Overcoming Regrets

Do you ever feel like your regrets are haunting you like ghosts from your past?

I used to allow regrets over things I’ve said or wished I had said and things I’ve done or wish I had done, to steal my joy, peace and hope. I became so aggravated with these condemning “ghosts” of regret that I finally decided to figure out how to defeat them. The following “battle-plan” (for conquering regrets) has helped me and I hope it might help others dealing with this problem too.

Defining this enemy
Even though I knew what the word regret meant, I began by looking up the definition, which, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is: “sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one’s control or power to repair: an expression of distressing emotion (as sorrow)” 

I also noticed that repent is one of the synonyms for the word regret. I suppose this makes sense in one way; it’s the same thing to feel regretful and repentant (over something we’ve said or done). But, from the Christian point of view, there’s a contradiction between the definition of regret and the synonym of repent. The definition says that regret is “beyond one’s control or power to repair,” but the Bible repeatedly tells us that repentance is the “power to repair” (regrets, guilt and shame). I just had this thought: If regretting and repenting were synonymous, repenting of something we regretted would be redundant. 

The Apostle Paul wrote; “…the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world (by Webster’s definition) produces death.” (spiritual, emotional and even physical death) (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Here’s an example of what Paul meant: Judas regretted betraying Jesus (Matthew 27:3), but he didn’t repent of his betrayal and his failure to repent “produced death.” Whereas Peter regretted denying Jesus (Matthew 26:75), but he repented and moved on.

Defeating the enemy

I know that Peter, Paul and all Christians regret mistakes and past wrongdoing, but if we truly believe that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), we’ll get to the place where our regrets no longer have the power to control our emotions; we’ll begin to put them into perspective by understanding how God is making good result from our failures.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, I’ve come to the conclusion that these feelings of oppressive regret and condemnation are not from God. I think that many of us won’t release these feelings of regret because we wrongly believe that to feel regret is to be repentant. But the Bible tells us that the Christian life is a spiritually and emotionally “abundant life;” a life of joy, peace and hope. These uplifting things that sustain us through even the most difficult trials cannot possibly coexist with feelings of guilt, regret and despair.

I believe the first step to putting your regrets behind you, where they belong, is to quit allowing them to attack your mind as a force – divide and conquer them. When regrets come to your mind, begin to categorize them. For instance, if the regret is over something that’s in your power to resolve; like apologizing to someone or paying back money you’ve borrowed etc, take the actions needed to resolve that regret. This category might be what the Bible calls “the conviction of the Holy Spirit,” which prompts us to act according to God’s will – it works with our conscience. It’s vital to resolve this category in order to have a good (guilt-free) relationship with God – “…if our conscience is clear, we can come to God with bold confidence.” (1 John 3:21 NLT)

Another category, which was a big “ghost” for me, was regrets I harbored regarding things I said or wished I had said to loved-ones that have passed away. I am no longer haunted by this ghost; he faded away when I realized that I don’t want my memory to evoke feelings of guilt and regret (for my family and friends) when I’m gone, and I know those that I’ve lost didn’t want me carrying around that burden either.

There are many other categories of regret;  parenting and relationship mistakes, bad investment mistakes, times we’ve sinned against God and hurt others and so on, but none of these categories controls my emotions any longer, and I believe it’s God’s will for every Christian to overcome oppressive feelings of guilt and regret.

You may wonder, as I did, what the source of these feelings of regret and false-guilt is if it’s not from God, as the Bible says – “…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

That means the source must be our carnal nature (“self-condemnation”) and/or an outside dark spiritual force. I believe it’s probably some of both. The Bible tells believers that our old nature is at war with our new nature: “…the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh…” (Galatians 5:17). The Bible also says that Satan is our “accuser” (Revelation 12:10) and that he attempts to negatively influence our mind, will and emotions through people and in other ways.

But regardless of what the source is, it’s clear that the last thing any negative source wants is for regretful thoughts to provoke thanks-giving to God, so this is the most powerful weapon against these things. Form a habit of thanking God for forgiving you (of the things you regret) every time a regret comes to mind. I promise you that the power these regrets have to cause sadness and feelings of shame and condemnation will begin to diminish and you will start to see your past in its proper context – God’s context.

The Apostle Paul is an excellent example of putting regrets in the proper context. He repeatedly referred back to his regrets of persecuting, imprisoning and even participating in the killing of Christians; he even said that he wasn’t even “fit to be called an apostle…” (1 Corinthians 15:9). But then he added the following words that I’ve adopted and hope every follower of Christ will apply to themselves – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain…” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

If we’re allowing our regrets to affect our joy, peace and hope, His grace is proving to be vain to us; we’re essentially telling Jesus that His suffering and death wasn’t enough to take away our former sins and mistakes. It’s a new year; it’s time to let your regrets go!

“…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“… one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

“You can’t go back and change the beginning,
but you can start where you are and change the ending.” C.S. Lewis

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ - Unshakable Hope!

Posted on January 21, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 195 Comments.

  1. This is a great post.. I truly need to learn this formula of overcoming regret and self condemnation.. I believe it is good to be mindful of our actions.. I asked forgiveness, but have trouble forgiving myself, going back many years of regret..
    I will be praying about this.. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Thank you for your comments, Mary Ann. I agree with you about being mindful of our actions, apart from this we would just keep doing things we’d later regret. I still have regrets, but they no longer haunt me or in any way keep me from moving forward. That’s the place you need to get to. Forgiving yourself is as simple as truly believing that God has forgiven you – He has. From now on, when that voice of self-condemnation rises up, begin to thank God for forgiving you. You’ll find that this voice will become weaker and weaker.

  2. Reblogged this on YAHWEH-NISSI.

  3. Well done and laid out needed message. Like paul we keep pressing towards the mark of the high calling. God began a good work in us and he is faithful to finish it. The past is just that the past. Godly repentance leads to joy. thank you for sharing that which is truth in Christ, which equates to freedom. Regretting says I’m not grateful to have arrived where the Lord has brought me. Amen. Keep sharing and letting your light shine

  4. Reblogged this on heartshabitation and commented:
    A good reminder for someone like me.

  5. This is beautifully freeing. Thank you. So nice to connect! Deb

  6. I love this post. So much wisdom and truth in this! Thank you!

  7. This helped me so much. I know you did not intend for that, you don’t even know me, but my understanding of God’s grace, forgiveness and not forging chains of regret is clearer. Thank you.

  8. Brilliant! Simply brilliant. Thank you.

  9. Our 15 month old baby was clearly not feeling well last Sunday. He started crying before we went to mass & throughout. I could tell his stomach was bothering him terribly but assumed it was just that – a very bad stomach ache from something he ate. My husband suggested we bring him to ER & I dismissed it assuming it was nothing major. We have him montrin & gas drops which seemed to calm him down a bit and then he threw up. Once he threw up, I was convinced I was right & it was his stomach. 4 days later his sac had swollen & was red and after a series of events we found out his testicles had twisted (must have been what the pain was on Sunday) & he had emergency surgery to remove the now dead testicle. We would have had 6-8 hrs from the time they twisted to get him to the hospital and they likely could have saved his testicle. I am devastated by my situation not to take him to the ER and therefore eliminating our chances of having saved his testicle. I know there was no way of knowing what exactly was going on but it doesn’t change the regret I feel as a mother for not better assessing the situation. Why couldn’t I just have gone along w/ husband when he suggested we go to the ER? I held my baby in church asking God what was wrong w/ him & then left mass convinced it was just his stomach. What I would have given for a sign from God that day telling me to bring him to the hospital? The regret I feel is overwhelming.

    • I’m so sorry for this horrible outcome. I think our greatest regrets are actions or inaction raising our kids. But, as you rightly said (“…I know there was no way of knowing what exactly was going on…”) This was an honest mistake. It’s obvious that you are a good mom and love your son very much (if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be haunted by this situation). What a great world it would be if every mom was as loving and caring as you are.
      (Forgive me for the delay in posting this, I just discovered several old comments).

  10. My Mom was ill for over a year. Our roles ended up reversed… Me feeling like the parent. I loved her dearly. I thought I did everything possible to make sure I would not have any regrets when she went to be with Jesus. Since she passed I have learned that the caregiving facility fooled me into thinking they really were taking care of her but in the end she was shamefully neglected and overmedicated.

    How does a Mother deal with having rationalized some of her concerns but then finding out later that her child wasn’t treated properly? That’s how I feel. But it too late to make it right.

    • I’m sorry that your mom passed away, especially under those circumstances, heartbreaking. But, you shouldn’t feel guilt or regret for something others did. Do you think your mom would want you carrying around this heavy burden of regret? No! I think she would want you to live your life in joy and peace, especially in regards to her memory. If I could look down from heaven after death, I don’t think I would be able to enjoy all the joy and peace that heaven offers if I knew one of my loved ones was living in regret. For your mom’s sake, live in joy and peace – throw this heavy burden off and never pick it up again.

  11. Thank you for your post and for reading my blog. It is hard to not look back and have some regrets, but as Christians we are meant to look forward with HOPE and FAITH and to keep our eyes towards Heaven looking for CHRIST’S return. May we all encourage each other to persevere! James 1: 2-3. May GOD BLESS YOU in all your writings.

  12. jeanie montgomery

    I have regrets of not raising my children right. my children are grown. If they had a better upbringing, they would have content lives and a solid foundation and direction because of knowing how to apply the Bible to their lives. I considered myself a Christian when raising my kids, I did not know the extent of living as a christian, nor did my husband. God blessed us with children and we abused That gift by Not raising them appropriately. On top of all that, we divorced. I never had an attitude when getting married to divorce. I couldn’t be more sorry for how my children had to live. Thank you for your help. I’m going to read these scripture verses and believe God will help me to live with out this constant reminder of how I did wrong.

    • Thank you for your heartfelt comments, Jeanie. We all make so many errors raising our kids. Just pray for them and be the best example of a Christian. And, if you feel it necessary, ask your children to forgive you of your parenting mistakes. Lastly, forgive yourself – this is so important.

  13. I could really relate to this post.. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  14. Wonderful words of wisdom my friend. My wife recently brought to my attention that I hav a tendency to live in,or dwell on the past far too much. Especially failures from the past. Like you,I know all the scriptures and have used them to encourage many over the past four decades.

    Still,when it comes to ourselves,it is not easy to let go of those failures and disappointments,especially when we are presented reminders of them.

    • Thank you, Ron.
      Yes, I think we all have a tendency to dwell too much on our past – so self-defeating. Of course we would have done things differently with the benefit of hindsight. We just need to press forward, Ron.

  15. Beautiful entry. Beautiful for the soul.

  16. New American Standard Bible
    And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
    Phil. 4:7
    What a wonderful look at the beauty offered to each born again new in Christ Jesus believer. This is the pure Gospel being lived.

    The war is on and truth such as this is a Christian strong weapon of the purest love. Keep up the good work brother. You are sharing your identification in Christ through suffering that purifies, in Christ. Your witness encourages me to be wiser and bold in living this life on earth. For now, God can use all disciples of Jesus to make a difference. Look forward to seeing you then Bill, but for now Bill, help teach me to love like our Lord.
    In Christ,

  17. I love the comparison to Judas not repenting and Peter moving on after repentance. Thanks, made me think, Graham

  18. Excellent post! We have all been held captive by regret of past (and current) mistakes and failures. These can pull us down to the depths where we have no business being if we are redeemed! Christ has set us free, thank you for explaining this so clearly! We know who our enemy is!

  19. Excellent piece. Clearly stated and grounded.

  20. This helped alot thank you

  21. Thank you for sharing this important, encouraging message, Bill. May the Lord use it to bless and bring peace and healing to many people, IJN
    God bless you! ~Suzanne

  22. You know, I’ve saved this on my computer to share with friends. It is highly relevant for abuse survivors, as we may wrestle for decades with physical, psychological, and emotional scars from the past. I have at times been tormented by regrets. That really is a tool the adversary uses to undermine our hope. As so many times before, you’ve hit it right on the head, Bill.

    Your friend,

    • Thank you, Anna. You’re right, regrets steal our hope.
      I’ve always been puzzled about the fact that innocent victims, like you, would feel regrets over abuse that occurred when they/you were defenseless children. Logically you know that the abuse wasn’t your fault, and I’m sure you tell yourself that over and over, but it still doesn’t register. Strange.
      Hey, Anna, it was not your fault, you have nothing to regret!

  23. Bill, thank you so much for this article. It is truly anointed word for hurting people suffering with guilt, shame and regret. I have been casting down this endless chatter in my head about regretful decisions and choices (not sins as I have walked with God a long time). I love your direction about thanking God for all He has done and is doing to take me past these mistakes. Praise God…He is able to fulfill His promises in spite of our mistakes. If a GPS can get us back on track, surely the God who created us, and is only for us, can.

    • Thank you, Karen. The “chatter in our head” is powerful and, if we believe it, we’ll end up hopeless and depressed. It’s difficult (at least for me) to simply ignore this chatter, we have to confront it with thanking and praising God…
      This is getting us back on track, Karen.

    • Anna
      I too am a christian that’s been battling with deep regret over a decision I made that is haunting me and I can’t seem to get over it and so wish I could turn the clocks back, It’s on my mind constantly
      It’s encouraging to know that other people go through similar feelings.

  24. It was good reading this again, Bill. I always draw spiritual nourishment from your posts. Your friend, A.

  25. Amen! Time to let those regrets go!

  26. tank u vry much 4 dis piec of encouragment cus 4 d past 18 monts i hav bin livin in mental tucho do 2 what i fald 2 relis ontime i hv bin filin gulty even afta confesin 2 god. d enemy makin me fil ashame of myself.

  27. Christine Lomas

    Thank you so much Bill for your words on regrets. For the last 6 months I have felt really unhappy and depressed over something I did and wish I could go back and change, but can’t. It’s haunted me every day and the accusing voice in my head wouldn’t leave me. I have been stuck in the past re-living the event over and over. In spite of reading the Bible and many other words relating to forgiving oneself etc, on the internet, I have found little comfort, because I was repeatedly condemning myself for the mistake I made. Then I found your website and now after reading your words, I feel God has finally managed to break through to my heart! I still feel rather fragile after battling this depression alone, but I feel I can finally move forward into the light with God’s help. For the first time in what seems like forever, I feel a real sense of peace which is truly wonderful.

    Your own story and the way you have found real hope and comfort from God will never leave me.

    Thank you and God bless you!

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Christine. We must learn to forgive ourselves, which, I believe, is really the same as accepting God’s forgiveness. The best method for doing this is to begin to thank God (for forgiveness and for helping us move forward…) whenever those feelings of guilt or regret arise. For me this became a great habit that has really helped me move forward.

  28. Thank you so much for this but may i just clarify that all the advises you gave can also apply if my regrets is not necessarily bad or sinful? I regret that I didnt go the my desired university and degree that it always haunts me to a point that im having so much bitterness if i see people who i knew they went to that university i just feel so much envy and it made me regret my career path and feltvi wasted all my college years. It really is more bad than it looks and you may think a way to solve this is to save money and go to your university and its never too late bla bla but its just way too complicated than that and it will only be impractical (long story) I always just pray for peace of mind and acceptance for what i cannot change. Always but yeah, it still haunts me.

    • Thank you for your comments, Johan. I totally agree with you – many, if not most, of my regrets were not “sinful,” but I still have to forgive myself and press on.

  29. Willie bunting

    I have been struggling with many regrets for past year. Things I wished I had done more of in terms of helping my mom, dad, and even ex deceased husband. Regrets over my daughter’s childhood that could have been better had I made better decisions. Nothing really major or serious, just wishing I could do or say some things again…a different way. I can’t begin to tell you how much this article has helped me. Thnx so much..God bless.

    • Thank you for your comments. In one sense, I think the fact that we have regrets says something good about us – self-righteous and self-absorbed people generally don’t have regrets about not doing enough for others. We can transform our regrets into doing better now and in the future.

  30. the article has reli impacted ma lyf

  31. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I hadn’t given much thought to the difference between ‘regret’ and ‘repent’ until this article.

  32. I always find great wisdom in your posts, Bill. Regrets can be a real challenge for me. At times, my guilt (sometimes genuine, sometimes groundless) presses in on me, though I know we are forgiven. Thank you for this reassurance.

  33. This was so good! It really blessed me. Thank you for sharing it.


  34. I just read this post again. It is so true and something each of us need to embrace. To continually regret is to always live in a world of mental turmoil. To repent of past wrongs and to stop regretting the past allows the brightness of the future to shine through our lives. Thanks for your post and for you.

  35. Oh, my! This is good, needed reminders to me. I have lived off and on as the reigning Queen of Regrets for years. I have all this in head knowledge, but the transfer to heart is something else again!

    • I know what you mean, at one time I felt like the king of regrets, but not anymore. I agree with you about the need to transfer the head knowledge to our heart, it’s a matter of truly believing we’re forgiven and God can even use the things we regret for good – He can’t do this if we’re still holding onto these things.

  36. Awesome blog and thank you! I used to really struggle with these things too, but then I read Prison to Praise and it changed my whole way of thinking about trials and regrets. God is powerful in ALL things. Bless you.

    • Hi Debbie,
      Thank you for your comments. As I mentioned in my most recent post (Opportunities in Trials), trials really can feel like we’re serving a prison sentence so I totally get the name of that book.

      • Yes, I can too. The author actually was in prison as well and had become a Christian just prior to that. He has quite a story of how God changed his life. He ended up being a Chaplain in the army and God used Him in a really big way. The book is only 75 pages and well worth reading. God bless you and I look forward to reading more of your blogs. Thank you.

  37. Your words are like seeds that come back and reproduce yearly! I know I read this one last year, but this year this post helped me just now, more than you will ever know! Thank you!!!!

  38. Great post, great topic – I especially like the following. It is real and so often we don’t realize that the war efforts of the devil, the evil one, the dark spiritual force can be defeated with God’s help. To beat this by oneself is mostly impossible. With God’s help we can become what He desires for us. Without it we wonder aimlessly many time not even realizing the path we are on. Thanks for your words.

    “That means the source must be our carnal nature (“self-condemnation”) and/or an outside dark spiritual force. I believe it’s probably some of both. The Bible tells believers that our old nature is at war with our new nature: “…the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh…” (Galatians 5:17). The Bible also says that Satan is our “accuser” (Revelation 12:10) and that he attempts to negatively influence our mind, will and emotions through people and in other ways.”

  39. I just heard a bit of a sermon on the radio today while driving on the topic of regret. So when I saw the title of this post in an email notification, I just had to read it. Wonderful insight! You are so right and I am sure you have helped many people move forward from the debilitating place of regret.

    The thing about regret is that when we look back on those times, we are looking back with knowledge, spiritual and emotional maturity that we did not possess at the time. Thanks for your insightful post.

  40. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I agree so much with what you said. So many of us get stuck on our regrets and they can be so crippling in our future if we are not careful. Here is a sermon that is a great follow up to this blog


  41. Great topic and in agreement this is an area where we all get a little stuck looking back. You are absolutely right in the reminder that regrets become a stronghold for Satan and his attempts to keep us held in a “mental hostage” situation. Thank you for this insight as it helps us to continue to renew our minds in the forgiveness of Christ. ~Amen: Y

  42. Thank you so much Bill …. words of great comfort … “Form a habit of thanking God for forgiving you (of the things you regret) every time a regret comes to mind.” … such simple advice; but so powerful and true. God bless.

  43. Thank you for this post. Regret is a place so many of us get stuck. You offer a gentle and well-reasoned reminder that our joy and abundance are the gifts that best serve God.

    Thank you too for visiting http://www.walkingwithmybrother.com. My life for the last couple of months has been in hyper-drive with my time online pre-empted by long ‘to-do’ lists, but there’s light gleaming at the end of this tunnel and I look forward to returning soon to active participation with everyone.

    Blessings in the meantime on your work and contributions to lifting us all a bit higher. Mary Adrienne

  44. I have gratefully read this post more than once. It is especially meaningful to abuse survivors like myself. Regret and self-condemnation are frequent scars of abuse. We can feel that our childhood was stolen, yet mistakenly take on the guilt of the predator. Christ offers us a way to move beyond the scars.



    • Thank you for your powerful input, Anna. I have always been mystified about the guilt and self-condemnation that victims of abuse feel. I just know that none of us can move past warranted or unwarranted guilt and regret until we feel forgiven. Jesus is the only outlet for that kind of healing.

  45. Wonderfully wise post on regret and repentence brings a great deal of relief. Thank you for sharing your great faith x

  46. Very provocative piece on repentance vs regret, filled with much godly wisdom. Your comparison of Peter’s & Judas’ betrayals was excellent. Judas could have been forgiven, if he had godly sorrow 2Co7:10.

    Then in the bigger picture, billions who are, or will unnecessarily go to everlasting fire will have regrets, but sadly it would be too late to repent!

    Thanks for following my blog. I see that you made a post on ‘It is Finished’. In my next post God’s Eternal Purpose in Christ Jesus, I wrote on God’s eternal purpose vs His temporal purposes which are Finished already!

    Drgold http://drgoldsite.wordpress.com

  47. What a wonderful way to discover peace! There’s an expression I truly enjoy and I don’t know with 91 comments, if anyone has already said it but it goes, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and then to discover . . . the prisoner is you.”

    I saw many of my patients holding on to regret and not forgive themselves, stuffing that pain deep inside. That takes a great deal of unnecessary energy. What a relief to discard it and put our faith in the one who knows us intimately and loves us anyway, faults and all. For I know Who holds my future and He will direct my paths. I’ve learned to trust in Genesis 50:20. Blessings,

  48. Reblogged this on The Edge of the Wilderness and commented:
    A favorite post from a favorite blog. The title says it all. And Jesus has paid it all.
    Thank you Lord, for mercy, grace, forgiveness!

  49. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as
    I provide credit and sources back to your blog? My website is in the very same area of
    interest as yours and my users would certainly benefit from a lot of the information you present here.
    Please let me know if this ok with you. Cheers!

  50. You are welcome!! And thank you!! Many blessings from the Lord!!

  51. Well said!! God bless you and your ministry!!

  52. so how is the repent \regret working for ya,I have no regrets for I’v repented and now love what has been gifted to me[for some sin] willful or not and for me cancer now the adventure of tuning intonot having to ask and give thanks for seeing the simple blessings linda

  53. So glad we can always turn to God and he is there to see us through it all. We fall down but as long as we keep getting up we are winners. God can clean up our regrets and we just need to learn from them.

  54. I have really been struggling with this lately. Thank you for a great teaching!

  55. This is where I live too often. Thank you for such a good discussion. It rings true to me and will be really beneficial, I think, as apply your suggestions! Diane

    • Thank you, Diane. I know thanking God (for forgiving us and helping us to move ahead…) when our regrets come to mind, really helped me and I know it will work for every believer!

  56. I thought this was a very helpful, informative and interesting post. Thank you!

  57. No regrets for me. My life is preordained by God and it’s up to me to take it or leave it. For as long as I am in His grace, no regrets. God bless you and your family.

  58. Thank you for sharing this with me! I loved how practical this was in fleshing out ways to help overcome regrets. My friend has a saying he uses a lot which states, “become practically what you are positionally.” This was an awesome example of what we are positionally in Christ, and how to practically make that happen! Thank you so much! It was a blessing to read!

    • Thank you, Marissa. I like your friend’s quote. You know, it seems so simple, but putting this in to practice is a challenge for all of us – believing God’s word, what He says about who we are in Christ, over what we “feel” ourselves. I am convinced that this is how we overcome complacency, sin, a poor self-image, and regrets.

  59. This was a timely post for me to read. I was visited by the ‘ghost’ of regret this week. It was over something I had repented of and knew I was forgiven for. But, I began to mull over what I had done and who I have hurt. I was so bothered by it, that my husband recognized something was eating at me. I told him what was going through my head and he reminded me that I am forgiven. I replied, “If only we could forgive and forget as easily as God does.” So, thank you so much for your post! It has encouraged me and reminded me of God’s everlasting grace. 🙂

    • Your husband is a wise man! As I wrote in the post, I too have had regrets that I knew (from God’s word) I was forgiven for, but they still haunted me. I found that thanking God for forgiving me (when these regrets would trouble me) was by far the most effective weapon for combating false-guilt. I know it will work for you!

  60. Reblogged this on anne2ken's pillow and commented:
    The post contains such empowering thoughts. 😀

  61. This is so true! I think sometimes believers so easily fall into the category of continued grief over particular things. In truth, its easy to fall into to. But we don’t want to be like Judas who regretted it and then death came. But rather Paul who truly repented and moved on. (As you said). Thank you for the great post and reminder to repentance and leave the regret behind us. For God has forgiven us, if we confess, and he does not condemn.

    • Yes, I think it’s natural for us to allow our regrets to haunt us, but doing so is basically legalism; not accepting Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. I have to remind myself that, in addition to being the sin offering, Jesus was also the guilt offering.

  62. This was so timely for me today, Bill.
    Thank you for your sensitivity and wisdom…

  63. Thanks for this post, Bill. This is something I’ve struggled with. I’m definitely going to try your advice. God bless!

  64. I have been living with and meditating on this post since you posted it. It really speaks to my condition at my stage of life. I do believe God has forgiven me. I think my own disappointment in myself for being so weak and so blind hangs me up. And that is pride raising its ugly head again. Your point about being actively and specifically grateful for forgiveness for each of our failures is the most helpful thing I’ve heard. Thank you.

    • Thank you for your comments, Eileen. I do think the potential for harboring regrets increases with age, but I don’t think this is only because we have more years behind us and have more things to regret etc. I think it also has to do with our increasing in wisdom, knowledge and understanding; we tend to view our past through the prism of here and now; it’s not really fair to ourselves – of course we wouldn’t have made those mistakes if we had the wisdom, knowledge and understanding we have now.

  65. This is a very encouraging post. I have a journey of struggling with regret. I think sometimes I struggle because I am afraid of going back and apologizing or trying to make things right. And often I struggle with things I know I simply can’t make right. Of course, no sin can actually be reconciled without Christ. This is a very encouraging post. I do feel like Satan had a dark habit of bringing up my sin to try to get me to experience regret and rob me of repentance, joy, peace, love. Thank you.

    • Thank you for your comments. I do think fear (of facing our past) does contribute to keeping us trapped in our regrets. I don’t believe we have to go back in time and right every wrong, even if it were possible to do so. Fortunately the people we’ve wronged have made mistakes in their past too and for that reason they’re usually more forgiving of us than we give them credit for. But if that mistake in our past is impacting our life now, like a severed relationship, we need to right that wrong so we can move ahead guilt-free.

  66. Reblogged this on gracestories and commented:
    Excellent message for me, and I know it will bless others, too.

  67. You said, “The definition says that regret is “beyond one’s control or power to repair,” but the Bible repeatedly tells us that repentance is the “power to repair””

    I love this! It shows the distinct contrast between the worldly and the Godly. Also, sort of in the same vein as this, have you noticed how the wonderfully healing art of restitution (There is a better word for it but I can’t think of it right now.) has completely disappeared from our culture? (Except in court ordered situations) I know that when a person regrets causing pain to someone else, they should of course repent, but then also go the extra mile to try and make up for it, mainly I’m referring to situations in marriages dealing with trust. It is awfully hard to gain trust once it has been lost. Restitution makes it easier because it shows the offending persons acknowledgement of the gravity of the wrong committed.

    • Thank you for your interesting comments, Sam. It is amazing to me how the dictionary and Biblical definitions (of regret) differ.
      I think the word you were looking for is penitence or being penitent, which is demonstrating that you have genuinely repented of something. It’s what John the Baptist called “showing the fruits of repentance.” If forgiveness is first and the observation of the “good works” comes after, that’s proper; if a man claims he’s repented of beating his wife and she’s still coming to work with bruises and black eyes, we should obviously question the sincerity of his repentance. The problem is that many churches have placed the “fruits” (of repentance) in front of the confession of repentance, which is legalism; salvation by works. As Paul said, this makes Christ’s sacrifice useless.

  68. Hi Bill. This is a beautiful post. I hope this finds you well, this evening! God’s Peace!

  69. – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain…” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
    For the very first time in over twenty years I think I can finally be free of the guilt I have had over my divorce. Even though I have almost been remarried for twenty years since then… I have never ever heard a sermon or a verse that has totally set me free.
    Thank you

  70. Very thoughtful and thought provoking! Oh the ‘pit of regret’ as has been mentioned, can be all consuming. It truly is a commitment and choice to turn those feelings around….or as you say ‘divide and conquer’. Wonderful post, thoughts and comments!

  71. Thank you for this excellent teaching and truth. I took notes. God bless you and your ministry.

  72. Reblogged this on Faith, Life and Compassion and commented:
    We don’t have to keep hold of our regrets just to prove we’re sorry. I’ve had that same thought. Thank you, Bill, for expressing something I could never quite put into words.

  73. Great post, and I loved the Scriptural focus. I used to live in a constant state of regret. One day I realized I was focusing all my attention on an option that doesn’t exist – wishing I hadn’t done or said what I did or said.

    When I looked at my real-life options, I found I was often choosing bad options – stew over what I did, sit there and wish I’d done something differently, etc, etc – all pointless and depressing options.

    You mentioned we should confess our sins and make restitution if possible if we’re regretful because of sin – I came to the conclusion that that’s all I could do – and all that God required me to to do when my regret was over my own sin – after all, I couldn’t go back and take back my actions (if only!).

    Thank God He loves us, forgives, us and gives us grace!

    For the regret occasions that aren’t over my own sin, I try to rest on the promise that God brings good out of all things.

    And I love your thankfulness idea – I always need to be reminded to be thankful! It’s hard to dwell on regret in the middle of a thanking God for all He has done for you session!

  74. Jennifer Stepanski

    Love you Bill………thank you so much for your words.
    WOW. Praise God. Blessings 2 U. Jennifer

  75. bill, i LOVE the divide and conquer idea? what a wonderfully practical way to make it more doable to “set down” or “let go” of regrets. definitely going to apply that! –kris

  76. It’s hard to move forward if we are always looking back, thank you for sharing 🙂

  77. Thank you for this brilliant post Bill. I am going to send this to two elderly gentlemen in my life. One a christian, one a non-believer. We all have regrets, no matter our beliefs. I am also going to print it out and refer to it often whenever sorrow from the past over something I regret rears its ugly head. Thank you so much for following my blog also. God bless you.

    • Thank you. I think focusing on regrets is a big problem for the elderly; most of their life is behind them and I think all of us, but especially the elderly, tend to give our regrets more credit and power (for our perceived failures…) than they deserve. Timing, circumstances and other things that we had no control over, play a big part in our not being in the place we think we should be.

  78. Amen! Thank you so much for reminding me of the wonderful promises of Jesus in the Scriptures you shared. I appreciate how the Word of God is central in this hope-filled piece that you wrote. God bless you.

    • Thank you. My posts usually end up being longer than I intended, but probably 40 percent of the word count is scripture references I’ve copied. I feel they’re necessary and I’m glad that you seem to think so too.

  79. Just what I needed, thanks so much for the inspiring and practical post! 🙂

  80. Our FATHER and our LORD CHRIST JESUS bless you with a double portion of all you and your family stand in need of and more. I so enjoyed reading your blog and I encourage you to continue to write about hope. So many people have lost hope or have no idea what hope is. JESUS is the hope that we look towards; it’s because of HIM that I have hope in all that HE has promised to me. I look forward to your future writings.

  81. I think you’ve hit upon an important truth here. I am praying for someone who regrets something she’s done and is only now beginning to be repentant. I think her life will start moving forward now. The other part of this is that the people she hurt will begin to forgive her, and from her repentance, she will start to forgive herself. What I think will help her through all of this is when she realizes that God has forgiven her of her sin as well! Thank you for this lesson in truth, Bill!

    • I hope she won’t wait for everyone she’s hurt to forgive her before she moves on – we cannot allow the reluctance of others to forgive hold us captive to our regrets. We must acknowledge that we’ve hurt them, ask them to forgive us, to the best of our ability right the wrongs committed and of course ask God to forgive us. That’s everything we can do except, as you said, believe that God has forgiven us.

      • You are right of course. It is easier to forgive when we see a changed life. But it is hard to come to a place to ask forgiveness, unless restitution is made and when the folks wronged will see sincerity.

  82. excellent piece on regret
    Thanks for sharing

  83. Thank you, Bill. This is beautifully written.

  84. Thank you, Bill….for reminding us that in a sense, “regret” isn’t biblical. God provides a way of escape from this life-sucking hold that the enemy uses so effectively.

    King David was a man forced to live with the consequences o his own irreversible poor choices. His sin was ever before him and feelings of regret had the potential of haunting him forever, leaving him spiritually incapacitated and useless to God. Psalm 51 reveals that David found a better way to life – a way of cleansing and being washed by the forgiveness of God. So confident was David in the promise of God’s forgiveness that he sang, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” (v. 12)

    We can, indeed, refuse to be crippled by regret.

    I always look forward to your posts! Thank you for your insightful observations.

    • Thank you, Diane. King David is the perfect example of leaving regrets behind – he certainly had plenty of regrets. Like Peter and Paul, David repented of his regrets and moved ahead. But, like Judas, king Saul had regrets, but did not repent and he was miserable and, also like Judas, ended up committing suicide. Sad!

  85. Thank you Bill for lending clarity to the otherwise muddy waters of regret. At the end of the day (according to Paul), “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6b) Giving thanks to God for His infinite mercies is the only way to fly!

  86. This hit home..I am so quickly ready to jump into the “pit” of regret when things aren’t the way I would like them to be in the present. The “If only I hadn’t” thoughts are a quick way to slide down the slippery slopes of anxiety and depression. I just thank God for his marvelous grace. I also thank you for the reminder because this is a great example of encouraging one another 🙂


  87. Thank you for the reblog!

  88. Thank you very much for the re-blog and for your kind words, my friend.

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