When someone says, “I don’t have any regrets in life,” this is usually not a healthy sign. If we don’t have regrets because we are too prideful to admit that we’ve done anything wrong, this is simply sinful, delusional thinking (Ephesians 2:3).
However, as Christians, we believe in the grace of God which is greater than all our sins (Romans 5:20); and thus, in that sense, we must let go of regrets and not let them control us (Romans 8:1).
So it’s healthy to have regrets about the sins you committed because we don’t want to be proud about our rebellion. However, it’s not healthy to live with those regrets and reject the powerful, freeing grace of God offered in the gospel.
With that said, here are 3 signs God is saying, “It’s time to let go of those regrets.”
1. If Your Grief About a Past Mistake Has Moved You Past Repentance and Into Despair, God Is Saying, “Let Go of that Regret”
It’s good to feel bad about your sins. Without a holy remorse, you won’t repent. God’s grace is free, but it will cause you to act in a way that will actually cost you something (Luke 14:27-28). Jesus is not our get out of jail-free-card, our fire insurance from hell. No, when Jesus truly saves you (Ephesians 2:8-9), it changes your life in very visible, tangible ways (Ephesians 2:10).
But a conviction from the Holy Spirit (John 16:8) is different than condemnation. God will always convict us of sin as Christians but he will never condemn us for our sins as Christians (Romans 8:1). How will you know the difference between conviction and condemnation? 2 Corinthians 7:10 states:
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
If you’ve felt badly for something you’ve done but you have confessed that sin (1 John 1:9) and turned away from that sin by living differently (1 John 1:6-7), it’s now time to let it go.
Don’t minimize the sacrifice of Jesus by holding onto guilt that he’s already paid for.
2. If You Have Regrets About a Situation that You Can’t Do Anything About Anymore, God Is Telling You to Let It Go
Maybe you feel like you had a chance with a woman but in your immaturity, you rushed the relationship and she backed away from you. Or maybe you got your dream job but then got fired because you didn’t possess the right skills that you thought you did possess.
It’s natural to have regrets about situations like these. And after you make a mistake, it can be healthy to feel badly about something you could have done better. This helps you learn and remember what you’ve learned. But if you take it too far, you are being a perfectionist and holding yourself to a standard no human can ever attain.
One helpful tip is to detach yourself from this situation and pretend a friend of yours tells you the very problem you are dealing with yourself. What advice would you give them? Would you tell them there’s no hope for them? Or would you tell them to take some time, grieve, learn, and then move on?
I bet you would tell them the latter, encouraging them to learn what they could from this experience but then to also move on, letting the regret go rather than torturing themselves for not being perfect.
Treat yourself how you would treat someone else. While Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) is meant to help us treat other people graciously, it also infers God expects us to be applying his grace to ourselves as well.
3. If Your Regrets About the Past Are Causing You to Accumulate Even More Regrets Because of Everything You’re Missing Out On in the Present, It’s Time to Let Them Go
Before Paul came to Christ, he was literally persecuting the church. Notice, however, the radical effect the gospel had on Paul:
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)
If you let your regrets from the past control you in the present, you will simply have more regrets in the future for how you wasted so much time worrying about your regrets. You will then have regrets about how you handled your regrets, putting you into an endless cycle of regret, thus wasting your life.
The gospel disrupts this dysfunctional cycle and allows us to move forward as we depend not on our own righteousness but on the righteousness of Christ through faith (Philippians 3:8-9). As Paul concluded:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” (Philippians 3:12-16)
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