You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have any regrets. The truth is, we all have regrets. Whether they involve who we were before we found Jesus, hurtful words we’ve said to a loved one, disobedience towards God, or anything else from our past, sometimes it can be hard to leave regret behind.
Regret stems from guilt and unforgiveness towards yourself. You may feel that by holding on to your regret, you’re punishing yourself for your past actions and thus making amends in a way. You may also feel like because you acted that way, you don’t deserve forgiveness at all. These are lies.
Regret is not from God. He doesn’t hold our sins over our heads until He feels we have groveled enough to move on from them. You have complete and absolute forgiveness for every single sin from the moment you took your first breath to the moment you take your last. Here’s how to actualize that truth in your life and finally leave your regrets behind.
How The Enemy Weaponizes Regret
The last thing the enemy wants for you is to walk in the freedom Jesus died to give you. 1 Peter 5:8 says,
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
The enemy is crafty, and he has a habit of reminding us of our greatest failures when we are least prepared. He wants you to be consumed by guilt and self-loathing to the point where you believe you are worthless because of the things you’ve done. He wants you to believe that those past sins define who you are and you can never overcome them. This is tied to a works-based mentality. Ephesians 2:8-9 says,
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
If we had to earn God’s love and favor through our actions, then our enemy would be correct by saying we will never overcome our sin. However, that’s not what God’s Word says. God’s gift of grace is freely given – being based on His everlasting love for us, not our worthiness of it – so there is not a single thing we can do to disqualify ourselves from receiving it. Romans 8:1-2 says,
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
The Enemy Wants to Keep You In Bondage
Jesus bore our sin and broke its ties to us. No matter what you have done in the past, that cannot hold you back from a joyful life on earth and a perfect eternity in Heaven. Don’t let the enemy deceive you into thinking that your sin is too big, too horrible to be forgiven and covered by God’s grace. Galatians 5:1 says,
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Regret is bondage. It’s not a way to make amends for your past, it’s not a way to redeem yourself in God’s eyes. By holding on to your regret, you are allowing the enemy to wrap you in chains that Jesus already broke for you on the cross. You are only holding yourself back from being the person you were created to be. Ephesians 2:10 says,
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
You were created for good works! You aren’t a failure, you haven’t missed out on God’s plan, and you most certainly aren’t worthless. It’s never too late to get back on the right path. God’s grace is always ready for you to receive it.
How To Handle Your Regret
No matter how long you have been carrying your regret, whether that be your entire life, or a single day, you can put it down. You can surrender it to Jesus today. There is so much power in forgiving yourself as Jesus has forgiven you. Matthew 6:14-15 says,
For if you forgive other people for their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive other people, then your Father will not forgive your offenses.
Now, this verse is often misconstrued. It’s not saying that God will withhold His forgiveness from us if we do not forgive others (or ourselves!), but rather that if we do not forgive, we will be unable to truly receive His forgiveness for us. If we understand the scope of His forgiveness, which covers every single sin we’ve ever committed or ever will commit, how can we then withhold that forgiveness towards someone else?
This same principle applies to self-forgiveness as well. God forgives you, so forgive yourself. You may feel like protesting: “You don’t know what I did, who I hurt. I have to live with the consequences for the rest of my life.” That may be true. But you don’t have to carry the guilt any longer. God wants to set you free. He still has a plan for you. He is still beckoning you into His arms, eager to lavish you with His favor and love.
You Can’t Hide Your Regret
1 John 1:7 & 9 say,
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth…. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
You can’t hide from God. He knows what you carry in your heart – He sees into the deepest recesses where even you are reluctant to look. He sees your life as a whole and He still loves you.
He knows whether you have truly released your regret. You may be able to deceive yourself for a time, thinking, “Oh yeah, I let that go a long time ago,” but He knows the truth. Be willing to be vulnerable with God. He will never, ever judge you. He only wants to see you set free. Isaiah 43:18-19 says,
‘Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.’
Let God clear away the old to make way for the new. He wants to take you on to bigger and better things. By clinging to your regret, you only hold yourself back. Let go! Forgive yourself just as God forgives you – no strings attached.
What If I Have Hurt Someone?
If someone else has been negatively impacted by our past actions, that brings a new layer of guilt and responsibility to regret. You may feel that by forgiving yourself and moving on, you are disrespecting them or mitigating how you hurt them.
Maybe you said something really hurtful to a loved one. Maybe you cheated on a spouse or partner. Maybe you committed a crime against someone that sent you to prison. Yes, our actions have consequences, and forgiving yourself is not to be seen as a way to circumvent that. But by letting your regret go, you enable the Holy Spirit to work in that area of your life. When you surrender your regret, you give Him permission to start the healing process, both in your life, and in the lives of the people who were affected. Romans 8:28 is a foundational scripture here at God’s Best For Your Life, and it says,
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
God doesn’t promise to erase the effects of our actions, but He does promise that He will work it all out for good in the end. Let this be your great hope as you let go of your regret. Trust that God will do as He says in His Word and focus on the future instead of the past.
Depending on the circumstances of your regret, it may take you a little while to truly move on. However, do not give in to discouragement and continually press in to God and allow Him to help you. Soon, you will be able to breathe easier and feel lighter, completely and truly free. Here is a final verse to meditate on:
Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-15