Regret

by Jeannette Haley

It is hard to believe that another New Year is upon us. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, December 26 was my least favorite day of the year because waiting a whole year for the next Christmas seemed like an eternity. However, as one grows older, time seems to speed up as each year passes, and we find ourselves wondering where the time has gone.

Many usher in the New Year with outlandish celebrations and parties, but I question, “Why”? I have never been able to figure out why people get so excited about going into a New Year, especially since the world is getting worse by the day. I guess you could call me the a “New Year’s Eve Grinch” since my conclusion to all the drama and excitement about another New Year is the underlying expectation that most people have that the world is somehow going to get better, especially where they are personally concerned. Naturally, that feeling is most likely the perennial optimism most human beings seem to possess. However, we “Grinch’s” know that by looking to ourselves, our “New Year resolutions,” and the world for true happiness and well-being is just not going to pan out in the real world.

Nevertheless, there seems to be some sort of a “fantasy cloud” hanging over much of the world that gives the delusion of personal renewal on the first day of a New Year. It is as if all the “old” belonging to the outgoing year has been magically and permanently done away with, including one’s personal failures, bad decisions, broken relationships, financial woes, inadequacies, unresolved issues, missed opportunities, stupid mistakes, and other miseries—and don’t forget that little politically incorrect word—SINS. It all adds up to one big fat pile of regrets that another New Year cannot resolve.

Regrets fall into two categories. Up front, most people think of what they have done that they wished they had never done, which falls into the category of commission, or things committed. The other category, which is equally important, is those things that we should have done, but did not do. The first consists of the sins of commission, and the second are the sins of omission. The Old Testament emphasizes the sins of commission while the New Testament emphasizes the sins of omission. King David understood the insidiousness of both when he wrote, “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD” Psalm 25:7. I must admit, I have prayed that prayer right along with David many times.

David was even concerned about those things in his life that offended and displeased the Lord that he wasn’t even aware of, and wrote, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression” Psalm 19:12, 13. In Psalm 90:8 Moses, the great Lawgiver, acknowledged, “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.”

Arguably, not every regrettable thing a person does in his or her lifetime is necessarily a sin of either commission or omission. God’s people do not get up in the morning and make a conscious decision to sin in whatever decisions they face that day. The rub comes, however, in the fact that regardless of how hard we may try to walk the way Jesus walked, we are imperfect human beings who are still in the process of being sanctified, or perfected. Bluntly put, we have not arrived at the point where we will never miss a beat in our daily lives. There will be things that we think, say, and do that are not in line with the Spirit of God within us, and there will be times when we overlook, or are insensitive, or downright oblivious to the needs of those around us. If we are truly God’s people, then when those thoughts, words, and actions come forth, we will be checked (convicted) by the Holy Spirit in our spirit, and will be quick to recognize it for what it is, humble ourselves, repent, and do what is right. Otherwise, regret will begin to fester within us, giving a place for Satan to bring condemnation. God’s will is always for reconciliation, but condemnation is a huge roadblock to reconciliation if it is not recognized for what it is, and the pride that often accompanies it.

I don’t know about you, but in my own life, as I look back on these two avenues of regret, there is a difference in how I view the deeds committed as opposed to those I omitted. Naturally, I have done a lot of repenting. In addition, I must admit that many of the stupid decisions I made when I was younger was– because I was young and stupid! I am sure some of you can relate. But, the times in my life when I omitted to do what was right which would have been an opportunity to express the love of God in the most simple, tender, loving, and kind ways because I was too self-absorbed, too busy, too insensitive, or too much in a hurry, bring not only sorrowful regret, but teach a poignant lesson. As God’s people, James does not let us off the hook. He wrote, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” James 4:17. Have you given much thought to this admonition?

Being human, we all tend to think that it is the “big things” that we do that impress both God and man. This idea, however, originates in the world and appeals to our pride. God, however, sees all things, whether small or great, good or evil. Concerning those who work evil, it might encourage you who are horrified at the unabated wickedness taking place in the world today to know that the Lord says, “Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? And who knoweth us Isaiah 29:15? We read in Ezekiel 8:12, “Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.” For the righteous, knowing that God is aware of every hidden and secret thing that we think, say, or do, is a joy; but, to the wicked, it is a terror.

Jesus showed us by His example in both word and deed that it is the small things that are done in His name that are the Father’s will. He said, “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” Matthew 10:42.Consider Jesus, God Incarnate, stooping to wash the disciple’s feet, who said, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” John 13:14-17. The example that Jesus left us is that we are to humbly love and serve one another in practical ways. He made it abundantly clear that if we want to be great in God’s kingdom, then we must be a servant of all. Some examples of true service are Mary, who anointed Him for His burial, the widow who gave all her living, and the women who ministered to Him. To neglect, or omit, the clear teachings and commandments of Jesus and the Apostles will bring deep regret to our soul, and anguish of heart for leaving undone that which should have been done, however seemingly small or insignificant. In the end, we shall be judged for it, as 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

The “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13) makes it clear that regardless of how gifted, talented, intelligent, or what “great” faith we may possess, if we do not have charity (that is, love in action) we are nothing. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” 1 John 3:18. God does not ask us to do “great things” for Him nor will He do “great things” through us if we neglect to be obedient in the small things. After all, His eye is upon the sparrow, so how much more does He see each of us, and what we do, or fail to do?

Allow me to share a couple of examples of the “small things” from my past that I now know are as important to God as what could be considered by some as the “bigger things”. What has come to mind lately still stirs me to tears. Many years ago, I visited a nursing home with a small group of Christians who played music and sang hymns for the residents. At the close of the little service, and as we began to file out, a fragile elderly woman who was confined to her wheelchair, lifted her sad, imploring eyes to me and in a barely audible voice whispered, “Would you please just hold me for a minute?” Of course, I complied, but it never occurred to me just how deeply her lonely heart ached to feel human compassion through physical contact, and to be wanted, loved and protected. I often wonder if anyone else ever visited her, held her, and comforted her. I regret that in my busy life I did not set aside the time to return and seek her out.

Another incident that took place about three decades ago involved my closest friend (who suddenly left this world for her eternal home recently) and her husband. I lived in western Washington with my husband. Her husband, a logger, and mine (who worked at a pulp mill) depended on the logging industry for work. The earth-worshipping environmentalists were inching their way through the “system” until they managed to close down logging operations, and my friend and her husband suddenly found themselves scrambling to pay bills and put food on the table. His large inventory of logging equipment that he had to pay for suddenly became worthless.

In the meantime, the mill that employed my husband shut down; however, he was able to find employment in another mill that had not yet been closed down by environmental insanity. Thus, we were still financially doing well, and we continued to support our big church, and other ministries. In the meantime, my friend was finding day-old bread that a certain kind-hearted man brought to the foyer of our church for people in need. I am ashamed to say, but it took me several weeks before I realized that it was the responsibility of my husband and me to help them in their time of need. Instead, we were giving to an institution that spent money given for God’s work on such things as new carpets and remodeled bathrooms that the church did not need. I began to wake up to the fact that organized religion was failing to teach and live by biblical principles and examples. I regretted being so “heavenly minded that I was no earthly good” as the saying goes.

Around that same time, I was busy teaching painting, and producing paintings for Western Art Shows. The Holy Spirit impressed upon me to go visit two different people and share the Gospel with them, but I was trying to finish projects, so I put it off. I have to admit, I deeply regret to this day my disobedience to the Lord, for one person missed a sharp curve in the road, her car plunged into a lake, where she drowned. The other person, whom I knew and loved, suffered a heart attack and died on the way to the hospital. From that time to this, when the Lord lays someone upon my heart, I do my best to obey Him. Even though the Lord forgives us when we repent, nevertheless, we never forget those things that we do, or fail to do, that grieve Him. These regrets are a stinging reminder of how easily we can fail our Lord, and yet how gracious He is to forgive us when we repent.

The question is where would we all be if God had not sent His Son to be the sacrificial Lamb who shed His blood so that all of our sins can be remitted? What would we do if we had to bear the weight of all our sins of both commission and omission straight into eternity where we will see Him face to face and give an account of all of our deeds? Do you know Him, love Him, obey Him, and long for the day when He shall return to set up His everlasting kingdom? Is He truly your hope or do you look to another New Year to bring you peace, joy, and happiness in spite of the fact that our nation is being destroyed, and the whole world lies in darkness? The time has come to consider our ways, and turn our hearts to the Lord, for although we may suffer a little while for well doing, His promises remain true. Be encouraged, “Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it. I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off. But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble. And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him” Psalm 37:34-40.

As we enter this New Year, may we consign our regrets into the Lord’s hands, learn from them, and then go on to live each day by God’s Word. “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” 1 Thessalonians 3:12, 13.