In Frank Sinatra’s song “I did it My Way” he sings, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.” It is an interesting reflection on life, but probably one consistent with the man, and I suspect, many of us. I suppose he is flagrantly looking life in the face and saying, “So what? I did it my way, so what if I could have done it better?”
It is not a common practice to reflect on one’s life and try to give an assessment of it. I ask my children how do they assess their lives, and they look at me with quizzical amused exasperation, “Dad’s off on one of his weird moods again.” They are only 22, 20 and 16, so I suppose they feel they haven’t much of life to reflect on. Yet they have regrets already, not earth-shattering ones, but regrets never the less.
For me, at 56 I have plenty of life to live, but sure there are regrets. I regret not doing enough to get my children more interested in God, I regret not investing in a house or an apartment in my Navy days. I regret that our second child died at such a tender age of 7.
Regrets usually come when we spend that time in reflection, and in this season of Lent when we are encouraged to reflect on our life and our relationship with God this reflection can lead us down the path of regret. At this point we have a couple of choices, we can either look the regret in the eye like Frank Sinatra, and say to ourselves, well I did it my way, too bad, or we can be so consumed with the regret that we debilitate ourselves, we refuse to take risks in that area of regret in our lives ever again, and so cheapen our life experiences.
There is another way, however, and that way is to let God deal with your regrets.
In 1Peter 5:7 the Apostle encourages his people with these words, “cast all your anxieties on Him (God), because He cares for you. Psalm 55:22 we read, “cast your burdens on the Lord, and He will sustain you.” Finally, in Matthew 11:28-30 we read, “come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Sometimes our regrets cause us to be burdened and the instinct is to go either with the Sinatra option, or let them overwhelm us. However, God, just from these three passages reminds us that he cares for us, he will sustain us, and we can find in Him a place of rest from the burdens of our lives. Of course, there is a cost, we must recognize our burdens, and we must be willing to them go. Sounds strange, I know, but it is often difficult to let burdens god when we have been so used to carrying them around for a while, even when we didn’t know we were carrying them!
When our son died back in 1999, I was able to deal with the grief, and I think I have, with my wonderful wife’s help, processed it to the point where I can continue living, in fact I know I can, because I do. However, a number of years ago I realised I was living with regret. I regretted having made the decision to move to the town where our son died, I was wracked with regret, guilt. If we hadn’t moved there, if I hadn’t made the decision to go there Daniel would still be alive. But then other issues arose, if Daniel was still with us, we wouldn’t have Matthew. I can’t live with that as an option. I had to deal with the regret. However, I found that I couldn’t let it go. Then a wise spiritual advisor said to me, Keith, you can’t deal with this on your own, you have to hand it over to God. My immediate reaction was, how on earth do you do that? It turns out that although regret is an emotional response it has a spiritual component to it. I needed to get down on my knees, make my confession about my regret, and hand the regret over to God. I literally said this, “Lord Jesus, I can’t deal with this regret over Daniel in my life, and so I lay it at the foot of your cross. You deal with it because I can’t.” As I am writing this the emotions of the memory of that day are welling up in my eyes, even though it is about 10 years ago since it happened.
When that happened, I understood for perhaps the first time the reality of the words of Jesus in Matthew, I will give rest to your soul, my soul for the first time in a long time was at peace with what had happened. I understood the 1Peter message, cast your anxieties on Him, for he cares for you, and I understood that he really did care for me, and by casting my burdens on God, I know that he sustains me.
God recognises that our life decisions from time to time will result in disappointment, sadness, grief, and then to regret. We can deny it, let it overwhelm us, or, we can hand it over to God. Be warned, God will let you take it back if you so desire, but it is His desire to see us thrive in our lives, and one of the ways we can do that is put God at the centre of our lives, and hand our burdens, our regrets over to him.