Handling Life When Facing Deep Regret Religion Essay
Dr. Derek Stringer is our Bible Teacher. Derek is the National Director of Good News Broadcasting. He travels extensively preaching and teaching the Word of God at Churches, Bible Conferences, seminaries and Bible Schools. If he ever comes your way, be sure to say ‘Hello’. It’s always good to meet with people who listen to our programmes. But, before we ask Dr. Stringer to teach on his current series from the Bible, which is all about bringing ‘Fresh Hope’ into our lives . . . here’s my co-presenter, with a Yorkshire accent to balance my Lancashire one . . . Doug Wilcox.
Thanks Becky . . . I think!
Just a little ‘funny’ to get us thinking . . . I think it’s funny anyway!
A preacher, a politician and an engineer were led to the guillotine.
The preacher was asked if he wanted to be face up or face
down when he met his fate. The preacher said that he would like to lie
face up so he would be looking toward heaven when he died. The blade of
the guillotine was raised and released. It came speeding down and
suddenly stopped, just inches from his neck. The authorities took this
as divine intervention and released the preacher.
Next, the politician came to the guillotine, and he also decided to
die facing up, hoping he would be as fortunate as the preacher. So the
blade of the guillotine was raised again and released. It came speeding
down and suddenly stopped just centimetres from his neck, so he was released as well.
The engineer was next, and he too decided to die facing up. The
executioner slowly raised the blade of the guillotine, when suddenly the
engineer said, "Hey, I see what the problem is..."
Another reminder that we need to learn when to keep our mouths
shut. As much as we may be anxious to share with people just how much we know, sometimes things are better left unsaid! Rarely will keeping
quiet get us into trouble (though it can happen), but often do we find
ourselves getting into trouble by saying something that should have gone
A favourite saying for some people is found in Proverbs 17:28: "Even a
fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he
is considered perceptive."
Very similar to the more recent saying: "Better to be thought a
fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."
Lest you open your mouth today and say something you may later
regret, stop for a moment before you speak and make sure it's the wise
thing to do.
That actually brings us to our subject for today.
Dr. Derek Stringer is the radio voice for Good News Broadcasting, who produce Word Alive.
His current series has covered a lot of ground.
He has dealt with:
How to Have Joy All Year Long.
Will You Be Happy Tomorrow?
You Can Stumble But You Won't Fall.
Here’s Derek with today’s message:
Handling Life When Facing Deep Regret.
Thanks Becky . . . and Doug too. I know that you’re staying around to read the Word of God as we go along.
Let me add my welcome. We seek to take the Word of God and apply it to real life situations on this programme. We always appreciate your comments. If you are blessed by anything that we say, please do let us know. If there are issues you have questions about. We may be able to help. So, do ask. If you want prayer for yourself or other people. Contact us because we have people praying for people who listen to our programmes. We also have a news letter, Sounding Out which we make available to all who request it. You only have to ask.
Okay, let’s get to our subject.
There are lines from literature and cinema that become classics, remembered long after most are forgotten. One of those lines comes from the 1954 film On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando.
Brando plays the role of a prize fighter named Terry Malloy. Malloy is pressured by the crime mob to throw a fight he could easily have won. Sadly, the mob messenger is his own brother, Charlie. The decision to deliberately lose begins a downward spiral that ends his boxing career and connects him to organized crime.
Years later, Charlie comes back to Terry to pressure him again—this time he is asked to give perjured testimony in court. Their conversation in the back of a taxi goes back to the thrown boxing match years before.
In one clip from the movie, Charlie says: “You could’a been another Billy Caan. That skunk we got you for a manager, he brought you along too fast.”
Terry says: “It wasn’t the manager. It was you, Charlie. You remember that night in the Garden you came down and said, ‘It’s not your night, kid.’ It’s not your night. I could’a torn Wilson apart. I could’a had class! I could’a been a contender! I could’a been somebody!
One line summed up the deep regret of a lifetime: “I could’a been a contender!”
There are a thousand other stories that could be made into movies about deep regret. Prisons are full of inmates who regret the crimes they committed or at least regret getting caught for what they did. Divorce courts too often hear the story of marriages people wish they had never entered. Regrets range from foolish financial investments to tragic medical procedures, from roads not taken to roads toward disaster.
Most deep regrets are filed under the heading “If I could live life over again.” If our autobiographies could be edited we might change the schools we attended, the persons we married, the jobs we pursued and the choices we have made.
Our English word “regret” partially comes from an old French word meaning “to weep.” Regret is deep sorrow over which we return to tears again and again. Regret may be over something we did or something we had done to us—either way the sorrow does not go away.
Deep regrets are only partially about the moment of past decision. They linger because of their lasting consequences. Regrets are recharged every day by the new pain that comes from yesterday’s choices and consequences. Our lives are forever changed from what they could have been and should have been. And, there’s no going back.
Now let’s understanding: Everyone has regrets. Even God.
Filled with love and hope and dreams, God created humankind. It was a match made in heaven. We were designed to be like God, created in his likeness. Despite all God’s love and generosity, his human children turned against him in sin and broke the heart of God.
Listen to these words read by Doug.
Genesis 6:5-6 says, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.”
God’s first inclination was to terminate the human race and start all over again. That is a common response to deep regret. Instead, God allowed humanity to survive and God still lives with the consequences of his children’s “wickedness on the earth.”
We all have regrets although not all regrets receive the same rating. One person’s regret is over a minor mistake while another’s regret is over a murder. Some regrets are over deliberate sins and others over ignorant mistakes.
We have all said things we wish we had not said. Sometimes they did not even represent what we really think but the words have taken on a life of their own and a thousand apologies and corrections can’t undo the damage done.
Many of us made choices that seemed right at the time but turned into disaster. If we only knew then what we know now we would have decided and behaved in a totally different manner.
Some regrets started with a split second of poor choice. There was a government funded advert that showed a conversation among young adults talking about foolish things they did while drunk. One tells about wearing his underwear on his head, another tells about pulling a table cloth and crashing the dishes, a third tells about going home from a party with a stranger and becoming infected with the AIDS virus. One moment of foolishness leaves a lifetime of regret.
Smaller or greater we all have regrets. And, if you claim to be the rare exception that has lived a totally regret-free life you need to know that the longer you live the higher your probability of some future deep regret.
There are a million possible responses to our regrets but no one can change yesterday. Not even God. Maybe we can make repairs, remedies or restitution but we cannot rewrite yesterday. What was said was said. What happened happened. There is no going back.
Recognition that we can’t change the past is an important and necessary step toward dealing with yesterday. We reach a point where it is counterproductive to rehearse what happened over and over in our minds. There is no point in wondering how life would have been different if yesterday had not happened.
The reality is that our past is always part of our present. It’s like your birth date. You may prefer to have been born in another month or a different year or under alternate circumstances but you cannot. Your birth date is when it is and part of what makes you who you are. Doug!
Remember some of the Bible biographies.
Moses regretted his disobedience of God that prohibited him from leading Israel into the Promised Land. David regretted his adultery. Peter regretted his denial of Jesus. Thomas regretted his doubts.
In every case they moved on with life and made future choices knowing that they could not delete or edit their history.
We must deal with our yesterdays by acknowledging who we are and then live the one life that we have for God from now on.
I heard about a rabbi who said, “At the end of your life God will not ask you why you weren’t Moses. He’ll ask you why you weren’t you.”
Who we are includes when we were born, all of our gifts, great successes and deep regrets. God invites us to live for him in our skins and our stories. Everyone has regrets. No one can change yesterday. But, we do have a choice about tomorrow.
There is a godly approach to sorrow and a worldly approach to sorrow.
As Christians we are called to a godly response. But, we’re surrounded by people who don’t know about the godly option and push us toward a worldly approach.
2 Corinthians 7:10 says it well:
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Godly sorrow seeks to please God and brings repentance (behavioural change). The result is salvation and release from regret. Worldly sorrow centres on self and is expressed in blame and resentment. It’s a killer.
Here’s the difference.
Some people bring God into their sorrow. Godly sorrow learns from mistakes, seeks forgiveness and trusts God to deal with past and lead into the future. While this is mostly rooted in our relationship with God it is obedient to do whatever God asks to deal with the regret.
Some people leave God out of their sorrow. They choose to be bitter, blaming and resentful. They refuse to forgive others and will not forgive themselves. Their regret poisons their souls and destroys their lives.
We each must choose. Will we deal with deep regret God’s way or the world’s way?
God’s way may not be easy. When you have been robbed or raped, when you have been betrayed by a husband or wife, when you have lost everything because of a one minute mistake, it takes enormous faith and courage to forgive and do what is right.
God’s way is often a process. Deep regret rarely goes away with a single treatment. We need to keep coming back to Jesus for more counsel, repeated confession, fresh forgiveness, step-by-step healing.
The critical choice: Will we allow yesterday’s regret to grow us or grieve us? Will we change toward good or slowly die from remorse?
When we go to God with our deep regret He begins to renew us. He uses different approaches with different people and circumstances.
Joseph at the beginning of the Bible was sold into slavery by his brothers. As a slave he worked hard and did everything right. Because of the unfulfilled lust of his master’s wife, Joseph ended up in prison for a crime he did not commit. He had a lot to regret and plenty of cause for resentment. God used the bad events in Joseph’s life to bring him to a position of political prominence and power that saved his own family from starvation. God turned evil into good.
Genesis 50:20 quotes Joseph’s godly approach to deep regret (to his brothers): “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
It took years, but Joseph’s horror was gloriously transformed from defeat to victory.
Paul was a different story—more like me and maybe like you. He was still a work in progress. He had plenty to regret. He pursued, persecuted, imprisoned and murdered Christians. Even after he became a Christian those memories must have haunted him. Besides, he was such a passionate person that he often acted on impulse and generated critics wherever he went.
Here’s what he wrote: Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Paul’s regrets did not instantly heal. It took him a lifetime. The way he dealt with his yesterdays was to focus on the calling of Jesus Christ in his life. The way he forgot about yesterday was to focus on tomorrow. Instead of looking back to what he regretted he looked forward to do what Jesus called him to do for the rest of his life.
Let’s apply Paul’s principle to our regret. You are who you are. Your history is your history. Now, what are you going to do with the rest of your life? What is the call of Jesus that is uniquely yours? Will you be you and do what God wants you to do? Because, if the answer is “yes” God will renew you, heal your regrets and you will win the prize God has waiting for you.
The “Zeigarnik effect” is a psychological concept I don’t pretend to fully understand. It attempts to explain why we tend to remember our failures more than our successes. The idea is that our brains usually file away our completed tasks but keep incomplete tasks fresh on our minds.
Deep regrets often remain as incomplete files on the desktops of our minds. We keep them open to read and re-read, somehow hoping to change the last page, finish the file and close it forever. But it doesn’t work. To the contrary, the constant reviews agitate and upset, causing frustration and resentment.
Then comes Jesus. He tells us that because we are Christians we can trust the file to him. He will not erase it but he will work its jagged edges and into our future biographies for good. He asks us to change our minds about the regrets, to seek and accept forgiveness and (most of all) to trust him for the present and future.
Here is Jesus’ challenge to us with deep regrets—trust him! Trust him to turn regret into renewal. Trust him that life no longer needs to be defined by yesterday’s regret but can be shaped by today’s trust.
Romans 8 puts it like this, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. . . What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
Let’s hear that question again and then what about saying the answer out loud together if we can.
Question: What, then, shall we say in response to this? Response: If God is for us, who can be against us?
Let’s try that again shall we. Sometimes just saying out loud the truth can help affirm it within us.
What, then, shall we say in response to this?
If God is for us, who can be against us?
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
You have been listening to Dr. Derek Stringer here on Word Alive produced by Good News Broadcasting.
Today’s message is part of a short series of six messages entitled ‘Fresh Hope’ . . . it gives important Bible information applied to life as we know it today. You will learn many practical lesson which can’t fail to help.
You can get this series on CD or cassette when you contact us.
One of life's best coping mechanisms is to know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. If you break your neck, if you having
nothing to eat, if your house is on fire – then you've got a problem. Everything else is an inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. A lump in the porridge, a lump in the throat, and a lump in the breast are not the same kind of lump. We need to learn the difference.
What I am saying is this . . . we need to learn perspective. Particularly when we look back with regret. The Bible says, "For our LIGHT AFFLICTION, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen."
Was that problem you had today really a problem, or was it just an inconvenience? Think about it.
Derek will be back in our next programme to bring us Fresh Hope when Facing Failed Dreams.
I hope that you will plan to join us again.
I’m Doug Wilcox with Becky Kelly (my co-presenter) and Derek Stringer our Bible Teacher.
Goodbye for now and God bless you.
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