Are You Filled With Regret? Take Heart!

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Are You Filled With Regret? Take Heart!

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My wife and I are going through this marriage book called His Needs, Her Needs. It’s a classic book; it’s probably old news for a lot of people. We’ve been married for 5 years, but in a lot of ways we both feel like this past year has been our first real year of marriage.

For my part, I’ve come to realize that I’ve had these selfish, ongoing tendencies, which haven’t built up our relationship or edified my wife; but instead have torn at it, little pieces at a time, here and there. The book discusses how different ways that we behave toward our spouse can either build them up—and therefore our marriage—or tear them down. It uses an analogy of a love bank, with debits and credits.

As I’ve come to realize these different behaviors of mine, I’ve come to regret a lot of stuff, and I hate it.

Who wants to be full of regrets?

Nobody. Yet everybody is.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. -Romans 7:14-24

Here’s the apostle Paul—who’s an incredible example of faith and courage in doing God’s will—and he struggled with the same things we struggle with! He wanted to do good, but often found his actions at odds with those desires. It goes to show that even those we’d all look to as examples of greatness in God’s way struggle with our mistakes and our regrets just the same as you and me.

Self Doubt > Regret > Anxiety

This question of self-doubt and regrets can easily lead to anxiety.

Am I worthy?

If I died today would I be in the resurrection?

That anxiety can often be crippling. It can often lead us to inaction, to a state of hopelessness or despair; or worse, possibly, to apathy in doing good. When we shine the light of scripture on ourselves, we focus on those mistakes and regrets, and it hurts.

But we can take heart.

7Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. -Galatians 6:7-8

That’s not usually a passage we turn to for encouragement, I realize. But I think there is hope in this analogy, if we stop and think for a bit.

Typically when I think of reaping a crop in a field, I think of what most modern American farmers grow—hundreds of acres of just corn; or just wheat; or just soybeans.

But if you have a garden at home, that’s not what you do. You plant many different plants. My mother-in-law and her husband have a garden, and they grow all kinds of stuff: sweet peppers, banana peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, etc.

And when you think of it like that, this analogy more accurately describes what kind of lives we lead. We all sow different types of seeds every single day. Everything we do is sowing a seed—every interaction we have with people, every thought we entertain, every e-mail we send; those are all seeds. As time goes on, each of those things adds up and we will eventually reap a harvest from them.

And those harvests are continual and infinite in scope. The way I treat a person who I might see only once every couple months will shape the relationship I have with that person on an ongoing basis. The thoughts I entertain in the privacy of my brain form a pattern of thinking, and I will reap from that pattern of thought in how I express myself, what kind of people I hang out with, what kind of entertainment I seek, and the ways I reap that go on and on.

And on an overall scale, the macro sum of all the continuous, infinite harvests we reap all the time, every day, tell the overall picture of who we are.

And I think that’s why we can take heart.

Because our period of judgment is not a single moment. It doesn’t strike the moment I make a mistake and sin. God isn’t looking at us and waiting to trap us in the moment we break down and give into that same sin we’ve been battling for years.

Our period of judgment is our lifetime.

We are a work in progress.

And that progress is overcoming. Everyday, trying our best to overcome those behaviors we aren’t proud of. Practicing righteousness instead of sin, in as many ways as we possibly can.

When we make a mistake, when we sow the wrong seed—whether it be in the way we treat somebody, or by becoming so angry with somebody that we hate them and withhold forgiveness, or by developing a habit of cursing or gossiping or lying or watching pornography or breaking the Sabbath—if it’s our goal to overcome those things and we repent and strive to give our whole lives over to God, then we can take heart. We may be unable to forgive ourselves, and to forget, but God can, and He does.

When God sought out someone to replace King Saul, He looked for one who had a heart after His own. And He found and chose David. Then over the course of David's life, the overall harvest that he reaped was of fulfilling that quality, and God confirmed it at the end of his life. Yet we know the major mistakes he made in between! He sowed all kinds of bad seed over the course of his lifetime; yet when he became aware of his sin, he always came back to God and sought to practice righteousness.

So take heart! God looks at the macro harvest of your life. Do you desire to please God? Are you striving to serve Him and sow a crop of righteousness as much as possible? Are you practicing righteousness? If so, then don’t allow your regrets to consume you; use them to make positive changes and move on.