FARGO - The topic of regrets is not particularly comfortable, but so critical. It's easy to find yourself stuck in an endless cycle of longing and regret. Many people live in this cycle day after day. And it saps our energy and our ability to engage in the opportunities we are currently blessed with. That is the difficult news. The good news is regret does not have to be the finish line. Regret can be the starting line to a closer relationship with God and a healthier future.
In the book "Starting Over" by Dave and Jon Ferguson, they share a three-step process to move and live beyond our regrets.
Step 1 is to recognize our regrets. Rather than hiding or ignoring them, we must identify and address them. Step 2 is to release our regrets. Often this includes seeking or offering forgiveness. Step 3 is trusting God to do what only he can do, which is to redeem our regret. Only God can bring good from what looks and feels like all it can be is bad. Not only can God do this, he longs to do this. You may be skeptical, but I have seen God's redemption take place in a powerful way personally and in the lives of thousands of people. God's redemption story is always spectacular.
Here are three self-evaluation questions for you.
Question 1: Instead of recognizing my regrets, why am I hiding them? Maybe you are convinced it's not that important to recognize your regrets. I would contend that hiding and carrying your past regrets "costs" you much more than you realize. Yes, it can be hard work uncovering them and it will likely include pain. But there is no path forward, no healing, without doing the work and going through the pain. Risking the short-term pain is well worth the long-term gain.
In the Bible, Paul persecuted Christians prior to his dramatic encounter with Jesus and life turn-around towards God. Paul could have ignored his regret, but he chose not to. In Acts 22, verses 4 and 5, in front of a large crowd Paul demonstrates the health and impact of choosing vulnerability and transparency.
Question 2: Instead of releasing my regret, why am I holding on to it? Some regrets hurt so much we want to quickly heal from them and move on, but sometimes our regrets can become a security blanket. That seems strange from an outside perspective, but we actually find some comfort holding on to them. We can use our past regrets to validate our current attitude and actions. Sometimes it is more comfortable hanging on to the past than seeking freedom for our future.
Question 3: Instead of redeeming my regret, why am I resisting redemption? When we journey with God, our pain can be leveraged to bring growth, hope and healing to ourselves and to our world. But it requires patience, trust and obedience. Paul ended up becoming the greatest pastor and Christian author who has ever lived.
To recognize, release and redeem our regrets is not something we do once; it must become a lifestyle. Living beyond your regrets is not a one-time fix, but a discipline God can help you employ whenever you need it.