Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
What was Frank Sinatra really trying to say in his song “My Way”? Remember the lyrics? “Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention”. I’m not sure what he was getting at, but I do know that having regrets is part of life.
Nearly everyone—if they were honest—would say, Yes, I have a few regrets. I’ve done some things in my life I regret. It’s part and parcel of life. And then there’s the familiar statement, If only. Have you said that, too?:
- If only I had more money.
- If only my children would do what I ask.
- If only my husband would not spend so much of our money.
They’re a few examples of regrets and ‘if only’ .
But there is hope, and it comes from a loving God who says, I can help you deal with your regrets.
In the classic movie On the Waterfront, Marlon Brando played the part of Terry Malloy, a dock worker who is deeply troubled over his actions when he deliberately lost a boxing match. You might remember the scene. He regrets having bowed to the mob’s pressure and says, “I could have been a contender instead of a bum, which is what I am”.
We All Have Some Regrets
Everyone has regrets of one kind or another. It usually involves feeling bad about something you wish you had done differently. Psychologists talk about the regret of inaction and action. Inaction is like being a student at school wasting time instead of studying. Years later you may say, I wish I had applied myself better at school. You regret your lack of discipline. Or there’s the feeling of remorse for something we did when we wish we hadn’t. You may receive a speeding fine when you should have slowed down and taken notice of the speed zone.
Christian leader and sociologist Tony Campolo tells of a study he did with 50 people who were aged 95 or over. They were asked, What would you do differently if you could live your life over again? Their most common answer was, “We would take more time to reflect on the meaning of life”. The second most common answer was, “We would take more risks”.
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The past is history, and we only have today in which to live.
I would like to suggest that with faith in God, feelings of regret can be transformed. How do I know that? Listen to God’s Word in Romans:
We know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans. (Romans 8:28 – TLB)
When we yield our lives unreservedly to God, he creates something special of our lives, giving us purpose and fulfilment, even when there have been mistakes and deep feelings of regret. We usually can’t undo the past, even if we wanted to. The past is history, and we only have today in which to live.
God Can Reshape Our Brokenness
I know people who say, I’ve made a complete mess of my life. They look back to some incident in their life where they made an error in judgement, and think everything is lost. Not so. Very few of us make a complete mess of our lives—we have slipped up now and again.
I like the description in the book of Jeremiah from the Old Testament of this man going down a narrow street to visit a pottery shop. There he saw a potter making clay pots on his pottery wheel. Jeremiah watched him casting the clay on the wheel, shaping it as he went. Then the clay splits, and he stops the wheel. But he doesn’t throw the clay away as no good. He uses it again, makes it into a new lump, and starts the wheel revolving once again, and another vessel takes shape.
God never throws us away when we make a mess of our lives.
No doubt many of the vessels on the shelf had been treated the same way—they probably all were made with spoiled clay. That day, Jeremiah saw spoiled clay being remade into beautiful vessels, and he got the picture. It tells me that God never throws us away when we make a mess of our lives. God just picks up the pieces and shapes them again on the wheel of life. And that includes our regrets.
A man may have broken his marriage vows or a woman lost contact with her children. Any one of us may have done the wrong thing or thought the wrong thing. But one thing is certain. God, our loving Heavenly Father, never throws us away. In his sovereign ways, he reshapes our lives and makes out of us what he wants.
We are clay in the potter’s hand, and in a marvellous way, God takes our brokenness, and moulds us into a worthwhile individual who can make a contribution to life as a child of God.
(To be continued in Dealing with Regrets – Part 2)