I talk to single Christians all the time, both men and women, who have regrets. Deep regrets. Terrible memories of something they did or something they allowed.
I hear it all the time.
Often it is heartbreaking, what one person can put themselves through in a few years, a few months, a few minutes, that will drastically affect them for the rest of their lives.
Didn’t go to college.
Didn’t finish college.
Picked the wrong major or degree.
Lived with someone in a romantic relationship and it broke up horribly, whether or not they got married.
Didn’t marry so-and-so.
Had a child by some jerk they’re no longer living with, and now he won’t pay child support.
Got an abortion.
Gave up a child through adoption or abandonment.
Left a great paying job or finishing college to follow your love interest to another area, even another state or another country, only to have that relationship disintegrate.
Took that job.
Didn’t take that job.
Lost a job through bad choices.
Didn’t follow God’s calling into missions or ministry.
Said something horrible to someone. Or about someone.
Didn’t apologize before someone died.
Used illicit drugs.
Got into an accident and it was their own fault. Maybe somebody died in that accident, someone they loved.
Went to prison.
Should have gone to prison.
Gave large sums of money to someone who turned out to be a real scoundrel and crook.
Bought a house.
Sold a house.
Paid for their children’s and watched them waste/destroy it.
Wasted an inheritance or a large win on stupid and temporary things.
Really, the list is as endless as there are different people in the world.
How about you? If there was only one decision that you could take back and completely re-do, what would that be?
I bet many of you knew right away what your Big Regret was.
Some of those memories are never far from the forefront of your thoughts. The really bad ones are fresh, or so big that they impact your current day-to-day choices and make you stumble all over everything.
Regret is a horrible thing to endure in the back of your mind, day in and day out. The devil loves to keep anyone, but especially God’s people, under the trapping grip of Regret.
If he can get you saying, “If only… if only… if only…” you won’t make any positive progress forward into God’s future for you. If he can keep you paralyzed, or thinking that you don’t deserve anything better because of that one stupid thing you did, he’s done his job. The enemy loves it when you do that.
Now, you must know, my friend, that living under the trapping grip of regret is completely unnecessary.
Here is a secret that not every disciple of the Lord knows and lives by: the Lord often—but not always—allows do-overs. But He does allow them. Let me explain, my single, Christ-following friend.
I’ve seen a lot of Christian articles that talk about the God of the second chance. I understand what they’re trying to say: That the Lord is merciful, gracious, loving, and kind, and He will give us another chance to get something right. They point to the patriarchs of the Jewish faith in Genesis—men like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—as well as folks like Peter, and say see how God gave them a chance to do it over?
Be warned: there is actually sometimes a limit to what we can do over. I want to modify that “God of the second chance” viewpoint to align to a more balanced, biblical perspective.
The first thing to consider is that there are many times when the Lord will allow us only one opportunity to make a significant decision to trust and obey God. Whichever way you go, whether good or bad, know that you will face a blessing or a consequence. Choose wisely.
Remember when Abraham, the father of the faith, chose to listen to his wife Sarah and fathered a son through her handmaid, Hagar (Genesis 12:1-3 and chapter 16)? The Lord still allowed him to father another son, Isaac, who ended up being the heir promised many years ago through Sarah. However, the consequences of having this other son through Hagar remain with us in the form of Israel’s present and very active enemies all over the Middle East.
Remember Ananias and Saphira in the New Testament (Acts 5:1-16)? They both lied separately to Peter, saying that all the money they were donating to the church in one transaction was what they actually sold their property for. They each died immediately, though at separately times, for lying to the Holy Spirit.
It looks like when it comes to sin, He may or may not release us from the natural consequences of our poor choices. Sinful choices do not represent Him at all, especially after you become a Christian, and He takes the misrepresentation of His character and nature seriously.
When I was a young believer, we had a girl in our singles group who was a brand new Christian. She openly told us that, as a non-believer, she went to college to get her MRS degree. She slept around with many men without contraception and never got pregnant. The first time she had sex 2 years after she became a Christian, she got pregnant with twins. We never forgot that.
So reminding yourself that each and every decision has implications and consequences is one thing to consider.
Another thing to consider is that the Lord is the God of Resurrection, not reincarnation. He always starts from where you are and raises you to restart your life.
He resurrects people and redeems their pasts.
Joel 2:25 originally spoke comfort to the nation of Israel, but may be generalized to us as believers:
“The Lord says, ‘I will give you back what you lost
to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts,
the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts.
It was I who sent this great destroying army against you.’ (NLT)”
You know that verse that many people love to hate, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (NLT)? That also applies right here.
Over and over again, we see the Lord raising the dead back to their last state to restart. Elijah raised a dead boy back to life as a boy, not a baby or a man (1 Kings 17:17-24). His mother didn’t get to do anything over. God resurrected a dead man when his body was thrown onto the dry bones of the prophet Elisha in a grave (2 Kings 13:20-21). Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter back to life, but her dad didn’t get to do anything over, either (Luke 8:52-56).
A new start from where He begins you sounds considerably better to me than going right back to the same old decision tree and possibly making the same stupid mistake again! The next thing to consider will help to prevent this.
A third thing to consider is that He wants you to learn and grow from your mistakes and poor choices (Philippians 3:14-16), or even others’ mistakes and poor choices (1 Corinthians 10:11). “If you do not learn from your past, you will be doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana, The Life of Reason. He was not a believer, but the quote is very appropriate).
It seems to me that, rather than bring back the sorry old values, ungodly influences, and limited insights you brought to bear on your previous choices, the Lord wants to make you new. He wants to bring new life, values, influences, and insights—His life, values, influences, and insights, actually—into your life so that you will make a better, godly, truly more informed choice next time (Ezekiel 36:26-27, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Jesus said He came to give us life, and that life, more abundantly (John 10:10). Part of that abundance is accessing God’s wisdom and enjoying the fruit of healthy and godly decisions. He wants us to have a teachable spirit so that we do not continue causing ourselves the same old problems (Proverbs 9:9, 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 5:5, 2 Peter 1:8-9).
Having said all this, I want you to know, my dear Christ-following single friends, that the Lord sees your heart and your desire to please Him, honor His name, and serve His kingdom. He will redeem your past and allow you to make decisions that are more honoring to Him and beneficial to your long-term best interests.
We do not have to keep repeating the same mistakes. And we don’t have to make as many new ones!
Christian singles, we don’t have to keep dating the same wrong types of persons any more. People who drain us, use us, and are no good for us; who take and never give back to us, who won’t honor or encourage who we are in Christ.
Christian singles, we don’t have to keep pining away for an education or a cruise or an adopted child or a house or a missions trip. We can pray and proceed with His best heart for us.
Christian singles, we don’t have to keep spending money frivolously or wasting time foolishly, making poor choices with the resources He has given us to manage for Him.
Christian singles, we don’t have to wallow in guilt and regret and keep looking in the rear view mirror of our lives while God is trying to move us forward into His future for us. In real life, how far do you think you would get trying to drive forward only looking at your rear view mirror? Well then, why do you think you can do it spiritually?
I for sure haven’t made 100% perfect choices, but one thing I think I’ve done right is not marry the wrong man. I’m not looking for the perfect man, but I am waiting on the Lord, not on man, for the right choice for me. I do not want to ruin my future nor his by grabbing what I think I can get, but outside the will of God.
I have watched many, many marriages fail, up close and personal, from lead pastors to close friends. I can see the faulty foundations and poor choices which some of the divorces came from, but I cannot condemn them in any way. I understand that marriage is hard work, even when you are in love. I cannot guarantee I would not make the same, or even worse, mistakes, in any marriage I consent to. I might even cause it to fail.
To better improve the chances that I won’t divorce, get myself killed, become enslaved in a bad marriage, or have to go to prison due to his poor behavior, I will wait on God’s wisdom, timing, and insights to guide and guard me. I will allow myself to continue to be trained in communication and conflict resolution skills as well as other needed abilities so that I will have more to pour into my marriage when I meet him than I do right now.
The wrong marriage would be a huge regret that I don’t want. So I will continue to wait on the Lord as I go about my life. Life is too short for me, and it’s too short for you, to keep yourself tied to regrets, and I want to create as few as possible, by God’s grace.
May you live, breathe, move, love, choose wisely, and not regret, by the power of God.