Looking at my life in retrospect there are so many things l can regret doing. The times when l have sinned, times when l have wronged someone, the promises that l made to people or even to myself that l did not keep. I would try to forget them but the memories would come back even stronger with statements like “if only l” or “how could l have done that?” and “l should have known better”. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by our past mistakes to the extent of depression. This brought me to asking myself, is regretting wrong?
What does the bible say?
2 Corinthians 7:8-10 says,
8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
From this passage of scripture, Paul had written a letter that made the Corinthian church grieve because it exposed their wrong doing. In verse 9 Paul highlights to us that he rejoiced because the Corinthians “felt a godly grief”, in other words they “grieved into repenting”. In verse 10 we see a distinction between “godly grief” and “worldly grief”, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
Jon Bloom contrast the two in this manner,
“But a person who has godless, worldly regret grieves over the terrible thing he has done without believing that Jesus’s death will atone for him. A person who has godless grief believes he is either beyond forgiveness or that he must atone for his own sin in order to please God. His regret leads to death—a living death of condemnation (sometimes suicide) and eventually spiritual death… A person who has godly regret grieves over the terrible thing he has done and believes that only God can help him. God is his only hope. So he turns toward God in faith, confesses his sin, and looks to the cross where the penalty of that sin was placed on the Son of God.”
Things to remember before self-condemnation
Having contrasted the difference between godly regret and worldly regret, let’s look at some practical ways to combat thoughts of self-condemnation.
- Jesus is interceding for us – Jesus knows when we are going to fail. An example of this is when Jesus knew that Peter was going to betray him. Even though Jesus knew that Peter was going to betray him, Jesus tells Peter in Luke 22:32 “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers”. Just like Peter, Jesus is “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:25)”
- Our sins can be forgiven – When “we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)”. We can come to God with the same boldness as the Psalmist did. “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.” (Psalm 32:5)
- God uses our failures – For “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28).” “In Peter, Jesus shows us how he can transform a failure into a rock of strength for his church. Empowered by the Spirit of his beloved Lord, Peter became a humble, encouraging, suffering, and persevering disciple of Jesus. And he remains a bold ambassador of the gospel of forgiveness to the most miserable failures.”(Jon Bloom, 2013)
- Bloom, J (1984). The Good end of Godly regret. Desiring God. Available at: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-good-end-of-godly-regret. [Accessed 04 June 2016]
- Bloom, J (2013). Not by Sight: A fresh look at old stories of walking by faith. Illinois : Crossway, page 131