Giving God Our Regrets
"For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death." 1st Corithians 7:10, NRSV
As I write this, we are in the days of transition between the hectic and lovely Christmas season, and the contemplation of a coming “new year.” The church year actually begins with Advent, but our own calendars say that the year begins with January 1st. It seems almost obligatory to speak of “New Year’s resolutions,” though most of us who’ve launched lofty plans in the past have found that resolutions made because of the new year don’t usually last past the first few weeks.
It’s certainly a worthy pursuit to think about goals for the coming year, both our own personal goals and those we might hope to see accomplished in our work places or in our church congregation. God created our spirits to be dynamic, rather than static. As our best selves, we are always seeking to understand how God is moving and working around us and among us, and to step into that work and movement. Our hitch in this process is our human frailty, and one way that exhibits itself is in our tendency to focus on regret.
Do you have things in your life that you regret? Many of us do. It might be something “big,” such as the loss of valuable things or choices made that have changed the trajectories of our lives or the lives of others in undesirable ways. Other regrets can be small things that dog us, like the tendency to be impatient with people, or to be unkind or judgmental. If we’re self-aware enough to realize when we’ve exhibited such tendencies, then we’ll experience regret over these things. I have known people who have been held hostage to their regrets, whether large or small, and who’ve been unable to move forward in life or relationships because of their focus on regrets of the past, rather than on the promises of their future. Their lives have literally been “arrested” by their regrets, and they are “in prison” to things of the past that they cannot change.
I am convinced from the testimony of Scripture and of the Holy Spirit that God wants us to move beyond our regrets. Certainly, God calls us to repentance, and to restitution where possible, but to be held hostage to regrets about our past is a tool of evil and not of good. Even people who are incarcerated for crimes find ways to accept forgiveness and move forward with their lives in the best possible way, to bring good out of the circumstances in which they find themselves. Can you and I do as much?
The verse quoted above comes from a chapter of 2nd Corinthians that reflects the complicated relationship between the apostle, Paul, and the Christian community at Corinth. As with any of Paul’s letters, we have just half the conversation. But we can see how much Paul loved this community, and we can infer from this verse that he understood that regret in the life of a Christian should produce something different than what might be expected by the world. Being able to give God our regrets and let God redeem them and bring about something good from them, is what allows us to move forward.
With prayers for your journey, and for your New Year,