“Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
Micah 7: 18, 19
New International Version
“Living The ‘Good Life’”
Part II “Living Without Regrets”
“It isn’t the thing you do, Dear, it’s the thing you leave undone which gives you a bit of a heartache at the setting of the sun.”
Do I have any regrets that I live with each day?
How do my regrets from the past affect my future?
“Were it not better to forget, than but remember and regret?”
L. W. Landon
“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”
It is a day that has left a deep imprint on my memory. A day I could never have imagined would be so painful. I was walking in a cemetery, looking at a sheet of paper I had been given by the Cemetery Caretaker. I was using the map to assist me in choosing a plot where my dear father would be buried. My former brother-in-law was with me, sobbing his eyes out. I felt very bad for him because there was little I could do in the present to undo the harm he had done in the past. His unkindness to my father was legendary. And in return for his harsh words and deceptive behavior, my father had responded with a heavenly love that absolutely shocked me. My dad’s example went beyond anything I had ever witnessed. And now, after my father’s sudden death, the words that wounded his tender heart could never be withdrawn. With no time left on life’s clock, “I’m sorry; I love you; and I ask for your forgiveness,” could never be spoken again.
How I wish I could say that this is the only time in my life when the word “regret” has entered my mind. But it is not.
The word “regret” is defined as, “sorrow or grieving or distress over a desire unfulfilled or an action performed or not performed.” In Biblical times, the word “regret” was often replaced by the word, “lament” or “to mourn.” Whether it’s a time of great heartache over the past or a lamentation regarding our current circumstances, I don’t think there is a person on earth who at one time or another hasn’t found themselves living with some sense of regret over something which was done or something left undone.
I know in my own life there are many times I’d like to forget the things I said or the way I acted and replace them with a different set of actions or words – but unfortunately I can’t. As someone recently said to me, “What’s done is done.” And as difficult as it is to admit, there is some truth to these words.
As we continue to study about David’s behavior and what we can learn from him about living the “good life,” one of the first important lessons I find is that the “good life,” which God intended for us, is a life lived without regrets. Please don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean we aren’t sorry for past actions. Nor does a life without regrets mean I don’t ask for forgiveness when I’ve hurt another person. In fact, living a life without regrets means I own up to my past mistakes; I take responsibility for my errant ways; and then, with God’s help, I move forward and in the words of the Apostle Paul, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3: 13, 14, K.J.V.).
As you reflect on your own past, consider some of the regrets that were staring David in the face. Adultery. Murder. The death of an infant child. And then, even as we studied about Amnon and Tamar, we find David’s absentee behavior in his children’s lives may easily have been at the root of some of the shenanigans that went on. In fact, in II Samuel 13: 24-28, we learn that Absalom nearly begged his father David to come to the sheepshearing where all David’s male children would be. Absalom really pressed David to attend this event. But David declined. This got me to wondering if Absalom felt that if his father was present it might prevent Absalom from carrying out his murderous plot against his sibling, Amnon. Or possibly, Absalom wanted David to actually see, with his own eyes, the treachery that had blossomed as a result of his own misdeeds. Whatever Absalom’s reason for inviting David to the sheepshearing, if I had been in David’s shoes, I believe I would have carried regrets the rest of my life for not going along and at least trying to prevent Amnon’s murder.
With a life that was far from perfect, David had plenty to lament about. Yet, we also find that in Psalm 51, David laid out a path to living without regret. A pathway which recognizes mistakes, takes responsibility, asks for forgiveness and moves forward, as David penned, “teaching transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee” (Psalm 51: 13, K.J.V.).
The author George Eliot poignantly expressed, “This is the bitterest of all – to wear the yoke of our own wrong-doing.” A yoke is a heavy piece of wood that can be a huge burden to bear – and this is exactly what a yoke of regrets can be to us – a burden that weighs us down and holds us back. This is why Jesus told us, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11: 28 - 30, K.J.V.).
Our Father’s yoke is one that isn’t a burden of regrets about the past for He has promised that our mistakes, our failures, and our folly has been buried in the depths of the sea. This is something to be happy about for it guarantees a “good life” -- a life that is lived without regrets.
The story is told about Deacon Jones who had a deep bass voice which he used frequently in church to show his agreement with something the pastor said in his sermon. When Deacon Jones wanted to emphasize the pastor’s message, he would let out a loud, “AMEN!” Well, as you might understand, this frequent outburst annoyed some of the other church members, especially the local doctor.
One day, Deacon Jones had to visit the doctor and the physician couldn’t believe his ears. From out in the waiting room, a loud bass voice shouted, “AMEN! When Deacon Jones finally came into the exam room, the doctor’s curiosity had gotten the best of him and he asked the Deacon, “What in the world did you find in my office to say, ‘AMEN,’ about anyway?” Grinning from ear-to-ear Deacon Jones said that he was reading in a National Geographic Magazine, in the waiting room, where they had found that there was a place in the ocean several miles deep, and he told the doctor, “To think my past is buried that deep, well doctor, I just had to say, ‘AMEN!’” The prophet Micah in our text for today, promises that God has buried our sins in the depths of the ocean. What a way to live the “good life” – a life unburdened by regrets.
“I have no Yesterdays,
Time took them away;
Tomorrow may not be –
But I have Today.”
Pearl Yeadon McGinnis
“Forget the past and live the present hour;
Now is the time to work, the time to fill
The soul with noblest thoughts, the time to will
Heroic deeds, to use whatever dower
Heaven has bestowed, to test our utmost power.
Now is the time to love, and better still,
To serve our loved ones, over passing ill
To rise triumphant; thus the perfect flower
Of life shall come to fruitage; wealth amass
For grandest giving ere the time be gone.
Be glad today, tomorrow may bring tears;
Be brave today, the darkest night will pass,
And golden rays will usher in the dawn;
Who conquers now shall rule the coming years.”
Sarah Knowles Bolton
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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