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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death (2 Corinthians 7:10, esv).

I won’t just assume you’ve had some regrets. I know you have. Because we all have. Only a pathological liar could ever look someone squarely in the face and say, “Everything in my life has gone according to plan.”

But for the believer, regret is not a place where you have to live. It’s unavoidable, yes. In a sense it’s inevitable. But you don’t have to be ruined by regret if you resolve it while you can and don’t let it take you to despair.

“Regret is not a place where you have to live.”

Living a life without regret is actually possible. In fact, it’s the life that God intends for people who’ve experienced His mercy and forgiveness. You can leave your regrets behind and move forward into the grace of God. But whether you’ll do it or not boils down to the difference between repentance and rationalization. Only if you’ll stop the pretense of explaining it all away will you start seeing the prospect of a brighter future, of “salvation without regret.”

Because, really, all the mechanisms that keep regret so firmly attached to us are tangled up in our dodgy reactions to what we’ve done. There are marriages today being ruined, not by things that are happening right now, but by mistakes in the past and by lots of stuff in the background that’s never been resolved. There are people failing in their careers today, not because they’re not smart enough to do their job or because they lack opportunity to excel, but because they’re refusing to fully resolve a regrettable mistake in their past, and it’s sapping away their focus from the present.

Are you one of those people? If so, the problem isn’t likely that you’re still repeating the same slipups that got you here. But as long as you persist with your reasons and excuses, you’ll remain trapped in a downward spiral of regret.

Which one of these common cover-ups are you clinging to?

  • Deny it. Just pretend the problem isn’t there, isn’t real, and never really happened. Everything’s fine. There’s nothing to talk about or resolve, because nothing is the matter.
  • Run from it. Avoid the people and places where the truth can be known about you. Take refuge in a new hiding place. And when you feel the heat getting close to you again, you can always run off somewhere else—to another church, another town, another set of friends . . .
  • Blame-shift it. You admit there’s a problem, but it’s not your fault. They’re the ones who caused it. They’re the ones who ought to be worried about what they’ve done—your parents, your boss, your spouse, your kids. Anybody could be the cause of your problems—as long as it’s not you.
  • Excuse it. This is probably the most common one. You hate what you did, yes, but considering what all was on you at the time . . . considering the circumstances you were dealing with . . . considering that other people have done a lot worse things than you’ve done . . . you really couldn’t have helped it, all things considered.

Regret is such a liar. It traps you in your past. It wants to be rationalized, rather than dematerialized. But the most destructive things in your life are not the things you once did. They’re the things you still do instead of doing the things you must do after failing.

Don’t live in regret. Pursue godly repentance, and leave regret behind.

Journal

  • As bad as it feels and as much pain as it causes, why does regret often seem like the safest place to live?
  • Who’s someone you know who appears to live in “salvation without regret”? What do you learn from them?

Pray
Lord, You know the lengths to which I’ve gone in trying to deny, run from, blame-shift, and make excuses for the things I regret. Thank You for keeping all those attempts fruitless and frustrating. Thank You for offering me a path to freedom that can only be found in You and no other way. Thank You for wanting me turned loose from all the restraints of my regrets, and for making Your salvation complete enough to save me, truly, from everything that would ensnare me. By Your grace I ask You to grant to me the “godly grief” that leads to repentance, and the resulting life that reflects the joy of Your salvation. I praise You in the matchless name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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