Summary: This is one sermon in a series that deals with destructive behavior.
How to Deal with Regret
As he hung up the phone he knew it was not what he wanted. But it had happened anyway. The voice on the other end had been the attorney, notifying him that his wife had filed for divorce. He knew that the marriage had not been going well. The weekend before she had moved out and now - the phone call.
Over the next several days there were many emotions and thoughts. Marriage isn’t supposed to end like this. It was supposed to be “till death do us part.” At least that is what they had both said to one another. How would his friends respond? How would his family? How would the people at church respond? He knew he had to tell them. He was the pastor.
Then the flood of questions came rushing into his mind. What could I have done different? How could I have prevented this? Am I the one to blame? Then came thoughts of regret. If only I hadn’t said…If only I had said…If only I had done…If only I hadn’t done…If only...
He knew that some of his Christian friends would give him some “pat” answers – you should have prayed more – you should have read your Bible more – the “you should” just raised the level of guilt. They were supposed to be friends – fellow Christians – who were supposed to help him through this time - but they turned out to be no better them the friends of Job. The pat answers they gave him didn’t take away his hurt. They didn’t solve the problem. His true friends helped a lot. They stood by him and offered words of encouragement. That helped. They knew that the divorce rate among Christians was the same as that on non-Christians – they came in to comfort rather then to condemn. Having true friends is vital to make it through tough times. He also had a personal relationship with God and that helped. Of course that helped most of all. The relationship he had with God enabled him to endure. He knew God – and knew three facts about God that he would cling to.
Fact One: God was not surprised by the divorce.
Fact Two: God was in control of his life.
Fact Three: God had promised He would never leave him or forsake him.
God became his rock. These facts about God became his anchor. His relationship with God gave him hope. Because of that relationship he would not throw in the towel – he would not give up.
How do you deal with life when things don’t go as you planned? How do you deal with past mistakes or wrong decisions? How do you deal with regret? You know what I’m talking about – those thoughts that we all have – if only I hadn’t said – if only I hadn’t done – if only… How do you deal with regret?
When a friend asked: “Surely you must regret the loss of your marriage?” His answer was yes and no. “I regret that the relationship broke up. But I don’t feel guilt. You see regret is unresolved guilt. I have already dealt with the guilt. Take care of the guilt - you take care of the regret.”
Sure he is saddened that the marriage ended that way. It is not what he hoped for – it is not what he wanted. But he does not live a life full of regret. How do you deal with regret? How do you deal with past mistakes? How do you deal with guilt? I’ll give you 6 steps.
1. Pray that God will clearly reveal your part in the matter.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
2. If there is sin confess it.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
3. If there is any way to make the situation better – do it.
Regret deals with situations you have control over.
“If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” Matthew 5:23-24
4. Forgive everybody involved in the situation – including yourself.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32