Learning when you look back

The end of the year is a time when everyone starts looking back over the weeks and months that have passed. At least, it is for me. I think about where I started at the beginning of the year. I think about all the great things that have happened, but I also think about all the bad stuff too.

I love life. I love following Jesus. I love doing what God has called me to do, but it’s a foregone conclusion that life isn’t always happy. Sometimes bad things happen, and they often happen to good people. But the world isn’t perfect, and we’re all just doing the best we can to get by in it. That being said, I screw things up. I make decisions in fear or insecurity or anger. I hide when I ought to speak up. I speak up when I ought to shut up.

But no matter how many times I mess up, one thing is certain–I learn something.

PTJNJ5LZLAToday’s verse is Deuteronomy 4:9.

But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.

I don’t like making mistakes, and I don’t like difficult situations. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like it when people are unhappy with me or with others. But many times I end up in a circumstance where I’m facing one or all of those things, and many times it’s because of something I did or said (or because I failed to do or say something I needed to).

I noticed that gasoline was really low the other day. Like less than $1.50 per gallon, and I should have filled up. But I didn’t. I decided to put it off. And the next day, it was up around $1.75, and I had to fill up because I was almost out. When you make a judgment call about anything, you have to face the consequences. And whether the consequences are good or bad, you can still walk away with a lesson learned.

God cautioned the Children of Israel to remember what they had been through in the wilderness, how He’d taken care of them, how He’d guided them and provided for them. He wanted them to remember so that they’re children wouldn’t forget. And that hasn’t changed today. It might be thousands of years later and we may be living in a different culture, but the concept is still the same.

When God brings you through something, remember it. Remember what you learned. Remember how you got into it. Remember how God got you out of it. And take steps to keep remembering it. Tell your family. Tell your friends. Tell anyone who will listen. Write it down, because you will forget, and you shouldn’t.

So take stock of where you are and how you got there. Take a moment and look back on your life and the choices you’ve made that brought you to where you are today. Then learn from it. If you made a choice and good consequences followed, remember it. If you made a choice and bad consequences followed, remember that too and don’t do it again.

The New Year is approaching with more speed than any of us realize, and many of us will try starting over. That’s all well and good, but if you don’t remember how you got here to begin with, you are destined to make the same mistakes all over again.

Regret is seeing life through your eyes instead of God’s

Wouldn’t it be great to live a life with no regrets? Can you imagine the freedom you would have if you weren’t constantly mired down with the weight of memory of how you never seem to measure up?

What are regrets anyway? From what I’ve experienced, regret is what we feel when we wish we could have another chance to choose differently. College students regret how they spent spring break. Adults regret how they raised their children. Executives regret that last business meeting.

Regret is wishing you had another chance to go back and change the decision you made. In some cases, regret is good because it teaches us the value of our choices. But here’s the deal: Once you made a decision, you can’t go back and change it. You can’t go back in time and change the past. Believe me, if Doc Brown and Marty McFly couldn’t manage it, neither could you.

379367_7377_shameToday’s verses are Psalm 34:4-5.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

So the good part of regret comes in helping us remember not to make that same choice again.

But have you ever been a place where you made a good choice and regretted it? Have you ever decided to do what God told you to do and soon after felt regret? Wished you could go back and change your mind?

So many good, well-meaning Christ-followers would tell you, “No! Of course, not!” Because no good Christian would ever say that following God will make you regret it. But before those good, well-meaning Christ-followers get asked that question, many of them have often had many years to think about what God has done in their lives as a result of that decision.

Take any Christ-follower who is trying his or her best to follow God, and step into their lives for a day when everything is going wrong, where nothing feels right, and where God seems silent. Then ask them if they regret their decision. See what they say then.

To me, regret is very much the same as anger. It’s not a sin to feel it. Just because for a moment you wish you’d made a different decision doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. It just means you’re human and you’re going through a rough time. What matters is what you do in response to it.

Is it possible to live life without feeling regret? Even as a Christ-follower, no, I don’t think it is. But is it possible to live life without suffering because of regret? Absolutely.

Just because you feel regret doesn’t mean it has to determine the course of your life. Because for a moment you wish you would have chosen differently doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of your situation right now. Just because you don’t understand where you are or why you’re there doesn’t mean God can’t use you.

Recognize regret for what it is.

If you’ve made a foolish choice, change your mind about it. Tell God about it. Ask for forgiveness. He’s faithful and just to forgive that sin and make your life clean and new. And then, let it go. Stop holding on to your regret. God doesn’t, so why are you?

If you’re following God and making choices based on what God has said, and you feel regret about something you’ve chosen to do for Him … just stop for a minute. And think.

Don’t feel. Just think.

Why would you regret doing something for God? Why would you want to go back and change your mind about doing what God has called you to do? Because it’s hard? Because it’s a lonely road that few travel?

Regret can be good to teach lessons, but when you get right down to it, regret is only good for getting people mired in the muck of their emotions. It’s one of our enemy’s great tools of distraction, because if he can slow us down and beat us up with it, he can keep us from being effective.

You can follow God and feel regret, yes, but that’s because you’re seeing your position in life as a result of your choices instead of God’s plan. Yes, if you make foolish choices, you’ll face consequences. And we absolutely have free will to choose our own path. But if you follow God and you still end up in trouble, does that mean God can’t get you out of it?

If you start seeing your life as a product of God’s plans, it changes everything. That’s how you live with no regrets. You trust God with everything. You do the things He tells you to do. And when life gets rocky (and it will), you try to see things from His point of view instead of your own.

Because then you see that there are no accidents. Then you see that no matter how you may screw something up, God has always got a plan. And no matter how much you wish your life might be different, you can trust that eventually your life will be better than you ever dreamed.