"Why did I disobey the Lord?"
"If only I had kept my mouth shut."
"If only such and such hadn't happened, my life would be so much better."
Regret. The gift that keeps on giving. Nothing so chains us to our past failures like regret.
I know too many Christians who were running well, yet at some point fell into sin. The worst thing is they knew better. They were not ignorant of Satan's devices yet they fell. The outcome of their failure was that, in the very place where their joy once shone brightly, now a wearisome oppression exists. This oppression looks like an aspect of repentance, but it is not. It is demonic. It is a vision-stealer forged in the fires of hell.
I'm not saying that we should never have regret or that regret doesn't have a legitimate place in our contrition. Yes, we should have remorse and godly sorry for the things we have done wrong, but there is a difference between godly sorrow and demonic oppression. If we have repented for our sins, and if we have truly grieved over them, there is a time to cast the burden of regret onto the Lord. It is time to let it go, even as the Scripture commands us to cast our care upon the Lord "for He cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:7 NKJV).
Let us never forget: Jesus is not just the Savior of new converts; He remains our Savior, committed and faithful throughout our lives.
To Set the Prisoners Free
Still, we cannot allow regret to become a demonically manipulated weapon used against us. It will paralyze our walk with God. I'm thinking of parents who feel they failed in raising their children or church or civic leaders who have stumbled and fallen into sin. There are great people who have fallen---who have been buried spiritually under the weight of self condemnation and regret.
Christ came to set captives free, even when those captives have created a mess of themselves. Consider King David who, in reflection upon his life, wrote, "I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken . . ." (Ps. 37:25). Remember, this is the same man who, between the seasons of having "been young" and now becoming "old," committed the most heinous sins of adultery with Bathsheba, and then, to cover his sin, he ordered the murder of Uriah, her husband.
Yet, looking back on his season of repentance, David realized that, though disciplined and judged as he was, he was not "hurled headlong." Through it all the Lord had held firmly to "his hand" (v. 24). Consider: even in David's sin, the Lord did not him let go!
Instead of rejecting David, the Lord worked to restore him. Yes, there were consequences. The Lord warned that because of David's sin "the sword shall never depart from [David's] house" (2 Sam. 12:10). Evil would be raised up "against [David] from [his] own household." (v. 11). This was fulfilled by David's son Absalom who committed his own crimes against David.
Yet, even as David fled Jerusalem, even in his brokenness and grief and being cursed by his enemies (2 Sam. 16:5-15), we see a remarkable quality to David's heart. Grieved and humbled before men, David strengthened himself before the Lord. In his cleaving to the Lord, he wrote a song that was full of confidence in God. For all the struggles and pain that he brought upon himself, here was a man who sinned but was not living in the grip of regret.
The subheading of the third psalm tells us it is "The Psalm David wrote when he fled Absalom."
O Lord, how my adversaries have increased!
Many are rising up against me.
Many are saying of my soul,
"There is no deliverance for him in God." Selah.
But You, O Lord, are a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
I was crying to the Lord with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah.
I lay down and slept ; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me round about.
Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God !
For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek ;
You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
Your blessing be upon Your people! Selah.
A New Covenant of Grace
When we come to Christ, we come to One who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). You and I, even as Gentiles, have been chosen by God who personally promised to rebuild and restore the tabernacle of David (Acts 15:15-17). For those who are in Christ, He promises "I will give you the sure mercies of David" (Acts (13:34 NKJV).
I'm saying it is time to rise back up - wiser, more discerning, but completely free of the chains that have bound us. I'm thinking also of Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, in the genealogy of David. Naomi suffered the loss of so much, yet in her latter years, she found again the blessing of the Lord so that the women praised the Lord as Naomi's redeemer and prayed, "may he also be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age" (Ruth 4:15).
And this is my prayer for you as well, that the Lord would be a "restorer of life" to you and One who is your "nourisher," even in "your old age." Even as you grow wiser and more humble, may the Lord remove from you the burden of regret.
____________________________In my forty plus years of ministry I have seen many who began the race well, only to stumble over the issues of life and go spiritually dormant. Yet among those who stumbled, there are true sons and daughters, and Jesus promises that a "bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish" (Isa. 42:3). God is calling them back. In spite of their failures, He intends to use them: they will showcase Christ's grace. For those who have been forgiven much, love much. They will reveal the wonders of Christ's glory.