Don’t Let Regret From The Past Rob You Of Joy In The Present

Freedom is what we have—Christ has set us free! Stand, then, as free people, and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again” (Galatians 5:1 GNT).

We all have regrets.  A little is natural but when regret paralyzes your ability to enjoy the present, it is a problem.  As Christians we are not called to be timid and regretful.   Our calling, as detailed in Joshua 1, is to be “strong and courageous.”

As Joshua 1 begins, the Israelites are camped along the east bank of the Jordan River.  Forty years earlier the Israelites had an opportunity to enter the promised land, but they failed to trust God to give them victory.  As a result, God did not allow them to enter the land, but made them wander in the desert until the disobedient generation had all died.   I wonder if the new generation had a touch of regret that their parents were not with them to enjoy this moment.  Maybe God sensed this regret when on three occasions He gave them their calling, which certainly applies to us today, to be “strong and courageous.”

This calling is appealing to us, but we often struggle with implementation.  How do we do this?  Life is not a Hollywood movie in which we wake up one day with strength and courage.  The past can teach us valuable lessons for the future, but there is nothing to be learned from regret. 

Jesus had some advice for His disciples when they were rejected in a city: “shake off the dust that clings to your feet (Matthew 10:14).”  We cannot control if others chose to reject us or reject God.  We can control our response by moving on without regret.  Paul was bit by a deadly snake.  Instead of crying and mourning, he simply “shook it off in the fire” (Acts 28:5)and was unharmed.

Both of these stories teach us the right next step after encountering adversity – “shake it off.”  Don’t allow your thoughts to linger on negativity.  Instead, follow the advice of Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  If you are struggling with regret, then speak out loud and claim the promise of Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who] have been called according to His purpose.”

Samuel regretted that he had anointed Saul as king.  Finally, God spoke to him in 1 Samuel 16: 1. “How long will you grieve over Saul?  Fill your horn with oil and go” (to anoint a new king).  God knows our regrets and poor choices.  His question to us now is the same as it was to Samuel.  How long will you regret your choices?  The next chapter to the story of your life is waiting.  Sometimes in life we must turn away from our poor choices, Saul, to find the next chapter, David.  What or who do you need to turn from now?

As you turn from the past be prepared for it to reach toward you to deny your entry into the future.  You will surely have thoughts of failure and second guessing yourself.  Maybe it’s safer to stay in the past.  Maybe the devil we know is better than the one we don’t know.  For example, Stockholm syndrome is a condition in which hostages develop a psychological bond with their captors during captivity.  Carefully examine your thoughts and ask yourself, who is the originator of these thoughts? 

Ask your pastor to help you with discernment so that the Spirit can guide you and reveal if you have any unknown strongholds of regret.  As we confess a stronghold, we also break the enemy off from that area. Remember, we are to bring every thought captive to God. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  The Word is stronger than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12) and is essential to spiritual warfare.  As we speak Scripture aloud, we unleash truth to a lie (Ephesians 4:15), renew our minds (Romans 12:2), and gain freedom (Galatians 5:1).

We all have “good” excuses for not going in a new direction when the old direction is clearly bad.  Today truly is a new day for new beginnings.  The right next step for today is to leave the regret from the past in the past.  Others may want to live in the past and may even want to remind you of your past failures by using their tongue to speak words of death (Proverbs 18:21). These people may be physically alive, but more importantly they are spiritually dead.  Jesus said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22).  Nothing should come between us and following Jesus, certainly not regret from the past nor the harsh words of those that seek to divide, deceive, and destroy.

Prayer:  Dear God, We have made poor choices in the past and will surely make more poor choices in the future.  Help us to live free of regret.  Forgive us for the times that we have used our tongues to speak words of death to a brother or sister in Christ.  Dear God, we ask a special measure of blessing and protection to be placed on those that are using their words to attack us.  May they feel your love and presence in such a way that their hearts will be softened, and their lives will be living testimonies to your grace.  Amen.

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist under the direction of the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is concurrently in training to become a Lay Minister under the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.  He enjoys writing inspirational Christian blogs at

Gulf South Men is a regional ministry coming along side churches and men’s ministries by offering Education, Training, Resources, Men’s Events and Mentoring to help churches build effective men’s ministry and make disciples for Christ.

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