiveness. Sometimes, when we regret, it is very complicated in our hearts, and there are much reproach, so we do not really believe that God will shower us with grace. Perhaps we do not believe that family relationships can be repaired, or that we can find back lost possessions, or that there will be new developments in current situation. But God tells us in <Isa 55:8>, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”. If our hearts are willing to submit to the Lord now, we absolutely can anticipate God’s work. However, we must not trample on the Lord’s grace. Think about it: Are there moments when God cannot be found? Are there times when He cannot be called upon? Yes! That is when we stiffen our necks and stubbornly hold on to our own views, such that our hearts become more hardened, and we cannot be touched by God’s word. That was the state of Saul. He could only regret, fear, and keep thinking of solutions, but he could no longer repent. This was revealed by the fact that prophet Samuel no longer went to see him. <1 Sam 15:35>

Small regrets today can save us from extreme regrets in the future

Do not regret because of the judgment before the great white throne in future

The coming judgment is the ultimate reality. <Re 20:11> tells us that everyone will stand before the great white throne for judgment. By that time, whether a person has repented truly in Christ will be completely revealed. Therefore, while it is important that a person can enter a church and hear the world of God, it is even more important that a person is born-again and saved after hearing the Word of God. How do we know we are someone who has truly repented? This is not what pastor can tell you, but we must confirm it personally through the Word of God. <Mt 3:8> tells us to produce fruit in keeping with repentance! The “fruit” mentioned here is surely related to our internal godliness and external living. We may have heard the Word of God, but we are not stirred in our hearts. Our daily living and life direction has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God. We sing the songs of the world, our hands work for the gains on earth. Then we must be careful, and honestly ask ourselves if we can truly see God. Because God will not ask if you have the baptism certificate, but if you have truly repented. Therefore, if we encounter any hardships or sufferings on earth, let us confirm that it is God drawing us to come before Him.

Do not regret because you make plans excessively for this life

The Lord in <Lk 12:16-20> told us about a rich man who is planning for his life, as well as, his ending. This parable does not say that the rich man is not saved, but it is clear that he is unable to enjoy what he planned. Just when he is full of hope and is making plans for his wonderful life, the Lord is taking his soul away that very night. And the Lord tells us that all the preparations he has made in his life cannot bring any gains to his eternal soul. This is also the state of many people who are planning for their lives. Perhaps, some people are making plans for their children’s future, some are preparing to enjoy life after retirement, some are planning so that they can gain more on earth. Indeed, the easiest mistake that humans make is to worry about tomorrow and not being able to enjoy today. Actually, we must firmly believe that our tomorrow is in God’s hands. It is God’s grace that enables us to live the next moment and enjoy the next meal. Only those who are guided by Him will not live in regrets. Therefore, in this temporal world, as we experience some small gains or losses, or feel uncertain about the future, we must walk by faith, and centre our life on first seeking His kingdom and His righteousness. This is the greatest blessing.

Do not miss the opportunity to serve because you cannot endure hardship

<1 Co 15:58> Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. This is a promise that our labour in the Lord will not be futile, or in other words – it will bear fruits. This is akin to us nurturing a person, shepherding a church – it is through time and tears before we can bear fruit. Sometimes, we are unwilling to walk the difficult path because we cannot endure temporal grievances or cannot see the rewards in the future. As we serve the Lord, let us remember Paul’s proclamation, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” <2 Ti 4:7>. This can be considered his epitaph. If we also can say the same words with a clear conscience before we leave this world, how great is that blessing!

Pastor Vincent Choo
[email protected]

Vincent serves as the President of The Blessed Run Church. He is also the Senior Pastor of The Life Church and Missions (Singapore) and is an ardent missionary to the Chinese World. He currently lives in Singapore with his wife, Qiufen, and has three kids, Mary, David, and Caleb.

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