After typing out what I thought was a funny retort to a long email chain, I hesitated for just a moment. But I clicked “send” anyway.
Then my mind was immediately bombarded with all sorts of thoughts. “Why did you send that?” “What are people going to think?” “You crossed a line, Doug!” “That wasn’t funny; it was insulting!”
And then I felt that sinking emotion: regret.
We’ve all done it. Regret comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s regret over something we’ve done: in our speech, in our actions, in a text message. But sometimes we feel regret over something that we failed to do: like not speaking out against a wrong, failing to support someone in need, not reconciling a relationship or not following through on a “Holy Spirit” nudge. Sometimes regret is over something trivial. Sometimes it is over something immensely huge.
I hate the feeling of regret. I feel it in my stomach. It tastes of bile. My face feels flush. But even worse that the feelings are the thoughts: guilt, sorrow, shame, and a constant stream of “what if’s” flooding my mind.
Sometimes I wallow in worry from regret. Other times I try to ignore it or stuff it. But I think Jesus wants us to deal with it differently.
I believe He calls us to work through our regret. Like every other issue we face in life, Christ wants us to walk through it with him. To bring our struggles to God’s throne for the sake of transformation is an act of worship – it’s all a part of offering our whole lives to God (Romans 12:1-2).
Here are a couple ways I work through my regret with Jesus:
- Welcoming prayer (click here for a more detailed description of this prayer practice): instead of avoiding the feeling of regret, I welcome it into my being. But I also welcome the Holy Spirit. I notice how this makes me feel without judging it or myself or others. I then surrender control over regret and the circumstances that caused it to the Lord.
- Silent prayer (click here): I take 5-10 minutes and still my soul, my heart and mind to hear for God’s voice to speak. In this case, I often pray the short prayer, “Lord, have mercy” when I notice myself getting distracted or when the voices start invading my mind.
- Share with a trusted spiritual friend: usually the first two prayers give me enough discernment of what I should do next (making amends, reconciling relationships or let it go). But I will also bounce the idea off my wife or one of my close spiritual friends (you know, the ones who will shoot straight with you).
One thing is for sure, you don’t want regret to fester in your soul by suppressing it or wallow in it. Too many Christ-followers allow the poison of regret to infect their lives, as well as the lives of others. If we’re really following Christ, he wants us to do one thing with our regrets:
Give it to Him.
Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7