In Part 1, I started talking about the question, How are we going to live life without having regrets? Jesus said, “More than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants”. (Matthew 6:33 – CEV). I said also that it would be nice in life if we had a rewind button—but we don’t.
But we have a God of second chances, of course, and therefore, whatever regrets we may have, we can, because of God’s astonishing grace, live free from regret. But life is not easy—we have to make choices all the time.
Maybe that’s why Robert Frost’s 1915 poem The Road Not Taken is so well-known:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both.
I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in the woods, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Our lives are defined by choices we make, and sometimes we experience regret because of a poor choice. What about the choice your parents made, in the school you attended or friends you met? Those choices were made by your parents, and hopefully they were OK. But as we get older and realise we won’t live on this earth forever, the top regret people have is, I wish I had.
Of all the sayings of mice and men, the saddest is ‘what might have been’. Coming to the end of life and saying, I wish I had. How many people have attended a funeral or stood at the graveside of a loved one thinking, Why didn’t I spend more time with him/her? Why did we have sharp words that drove us apart?
If we are going to live a life in which we leave no regrets, we need to have courage. Sometimes that means taking a risk, even if failure is the outcome. At least we had a go. Unfortunately many of us like to play everything safe, afraid of stepping out into the unknown.
Admitting to Our Failures
In those moments of regret, you may feel it’s too hard to move on. But in order to recover from failure, we need to admit we’ve failed. For many this is the hardest thing to do, but until we admit our failures without excuses, we won’t be able to find our way back.
What’s your first reaction when you know we’ve failed? It probably is to run away, and not face up to the situation—we don’t want to face it, we want to forget it or ignore it. Now, I imagine that’s a common reaction for most of us.
Or we rationalise and excuse our failure. It’s amazing how good we can be at finding ways to escape from blame when we have failed. It’s very common to hear people these days blaming all their failures on others. Our parents, our social status, or our bad breaks. Yes, we can find lots of scapegoats, when we’re forced to acknowledge that we’ve failed. But as long as we refuse to take the responsibility and be held accountable for our failures, we will be unable to recover from them.
Why not simply admit to God that you’ve failed?
When you’ve truly confessed your failure to God with a repentant heart and found his forgiveness—as of course you will—then ask him if there is someone else to whom you must admit your failure and/or ask for forgiveness. This is hard to do, I know, but it is really a necessary step in recovering from failure.
Then analyse your failure so you can learn from it. We need to retrace our steps and discover precisely where we made the first mistake that led to the failure. What was the first standard we lowered? What are the biblical principles we ignored? In this way, we can very precisely confess our failures to God, and know exactly where we need to strengthen our lives to prevent that same pattern from occurring again.
Are you trying to recover from failure? It may be that you are wasting a lot of time and energy beating yourself over the head, feeling guilty, wallowing in regret instead of learning from your failures and moving forward. God does not want you to live in regret—and though our lives do not have rewind buttons, we have a God of grace who is able to help us recover and go forward.
Once you’ve faced the failure, confessed it as your own, and tried to analyse the steps which led to that failure, then the next step is to understand that Jesus has the power and the desire to redeem you from that failure and from living in regret.
It might be good to memorise Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV):
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Don’t give up and don’t live in regret. God has something better for you.