Horror movies seek to frighten us with images of things long dead coming to haunt our lives. As believers, we have no fear of spirits or ghosts attending our house but there is a way that the past can still reach out to hurt us- Regret.
Regret is a funny word with serious consequences. Regret comes from an old French word “regreter” which means “bewailing the dead.” Today regret is sorrow over something we can’t change. Something that is long dead reaches out to ensnare our emotions or our will. In a way, regret stretches out its deathly fingers from the grave of the past to grip our life in the present. Whether the past holds the memory of our failures or sins or just lost opportunities that we think will never come again, regret must be kept in the grave.
Paul mentions two types of sorrow but regret only comes from one type – worldly sorrow. “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death” ( 2 Corinthians 7:10). The Corinthians had failed morally but had responded in repentance resulting in beautiful cleansing and joy. Godly sorrow results in joy and gratitude for the wonderful grace of God, whereas being sad about your past without repentance puts us in grave danger of regret and spiritual death. Don’t let regret haunt you or hold you back with shame but let Gods forgiveness and grace fill you with wonder and gladness. Our Father can bring something clean out of an unclean thing and can bring a good present out of a bad past. Aaron the High Priest after his failure was a more empathetic mediator. Peter’s failure gave him the humility to care for Gods flock. The restored Corinthian’s were now filled with acceptance and grace for a city churning with sinners. Repentance is the guillotine that severs the skinny arm of regret and frees you into God’s effective future.
But maybe what lies in the grave of your past is not sin but many years of thankless and difficult ministry that are forgotten by everyone but you and Jesus. Don’t let those fingers of regret lubricated with self-pity, slip around your neck. The eyes of Jesus sparkle with delight at the thought of His planned future with you. His strong hand rests on your shoulder and He assures you “Your labour in the Lord is not in vain”. Billy Borden was an heir to dairy empire in the 1900’s. He was a millionaire before he left high school. On his first trip around the world, he wrote to his parents “I’m going to serve God” He could not be persuaded out of it and wrote, “No reserve” in his Bible. At Yale he had many converts, ending up with 1000 people in Bible studies. When he graduated, he turned down big jobs and wrote in his Bible “No retreat”. He then went to Egypt to learn Arabic so he could reach the Muslims. While he was there he contracted meningitis and was dead in a month just 25 years old. While the news headline that swept around the world was “What a waste!” Billy Borden had written in his Bible before he died, “No regrets!”
Friend whether you have wasted part of your life in sin or spent your life in sacrifice for the gospel, don’t let the clammy hands of regret get anywhere near your throat. Were not bewailing things that are dead and long gone but praising Him who is alive and still coming. “And his reward is with him” (Revelation 22.12).