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, and 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.

6 comments to The Pain of Regret

  • Natalie

    Wow… I had forgotten about Hebrews 11. Those last two paragraphs knocked me down, in the best possible way. Thank you for a thoughtful word– a beautiful, shining nugget of truth that I will meditate on throughout the day.

  • Vickie

    This post reaches deep into my heart. I know as most everyone the sting of regret when I’ve messed up in familial and friend relationships. I’ve experienced the peace that comes from being able to ask forgiveness and move on. There is, however, a different type of regret that I’ve experienced as a nurse that I struggle with daily. Whenever there is a bad outcome for one of my patients, I ask myself, over and over, was there something else I could have done? I lean heavy on Jesus and His Word in my heart, to battle the haunting thoughts. “Who can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he the condemneth? It is Christ who died, yea rather, that is risen again and sitteth at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Romans 8: 33-34. This chapter is so precious to me! I take the pain of regret and use His Word as a sword to battle the accusations that threaten my joy in Christ. Without it, I know I would live defeated. I know I am not the one in control of patient outcomes, He is. I realize this is not an excuse to abandon professional and prudent nursing practice; just a way to not allow outcomes to haunt me. I would be interested to share with other nurses how His Word helps them in their practices. Janet, it is so encouraging to know that as long as God gives us another day, we have another opportunity to “finish well.” Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  • Richie

    Samson’s life is so much about squandering. That God would consider him faithful blows me away. It looks to me like, when we have a change of heart-whether it’s early or late, that’s what God focuses on. How encouraging to me.

  • Carmen Cole

    Thank you for those examples of how God forgives and restores. There is always hope for us.

  • Susan Jakelsky

    Janet, I love how you worded the story of Samson and compared it to our lives. I really needed to read this, this morning. It brought tears to my eyes, to think about how merciful our God is. Great thoughts! Thanks so much, Susan