Today it's quite common to see a sports figure, a screen star or a politician who ruined a marriage because of an affair. It's also quite routine to see people abuse alcohol or drugs and subsequently behave improperly or say things they shouldn't.
Sometimes a person's choice takes him or her to a hospital, and sometimes to jail. In situations such as these we often hear heartfelt expressions of sorrow and regret. In some cases careers are ruined. Tragically, some accidentally or purposely cause their own deaths.
While the lives of media figures are readily available for all of us to see, similar examples occur all around us. Is there any way for each of us to avoid making these same mistakes?
Because we are human, it is inevitable that we will look back and see things that we wish we had done differently. Regret typically comes in two varieties: things we regret we did and things we regret we didn't do.
As for regretting certain actions, some are immediately obvious. If we lie or cheat or steal, we'll quickly, it is hoped, recognize that these actions are wrong, repent of them and resolve not to do them again. Sometimes, however, it takes time to recognize our wrongs.
The other type of regret is over not having done something we know we should have or wish we would have. Examples here include not having accepted blame for something we did wrong, allowing someone else to take the rap, and not having stuck up for someone younger or weaker when we were able to do so. Many who never finished college wish they had worked a bit harder to do so.
Perhaps we wish we had been a little bolder and learned to rock climb, water-ski or dance. Maybe we wish we had ridden the zip line or joined the speech club. Sadly, many times there is no way to go back and make a different choice.
So what can we do to have fewer regrets?
Regrets generally flow from poor choices, followed by similarly poor actions or lack of action. So how do we avoid wrong choices? The answer is simple: Know and obey the law of God.
God instructs us in the perfect way to live—the way that will produce happiness and peace of mind. Living as God tells us frees us from many later regrets. God knows there are things that we should and should not do to have a happy life. We find these lessons throughout the Bible. Some sections, such as Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7, are rich
with guidance on how to avoid regret.
Looking back at several of the previously mentioned scenarios, let's note how obeying God's law would have prevented regret.
Obeying God's command of "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14) could have spared many marriages and families much suffering and immeasurable regret.
Obeying God's command to "flee sexual immorality" (1 Corinthians 6:18) eliminates the shame and regret of premarital sex—regret that may last a lifetime and may result in an unplanned pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease.
The accounts of Noah and Lot (Genesis 9 and 19) show us some of the perils and consequences of drinking to excess. God tells us, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise" (Proverbs 20:1). Many lives might have been saved from ruin and many problems averted if alcohol had not been abused.
The Bible repeatedly cautions us to be careful in what we say. James tells us, "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1:19). Choosing our words carefully can prevent later regrets.
Failing to be more diligent at work or school can lead to regrets, as can failing to step out and try something new in our lives. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might," Solomon wrote (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Working diligently produces results. Working hard at school for a better grade can lead to a scholarship. And trying something new can open up new opportunities. Joining the robotics club, for example, may eventually lead to an interesting career.
When we seek to live according to God's laws and His way of life, He promises to help us. Under these circumstances, He has a message for us just as He did for Joshua: "Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).
It is an interesting study of the Bible to search out where God specifically says, "Do not be afraid." We see that He said this directly to Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Peter, Paul, John and others. God desires that we experience the good things in life and trust Him to help us in whatever circumstances we face. When we strive to please God and trust in Him, we can also be bold in our actions.
All of God's laws and instructions teach us how to live happily and avoid regrets. The laws of God are not given to prevent us from having a good time. The exact opposite is true. God does not want anyone to suffer regret from wrong or poor choices. He wants us to live life to the full. That's why He gives us very specific guidelines for a way of life that produces happiness and peace.
Similar to Deuteronomy 30:19, where God says that He has set before us "life and death, blessing and cursing," and that He wants us to "choose life," we also have the choice between a life with fewer regrets and one that is certain to cause them. Let's choose the one with fewer regrets. It's the better life! VT