The Pain of Regret

Nothing stings quite like the pain of regret. We’ve all made poor choices that have hurt us deeply. We’ve also wounded others and we live with those regrets. Hasty decisions have changed the course of our lives for the worse. We regret opportunities that we let slip away.

These memories haunt us, and immobilize us. Nagging thoughts replay in our minds: “Oh I wish I hadn’t done that.” “My life would be so different if only …” “Why, oh why? What was I thinking?” We lament, we grieve, we beat ourselves up over past mistakes. If it were only possible, we’d give everything we have for a do-over.

So what can be done with the pain of regret? Does the Bible give us any hope?

The apostle Paul tells us that “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” Romans 15:4.

In Judges 13-16 we read the story of Samson. He is chosen by God and set apart in the womb for a stated purpose—to deliver Israel from the Philistines. Throughout his life he fails miserably at every turn. His lust, entitlement and pride rule him—and ruin him. His last days, we find him shackled in prison with his eyes gouged out. But those monotonous days, grinding grain for his enemies, give him time to reflect on the disgrace he has been to his noble calling, the laughingstock he has become in Israel, the shame he has brought to his family.

At a celebration to their god, Dagon, Samson is summoned to entertain the Philistine rulers, along with 3000 men and women—one more humiliation for this pathetic and pitiful figure. But today would be different. Samson sees one final opportunity. Mustering his courage and his faith he prays to the One whose mercies are new every morning,

“God, remember me, and give me one more chance…”

He asks a servant to lead him to the pillars that hold up the building, so that he can lean on them. God answers Samson’s prayer and strengthens him one more time. Samson pulls down the coliseum destroying all the Philistines. Judges 16:30 records, “He killed more when he died than while he lived.”

And what is Samson’s legacy? Samson exemplifies one who begins poorly but ends well. In spite of a tragic beginning Samson fulfills the calling on his life—in one day.

To the surprise of many, we find him in Hebrews 11, a record of those who were commended for their faith. How in the world did he get there?

The God of mercy, the God of one more chance, called him faithful.

9 comments to The Pain of Regret

  • Holly

    Thank you, Janet. This is one of my favorite posts of yours. I have it printed out and tucked in my Bible. I’m so grateful for the examples we have in the Bible. Grateful that there were very imperfect people from whom we can learn life lessons. Samson is one person I can really relate to. Like Samson, I did not start my life out well and feel it is one failure after another but I am reminded that God is the God of one more chance. He never gives up on me. He keeps giving me more chances and, because of Samson’s story, I am confident that in the end God will call me faithful, too.

  • Phyllis Williamson

    Thank you so much for this post today, so timely for me to remember that God’s timing is everything. I have received such encouragement from the life of Samson from a parent’s perspective at this stage in my life. “It is well with my Soul” is a response I give when people simply say hello and how are you? Judges 16:16- Sampson says his “soul was vexed to death” by Delilah. How often in his cell of isolation did he as you say recall the events leading to his failures…..I often wandered if Samson’s parents cried out asking God if the Angel of the Lord when He told them that their son would deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines ( Judges 13: 5) had been wrong.? The day of the promise- they took the young goat with a grain offering and offered it to the Lord upon the rock unto the Lord….and He did a wonderful thing while Manoah and his wife looked on” I have pondered what that “wonderful” thing was they saw!!!! (Judges 13:18) But it did cause them to fall on their face…..
    I wonder if Samson’s parents thought their son a failure when he married a Philistine (the enemy), did they know he was imprisoned? Did they know he delivered Israel in his death….just as the Lord their God had promised? Did they know their wayward son was included in God’s hall of fame?
    The mercies of the Lord – yes new every morning ! Our God keeps his promises!!

  • Susan Davidson


    Thank you for this reminder. I needed it today.

    Love & miss you,

    • Hi Susan, We all need this reminder. This is the beauty of the gospel. It’s not the one with the perfect record that qualifies. It’s all about the perfect Redeemer. Miss you too.

  • Shan

    Dear Janet,
    Elsewhere in Romans 8:28 and following, God also gives us so much hope. “For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified, and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us…”
    God is able to cause all things, even our sins, mistakes and bad decisions, to work together for good for His sovereign purpose. When we repent like Samson and pray for one more chance, He answers! Praise Him! There is so much hope for us as we walk the rest of our earthly journey with God’s Word guiding us and with Christ and the Holy Spirit interceding for us. In the end, may God receive all the glory!

  • steve

    Beautiful! Thank you.