Should Christians Grieve Over the Past?

An event of your past may still echo to you today and cause grief to encompass your soul. You need to understand that you are not alone. You do not have to grieve over your past mistakes because they have been forgiven by the Lord.

Woman in all black walking down a forest path

“We gather here, we line up/Weepin' in a sunlit room.” These lyrics from Taylor Swift’s classic piece, “My Tears Ricochet” does a good job at summing up how our hearts can feel in the midst of grief. Grieving causes pain, bitterness, sadness, complex emotions, and a great stream of tears. Are you struggling with grief over your past? If so, hopefully, this article can help, encourage, and strengthen you.

Grieving Over the Past

Many of us try to run from our past or our past mistakes. Some past events, actions, and decisions can cause us to feel much grief. Examples could be not seeing a loved one while they were dying in the hospital, walking out on your wedding day, or saying hurtful words to a loved one that still affects them today.

Grieving over our past can be common; however, the Lord does not want us to dwell on the past. He wants us to move forward. God tells us in Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

It is tempting to dwell on our past and obsess over our past mistakes, but the Lord does not want us to do this. Jesus wants us to live in the freedom of knowing Him and looking to the future He has planned for us. As Paul tells us, we have to forget what is behind us and strain toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13-14).

Jesus died in order to redeem us from our sins and give us eternal life (John 3:16-17). He also died in order for us to have abundant life (John 10:10). Many people believe this “abundant life” starts in heaven, but the abundant life Jesus speaks of begins as soon as we place faith in Him. Your present life right now is abundant because you know Jesus.

In the abundant life, the Lord has given us, we can now focus on the present and look forward to the future. Grieving over our past will cause us to be unfruitful for the Lord. This is exactly what Satan wants as he wants us to dwell on our past and make us feel worthless.

Every single person in the world makes mistakes and we all have past regrets or things we wish we could have done differently (Romans 3:23). A common aspect of my history that I grieve over is the passing of my mom. I constantly replay actions, choices, or behaviors I could have done in order to save her from the gates of death.

My mom passed away while I was in my first year of college and there is not a day that passes when I don’t think of her. I replay things I could have done or proactive steps to have helped her not get so sick and weak.

She passed away from heart disease and the doctors told us there was nothing we could do as she was extremely ill and had been for years. My family and I knew she had heart disease a few years before she passed, but we were certain that by changing our diet to a low-salt diet and increasing exercise would help strengthen her heart.

Sadly, these efforts proved futile because of the severity of her heart disease. When I look back to those days she was in the hospital, I wish I could have done more for her and been there more often. I regret not being by her side each and every second of the day because she would have done that for me.

I regret being so caught up in college work, studying, and going to class that I drowned out her needs. In retrospect, there is a lot I would have done differently and there is not a day that goes by that I do not run through another scenario in my head that could have possibly saved her. Despite my endless scenarios and possible plans to save my mom, her death was coming.

God does not make mistakes and it was her time to go. Part of me yearns for her to hug me right now and say that her death was all just a bad dream, yet a part of me is happy for her because she is no longer in pain and is with the Lord.

The selfish part of me longs for her to be with me, talk with me, and grow old with me. I wanted her to hear about my mission trip to England, be at my college graduation, and ride in my first car, but she passed before any of those events happened. I regret not being there for her when she really needed me.

The hospital called my dad at six o’clock in the morning on that dark and dreadful October day to inform us that my mom was going into cardiac arrest again and they did not know if she was going to make it.

It was odd because we had just visited her the night before and although she was asleep, the nurses had told us that she would be coming home soon and that our job was going to have to be taking care of her at home.

When my dad got the call from the hospital on this cold and bitter morning, my dad quickly put on his jacket and drove to be with my mom. I was scared and stayed at home with my older sisters. I rationalized with myself that she would be okay and that we would go and see her later that day in the hospital.

Somehow deep down, I knew that she was dying. I didn’t go because I was scared. The harsh reality drowned through our house when my sisters and I heard our telephone ring in the back room of our house. I quickly ran to the backroom and answered the phone.

As soon as I answered the phone, I heard my dad crying and told me that she was gone. I share this story with you to help you know that it is normal to grieve over our past and regret our past decisions.

Often, it is hard not to grieve over our past, but the Lord does not want us to dwell on our past. He does not want us to become stuck in the past and constantly replay “what-if” scenarios in our minds. In the present day, I still grieve over the passing of my mom.

It is inevitable to grieve over passed loved ones. Even though I still grieve over my mom, the Lord is helping me to stop playing the endless game of ‘what-if,” dwelling on regrets, and past mistakes. Maybe you can relate to this in some way.

An event of your past may still echo to you today and cause grief to encompass your soul. First, you need to understand that you are not alone. Many people grieve over their past just as I shared in this article.

Secondly, while it is normal to grieve over our past, the Lord is telling us to move forward. In my case, I will always grieve the loss of my mother, but I do not have to grieve over my past mistakes because they have been forgiven by the Lord.

I regret not being there for her when she needed me the most and I will always live with that, but I can look forward to the day I see her again in heaven with the Lord and all will be made right. What has happened has happened and there is nothing I can do to change it now.

The Lord Is with Us

In the same way, whatever is grieving you from your past, it is time to let it go. No matter what you have done, there is forgiveness from the Lord (Isaiah 43:25). As Christians, we do not need to grieve over our past because all of our sins, mistakes, and shortcomings have been forgiven on the account of the blood of Christ.

Regrets will still come into our hearts and mind, but the Lord wants us to leave the past in the past. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (ESV). As Christians, we can move forward beyond our past and complete the work the Lord has planned for our lives.

For further reading:

5 Encouraging Verses for When You Experience Grief

How Should a Christian Respond to Grief?

What Did God Mean When He Said 'Behold I Am Doing a New Thing'

What Does the Bible Say about Regret?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Zbynek Pospisil


Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Christian Ministry and is currently working toward her Master’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is probably embarking on an adventure.