Especially at the start of a new year, the tendency can be to look back and feel bad about something that happened – or didn’t happen; something you wished you’d said or done, or perhaps wished you hadn’t said or done. It’s natural to review one’s decisions and circumstances for the purpose of making them better. Dwelling on them, however, tends to impede progress.
A desire for improvement can certainly be fueled by not wanting to make the same mistakes, and an examination of “what went wrong” is useful if its purpose is to bring about a better future. Wishful or wistful thinking and regret, however, often tend to have the opposite effect: keeping one unproductively stuck in the past.
A good example is of Christ Jesus following the resurrection. He appropriately chastised his disciples for being afraid and doubting what he had told them. But he didn’t rebuke them for not saving his life. Instead, he encouraged them to come out from hiding and share the good news of life eternal – news he had equipped them to tell. (See Mark 16)
While our own missed opportunities may not be so dramatic, they certainly can be as consuming as they were for the disciples before Jesus opened their eyes to the wonderful possibilities the future held. And it’s likely that we may have some wrongs to right somewhere in our past. But the best way to do it is to look forward and upward.
The author of Hebrews writes “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…” (12:1) In other words, we all have things that would distract or even waylay us, but instead of giving in to them, let us be ready to tackle what lies ahead, knowing that we are capable and willing. This certainly doesn’t mean we should ignore unresolved difficulties. But it does mean that we should face them with the expectancy of healing, and hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Jesus never told any of his followers, “sorry, you’re just stuck with it until you get to heaven.” What he did say was, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2). We can expect that our regrets and sorrows, our shames and unfinished business can be made right, right here because the remedy is at hand. That holier viewpoint of our past is a guarantee that whatever appears to hold us back or down will dissolve as it comes in contact with the light of Christ.
This sweet and tender assurance of hope and health and harmony is the natural consequence of knowing that “all things work together for good to them that love God…” (Rom 8:28) And though it seems that loving God may be a caveat for this progressive outcome, the fact is, loving God is what you and I are designed to do. Acknowledging it, giving it more attention than our unhappy past, simply reveals the goodness of the kingdom of heaven that’s already at work on our behalf.
And that’s a pretty good reason for no regrets.
Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link. If you like what you’re reading, click the “add me” button.