In her new book, Remember Who You Are, my friend Paula Stafford shares a time when she wrestled with false guilt. Seizing an important business opportunity on the other side of the country meant being away on her husband’s birthday. She and her husband agreed she should go for it. Before she left, rumblings about a hurricane made the news. But the forecasters said it would probably land in South Carolina instead of her home area.
The hurricane was Fran. Its category three winds and rain ravaged our area. Fallen trees downed power lines and blocked access to grocery stores. Paula’s husband and one-year-old child were among the throngs left without electricity.
Paula watched the devastation on the news. She couldn’t contact her husband or get a flight into Raleigh. Remembering she hadn’t stocked the kitchen before she left added one more layer of guilt to her churning emotions. What kind of woman leaves her husband on his birthday with their small child and doesn’t even stock the pantry when a hurricane is coming?
Thankfully, her family was fine. But it took a while to shake the guilty feelings.
The clarity of hindsight makes us question ourselves when things don’t turn out as we’d imagined. Even relatively insignificant choices can taunt us. The placement of an electrical floor outlet bugs me. I wish I’d waited until I’d set up my furniture before having it installed. Why was I in such a hurry to do it while the electricians were there?
The following principles have helped me let go of real and false guilt.
Only God Is All-knowing
God doesn’t expect me to be omniscient. He’s the only one who knows the future. Even the boy Jesus “grew in wisdom” while on earth (Luke 2:52 NIV). Beating myself up over a choice doesn’t undo it or improve me.
Paula couldn’t have known Hurricane Fran would veer north. But by embracing God’s grace she learned to differentiate between false guilt (over things beyond her control or foreknowledge) and real guilt (over sin or causing harm). She also began stocking her pantry before her trips!
Is the regret you’re feeling tied to something you caused or to lack of foreknowledge?
Jesus Sympathizes with Our Weaknesses
A grieving mother came to me carrying not only the sorrow of losing her child but also guilt over the medical procedures she’d allowed her child to suffer in the hope of extending her life a little longer.
What mother wouldn’t want to have a few more months with her dying child? Jesus sympathized with this mother. He never condemned her.
If Jesus sympathizes with us in our weaknesses who are we to beat up on ourselves (Hebrews 4:14-16)?If Jesus sympathizes with us in our weaknesses who are we to beat up on ourselves (Heb. 4:14-16)? #Devotional, #guilt Click To Tweet
Jesus Takes Care of All Guilt and Regret.
Whether our regret comes from unrealistic expectations, lack of knowledge, personal weakness, or sin, Jesus is the answer. In the following verses, note what happens when we come to God, confess our sins, and approach the throne of grace.
- Regret: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-39 NIV).
- Sin: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV).
- Weakness: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NIV).
What do you need to bring to the Lord?
No one has to continue to carry real or false guilt. We bring our regrets to Jesus, and He cleanses us and shows us how to become better because of the experience (Romans 8:28). Our job is to believe what He says and to continue to walk in faith.
I’d love for you to join me for my spring study.
Ladies, join me over the Internet on Wednesdays from 6:45 to 8:00 p.m EST from March 28-May 16th for an eight-week study on Hebrews 11 called How to Grow a Hero’s Faith in a Hostile World. Each week is divided into five daily lessons to inspire and fertilize your faith. Click here for details. I’ll be sending out the lesson this week.
Question: What helps you let go of regret?
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