Toots
Wednesday
Apr302014

Feeling the Sorrow and Living Past Regrets

William Borden died of what was apparently meningitis while doing his missionary training in Egypt. He was preparing to serve Muslim peoples in China, but never made it there. A short time prior to his death, perhaps even while he was ill and on his way to eternity, he had penned the words "no regrets".

I think that would be a good condition in which to leave this earth, no matter how old or young; to be able to say, "I have no regrets" is a very good thing. I respect that. In fact, I would say that I even strive for that. We all want to live a "no regrets" kind of life.

The problem with this is that I think we sometimes think about these kinds of things at a macro-level and fail to see the how it works out in ordinary life. I don't regret the big decisions I've made in life. I have no regrets that I've chosen to be a Jesus-Follower. I don't regret marrying my wife of nearly 25 years. I don't regret the vocational choices I've made. I am glad that I went into ministry. I still deeply love the church we pastored in Tennessee, and I don't regret dragging my wife and children across the globe to Mongolia. Not for a minute. I am fairly certain I will not regret the decision we made to leave Mongolia when we did, even though right now as I write this there is a lot of pain involved with that decision. A lot of pain. But no regret.

But the fact is, when you want to get right down to it, I do things I regret ever day and if you're reading this, you do too. In fact, for any of us to honestly say "I have no regrets" would be a confession of perfection that could borderline on downright devilish arrogance. We all have regrets. We have to.

I regret every time I was angry with my wife - and maybe even regret more the times I was angry with my children. Especially while they were still children.

I regret every covetous and lustful thought I've ever had.

I regret every time I've told a lie, or at best colored the truth so that I could play a situation to my advantage.

I regret wasted time. And I've wasted a lot of time.

I regret not accomplishing more with my life; mainly because of the wasted time and the failure to take advantage of God-afforded opportunities.

I regret the times that I talked and didn't act.

More specifically, I really regret that I've tended to only talk about writing more, rather than actually writing more. I wish I'd have written more at this point in my life.

I regret every morning that I don't take advantage of.

I regret so many things I've said to people that caused them woundedness from my tongue.

I regret every time I've blamed others, and failed to take responsibility for my own actions.

I regret the times I've over-eaten and showed a lack of self-control. A bowl of ice cream and a bag of extra-buttered microwave popcorn every night before bed is not good or necessary (yes, I did that at one point).

I regret the times I've allowed my moods and emotions dictate how I treat people, and have thus caused individuals to feel unworthy, unloved and uncared for.

I regret every time I've made someone feel unloved and uncared for, for any reason.

I regret pressing send on at least a couple of dozen or so emails that caused pain and chaos in the lives the people I care about. Could even be more than that, but I will say that I'm a lot more careful with email these days, so thankfully it doesn't happen quite as much as it used to.

I regret not praying more and waiting more on issues where I reacted at an emotional level and caused undue stress levels on my family, my loved ones and myself.

I regret making choices the moved me away from a relationship with Jesus rather than simply choosing to move into a closer relationship with Jesus.

Need I go on? I have lots of regrets. I'm guessing that if you're honest, you do to.

I was recently sent an article that I can commend to you on how to live life with less regret by not putting ourselves into positions where regret is almost guaranteed. I think it's a good thing to avoid having regrets whenever possible. But what about the things we already regret? The things we've already done. I've been thinking about this a lot lately.

Paul talks about a "sorrow" ... or a regret ... that leads to repentance. He says it's a Godly sorrow.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. II Corinthians 7:10

Regret that leads to repentance, that leads to salvation, that leads to change, that leads to no regrets, in the end. I think that's good. In fact, I think it's essential. Repentance, real repentance, is not just a heady theological understanding of wrong doing. There ought to be a little bit of wincing, a little bit of pain, associated with where we've gone wrong. Sin and repentance can't simply be cerebral. There ought to be a spiritual and emotional element that grieves over wrongdoing, and the experience of real sorrow and regret. That's what will lead to change. Change in me. Change for others.

Don't hear me wrong. I am not saying we should live for regret. I'm not saying that we should continue in sin so that grace may abound or any other such heresy. I am saying that when we do the thing that brings on regret (and we will do it) , embrace it. Feel the sorrow. Repent. Repentance brings life. And there are no regrets in that.

 

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