“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. -2 Corinthians 7:10
My good friend Bob Petterson has written a fascinating book, The One Year Book of Amazing Stories. His very first story is set in Germany in the winter of 1894 beside a river covered by a thin sheet of ice. Small German boys were playing Cowboys and Indians on the bank of the river when one of the smaller, weaker boys trying to keep up with the others slipped and fell, his glasses flying, as he slid down the bank onto the ice and plunged through into the cold water.
A five-year-old playmate dove into the water and saved his smaller friend from drowning. The newspaper in their city of Passau praised the efforts of this boy, now considered a hero. His name was Johan Kuehberger, and he grew up to become a priest, continuing to spend his life serving and saving others.
Yet he spent many a future sleepless nights haunted by his heroic efforts to save that small boy when he was but five. The saved little boy’s name was Adolf Hitler.
How do regrets affect you? A past word spoken angrily, a deed of which you are now ashamed, a deceptive lie spoken, past unacceptable behavior leading to another’s ruin, less than desirable associations corrupting them and you, a bad habit continuing ad nauseam, taking the Lord’s name in vain repeatedly, encouraging another to sin? How often have you in your present life regretted something you did in your younger years? Or last week? You may wish you could have it back to make a different choice.
In this case, Johan acted with pure motives. He saw his playmate in a life-threatening situation, and he did the right thing. The outcome was not in his hands; it was in the hands of the Lord. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps. You may often have regret for sins committed, but the answer to what is now history is simply repentance by faith accompanied by purposely chosen future obedience. Those things done out of pure motives resulting in a less than satisfactory outcome are under God’s disposition. You cannot regret those things arising from righteously motivated actions. God’s sovereign power is responsible for the outcome.
Our sinful words and deeds and what later comes from them are always under God’s purview and control. We have a responsibility to pray continuously for the favorable outcome of those things we have had a hand in initiating, or have engaged in furthering, even as we acknowledge God’s power to ultimately direct its success or failure.
Your words and deeds become history as soon as they are spoken or done. They are “written in the book, so to speak. You cannot get the toothpaste back into the tube. Such must be considered before the words roll off your tongue, not after. Once the water of a stream rolls under a bridge, it is gone, never to return.
Regret is far too often so severe that it results in suicide, like Judas from his betrayal of Jesus, or the discovered businessman who ruined other peoples’ lives through his own evil deceptions.
This would be very discouraging were it not for the mercy of God who well understands your plight. He is quite aware of man’s depravity. Yet He is ready and willing, through His Son, to forgive the one who confesses his sin and genuinely seeks His mercy. The One whose opinion alone counts tells you He buries your sin in the depths of the sea and removes it from His sight as far as the east is from the west!
This is truly amazing! The wonder of the Gospel dealing with the pain of regret accentuates the good news of His mercy and grace. Regret can and will haunt unless removed from your mind and heart by God’s merciful hand on your life in response to the sacrifice of Jesus. Just think of the regret of Moses in murdering the Egyptian, or David in plotting the death of Bathsheba’s husband, or Paul in his pain-and-blood-producing persecution of Christians.
Jesus’ own atoning lifeblood speaks volumes to those regrets which haunt. Such haunts can be removed forever!
“From out the depths I cry, O Lord, to thee; Lord, hear my call. I love thee, Lord, for thou dost heed my plea, forgiving all. If thou dost mark our sins, who then shall stand? But grace and mercy dwell at thy right hand.
(First verse of Psalm 130, The Psalter, 1912, “From Out the Depths I Cry, O Lord, to Thee)
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