Eric and I just got home from spending the day with his step-brother and his step-brother’s wife. They live an hour away from us and driving home late at night sparks a number of conversations. Sometimes these conversations are pleasant; whereas, other times they are thought provoking and difficult. As we approached home, I asked Eric a thought provoking question….
I asked him if there were people in his past that he wishes he’d never met. His response was, “Of course,” which made me feel better because I also have a few people I wish had not graced my path. Interestingly, there are some people in my life, regardless of the pain I’ve suffered due to them, for whom I am thankful. Even though knowing them felt like punishment at the time – in retrospect, I see how much growing I did during those seasons in my life.
Then, there are other people that I allowed into my life against my better judgment that were in no way a blessing to me (perhaps someday the Lord will reveal to me how they were a blessing). Thankfully, there are not many people that I can fit into this category. In fact the list is quite small, but still significant. When I think about this category of people, all currently gone from my life, I find my heart filled with regret again. So much of my energy was spent on them and now so much of my energy is spent regretting them and the mistakes I made in regards to them. Telling this to Eric tonight, he simply asked me, “What good is the guilt doing in your life?” In essence: is the guilt blessing you? He can be so annoyingly wise. ~smile~
I imagine that I’m not alone. Do you have people from your past that you wish you could erase because of the wasted time and regret you associate with them? Do you find that, years after leaving them behind, you spend energy actively regretting their brief, or perhaps not so brief, presence in your life? If so, here are a few questions for you:
- Have you repented of any sin in your life surrounding your relationship with these people? Please don’t get me wrong. No one can make us sin; yet, when others encourage us to sin or manipulate us towards sinful behavior, it is natural to look back on them with anger and bitterness – just as we would toward someone who stuck his or her foot out to trip us.
- Have you forgiven them for their involvement in your sinful actions? Even though no one can make us sin, we do need to check our hearts and forgive those who have encouraged us to do wrong.
- Lastly, are you renewing your mind daily through prayer and Bible reading? (Romans 12:2) It seems that on days when I am diligent to read Scripture and pray, I have less desire – and time – to focus on my regrets (which leads me to focus on people I wish I’d never met). On such days, I have filled my mind with God’s truth, which combats the guilt, the anger, and the debilitating regret.
We can beg God to help us forgive someone – or for Him to take away our guilt; but, if we are not filling our minds and hearts with truth, unforgiveness and guilt will creep back in, take up residence in our hearts, and get cozy.
So, I’ve mulled over the question with which Eric responded in my mind. What good is repeating the guilt doing in my life? The obvious answer is: “none.” The guilt is not leading me to repentance because I have already repented. All that mentally replaying my regrets is doing for my life is paralyzing me. If I can stay stuck in the past, reviewing my failures, then I have no time, energy, or motivation, to press forward towards godliness (Philippians 3:14).
For those of us that struggle with guilt over past sins, it can feel like we are proving our repentance by continuously repeating our regret. “Hey, God: I was sorry yesterday, I’m sorry today, and I’ll be sorry tomorrow! Just please don’t forget that you have forgiven me!” Yes, that sounds silly, but don’t some of us act that way even when we’ve received His forgiveness? Sometimes, we just need to learn to move on. We see in Scripture that God’s work is always moving ahead. It’s not stuck in the past, so why are we?
Most of us have specific moments in our history we would love to go back and erase. Though, some of those experiences have made us who we are today. The beautiful thing is: if you have truly repented and turned from your sin, they have been erased – cast into the sea of forgetfulness.
When you feel regret creeping back into your mind, immediately combat it with Scripture and then fill your mind with the things of God: praise music, the Bible, prayer, talking to Godly friends, etc. When we don’t fill our minds with truth, we leave them wide open to receive torment from the enemy who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). Replaying our guilt is not only a drain on ourselves, but on those closest to us. Sometimes, refusing to let go of our regrets can cost us relationships. So, turn those failures over to Him, leave your past behind, and press forward.
Is there regret in your past that you are holding onto which repeatedly returns in your mind?