Six Ways to Recover from Regret
Even after we have come to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, sometimes we may struggle with regret and unworthiness over our sin.
Regret can be like an avalanche that freezes our hope and buries our heart, building thick, cold walls between us and others — keeping out warmth and fellowship.
Regret can also be like a fire that sears us within, scarring us with relentless self-reproach and criticism.
Regret can be like a throbbing headache, so terribly close to our foremost thought and feeling, clouding our logic, draining joy and contentment from our lives.
Such regret is one cause behind these cries in the Psalms:
For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. —Psalm 38:4
For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me. —Psalm 40:12
So how do we recover from regret?
How do we go on when our life is in rubble from the choices we’ve made?
How can we muster the strength to smile?
These following points in Scripture have helped me to find joy and tranquility again.
#1. Your Regret Comes From Wisdom
The simple fact that you experience regret is a sign of a measure of wisdom. “The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise,” we read in Proverbs 15:31.
In contrast, a fool learns nothing from sins or failures. “Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.” Proverbs 27:22
In Genesis, Joseph’s brothers intended to kill him, but ended up selling him into slavery.
Years passed after this shameless, selfish crime. But then the day came when they admitted their guilt.
Their admission of regret was a sign of gaining some wisdom:
And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. — Genesis 42:21
So if you are reproaching yourself for what you have done, you can know with certainty that you are not a fool. Fools do not know regret.
#2. Your Pain and Shame Jesus Knows
In atoning for the sins of the world, Jesus “walked through” every moment of everyone’s life. He knows the minutest prick of pain in full detail.
Sometimes we approach God as if Jesus atoned only for “huge” sins, like murder or sodomy, and so He doesn’t pay attention to our pain from smaller sins. Sometimes we approach Him as if Jesus atoned only for “tiny” sins like snapping at your loved ones, but He has to sit and think on it before He’ll consider your bigger sins, like marrying a non-Christian or having an abortion.
But the truth is, Jesus atoned for ALL sins and knows ALL pain, great and small.
“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:4
“In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them.” Isaiah 63:9a
“Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
“For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:18
“Who in the days of His flesh, when [Jesus] had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto [God] that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared.” Hebrews 5:7
Jesus knows the deepest pain. Rejection, treachery, ostracism — He endured it.
We do not need to make light of what we’ve done, but we do not have to lacerate ourselves with “If onlys,” “What ifs,” and all the rest. We do not need to pay penance for our sins.
#3. Your Heart and Spirit God Can Revive
God said that He can revive the spirit of the humble, and the heart of the contrite:
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Isaiah 57:15
This passage continues,
15 For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.
16 For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.
17 I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.
18 I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him.
God sees and knows when we are crushed and broken: He knows the spirit “should fail before [Him],” and the souls which He has made. He promises to heal the contrite, to restore comforts “unto him and to his mourners.”
Furthermore, God is near to those whose hearts are broken:
The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken
heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. — Psalm 34:18
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. — Psalm 51:17
#4. Your Failure Cannot Limit God’s Power
Jonah is the classic example of someone who disobeyed God and whom God punished. However, we should not overlook the fact that Jonah’s account is in the Bible. That, in and of itself, is an example that disobedience does not limit God’s power to use us.
We also must not overlook that heathens came to worship God even when Jonah was disobeying. We recall that in chapter 1, Jonah asked the sailors to throw him overboard — in other words, asking for assisted suicide. The sailors were loath to do this and only did so as a last resort. To quote Scripture exactly:
14 Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech Thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for Thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased Thee.
15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.
16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.
Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.
Let that sink in (pun not intended).
These sailors were beforetime praying to their false gods. Verse 5a:
Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them.
But because of Jonah’ disobedience, they saw the power of God, and offered a sacrifice, and made vows to God.
This is by no means saying we have license to sin because God still has power. Rather, this is to point out that when we look back and realize how greatly we’ve sinned or failed, God was always in control and never limited by us.
#5. You Can’t Glory in Your Assets Anyway
Regret can really crush us in the long-term, prolonged consequences of what we have done.
We can lose a job, a house, our health, our marriage, a child, or even our reputation, due to choices and sins.
And if we’ve lost something, shame can overcome us; we may be raw and shredded inside, and flinching at the slightest touch. We may have nothing earthly to hold up our head: no money, no health, no spouse, no reputation, no obedient child, and so on and so on.
But God tells us we are not allowed to glory in our positives. Take Jeremiah 9:23-24:
23 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
The New Testament re-iterates these verses. I Corinthians 1 concludes by pointing out that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, base things of the world, and things that are despised, so “that no flesh should glory in His presence,” and “That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” verses 28 and 31, respectively.
Thus, when someone rubs it in your face that HE has a prestigious job, or a perfect wife, or a peerless reputation, do not let his boasting fan the flames of regret. Rest in the assurance that God frowns upon the pride of life, and forbids it.
#6. You Love Jesus More — And He Knows It
In Luke chapter 7, when Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus for a meal, a woman who was immoral came and wept at Jesus’ feet, kissing his feet, and anointing them with ointment.
The Pharisee thought to himself that Jesus would spurn the actions of the woman, because she had sinned so grievously.
So then Jesus told Simon a parable:
41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
Jesus went on to point out that Simon had neglected to wash Jesus’ feet, but this woman washed His feet with her tears; Simon neglected to greet Jesus with the customary kiss, but this woman had not ceased to kiss Jesus’ feet; Simon neglected to anoint Jesus’ head with oil, but this woman anointed His feet with her alabaster ointment.
47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
Yes, Jesus knows if your sins are many, and He knows that you love Him much.
So take comfort in His love, in His “meekness and gentleness,” (2 Cor 10:1) and as you humble yourself He will lift you up, out of the pit of despair and regret.