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Regrets and Promises

“I’m sorry but the damage is too much. I’ll have to replace many of the boards in the front. But the termites are too many. We’ll have to tent the house.

I regretted not having done yearly checks after a few termites had been discovered several years back. He regretted having to tell me there were no other options except to vacate our home for three days. He told us to secure our food items and make arrangements for a quick, unplanned getaway.

As my teaching partner used to say, “Oh well….”


There are so many regrets: I regret to inform you that item is no longer available… or the flight has been cancelled… or we can’t find any record of your reservation… or your friend died.

Many invitations include the phrase, “Please send regrets only.”

There was an American Revolutionary patriot who was mourned by his friends and comrades. Nathan Hale’s deeply felt, famous words have been preserved for inspiration to others who have died for their nation: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

There was no sorrow or grieving at the passing of Jehoram, one of the Old Testament kings. “He passed away to no one’s regret, and was buried… but not in the tombs of the kings” (2 Chronicles 21:20). Imagine no one mourning your death? How awful!! How wicked he must have been!

There are some other regrets in the Bible. Some really serious ones. Adam and Eve regretted eating the fruit they were told not to. Oh, they didn’t want to take the blame, but they knew deep in their hearts they were wrong. They paid the consequence, and we continue living with that consequence of a spoiled relationship with God.

King David came to regret the murder of Uriah and his adulterous relationship with Uriah’s wife. Of course that regret came only when his sin was pointed out to him by his friend Nathan. And then the tears and anguish flowed. And the result is one of the most wonderful Psalms of regret… Psalm 51.

Judas had regrets… and he hanged himself.

Peter had regrets… and he responded to the call from Jesus… and was restored… and could proclaim, “You know that I love you! “ (John 21:17)

Does God have regrets? We read that he regretted making humans so he destroyed all but eight in the great flood (Gen. 6). He also regretted making Saul the first King of the Israelites because of his eventual turn towards evil (1 Sam 15). 

Now God doesn’t regret in the same way we do. He doesn’t make mistakes or have a change of mind. But He does feel sorrow, sadness, disappointment. He does grieve. Oh, not for what He’s done, but for the mess we make of His goodness.


Sometimes regrets are just a casual “I’m sorry” like the quick retort a child spits out to a sibling or classmate at the insistence of a parent or teacher. There is no true regret having said or done it. And usually a more heartfelt response is required.

But other times we can truly regret having said or done something. We wished we’d never gone down that path. We wished we could start all over, turn back the clock.

And we live with the consequences.

Our final year in college was supposed to be a seamless transition to marriage and the seminary. And then right before Christmas, my husband-to-be received a letter. His application for graduation was denied: “We regret to inform you that you do not have enough credits to graduate in the spring.”

Now this wasn’t a matter of a couple of missing credits that could be made up in a summer course. No. It was an entire semester.

Oh, the regrets. Apologies to me and his parents for not checking more carefully with the registrar before switching majors that last time. Sadness and disappointment thinking we might have to postpone our summer wedding. Sorrow over missing out on seminary in the fall.

All the remorse and repentance were pointless. Our life was on hold for a year. Oh, not the marriage, fortunately. But the rest would have to wait.

It took many years before we saw the hand of God turning that regret into a promise. Without that delay we would never have been on the path of ministry we were blessed with. We learned to trust more fully in His assurances, the same ones He gave to the prophet Jeremiah:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11).

I know I’ve heard the admonition: “Stop! Don’t do/say something you’ll later regret!”  Sometimes it’s actually words spoken by someone who worries about me. I know I’ve heard the Lord’s voice a few times too.

But some people never seem to regret. They plow through life never asking for forgiveness, never saying they’re sorry. Of course if they don’t think they’re wrong, why should they have any regrets? It’s like the old song, “I Did It My Way.”

            Regrets, I've had a few

            But then again, too few to mention

            I did what I had to do

And then I think of the Scripture that says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

It goes on to say that if we confess our sins… oh… regret what we’ve done… we will be forgiven by our just and faithful God.


I have a good friend who shared with me two of his regrets. As a young sailor, he and his buddies partied a little too much in port on leave, and he ended up with a large Navy style tattoo on his forearm. It didn’t seem too much of a regret at the time, but as the years passed, he was often embarrassed by the ink that revealed his lack of past judgment.

Now today, that seems like a minor regret, and I assured him I certainly didn’t think any less of him or his friendship. After all, tattoos are hardly a big deal these days.

But then he shared a deeper regret. He said he truly regretted his lost years. The years he didn’t know his Savior. Unlike many who would say he had had a chance to really “live it up” before becoming a Christian, he shook his head and declared that during those days he wasn’t really living. Only now as a child of God did he really feel alive and whole, free from guilt and full of peace. 

Oh, my friend and I have had more than our share of regrets. But thanks to our forgiving, loving, restoring Lord, we have a greater abundance of joy!

Leaving my guilt at the cross,



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