Faith, Relationship

Regret: After We’ve Failed

Photo of trees on each side of a pathway making an overhang above it

@JeanneTakenaka

One sure thing about life is that we will face opposition. We’ll be confronted with our own failings and shortcomings. We’ll be forced to decide how to respond to our regrets.

I love how, each time I read through the Bible, God brings different things alive in my heart. As I read through 2 Samuel, I gleaned insights about David. After his mistake with Bathsheba, God brought many consequences into his life. I was reading 2 Samuel 15 about how David’s son, Absalom, attempted to overtake the kingdom. Animosity toward his father had built in his heart for years (read 2 Samuel 13-16). Some would say he was justified in his anger toward David.

Meadow with waving grasses and open skies

Absalom was never a watch-and-see kind of man. He was a planner. A do-er. When the opportunity arose, he stole the hearts of Israel by ingratiating himself with the commoners who came to King David for counsel.

And he built his influence and power.

Absalom gathered many men to himself and had them declare him as king. When David heard this he raced into survival mode. David chose to flee, as he had when Saul wanted to take his life.

Only this time, he had many more people to care for. Wives, children, servants, those faithful to him. And soldiers.

It’s hard to flee when one has so many obligations.

A stairway leading upward with plants and flowers growing on each side

I wonder if flight was God’s primary plan for David . . . ?

There are times when we must flee. But we can never run unhindered. We still have responsibilities. People we must care for.  Commitments to uphold.

We can’t just run away.

Often, when trying to avoid our own regrets, we come face-to-face with them. Though David probably regretted how he handled situations with Absalom and his brother Amnon, he didn’t make changes to rectify what he’d done. Or not done. 

As Absalom grew in influence among the people of Israel, God confronted David with his decisions regarding these two sons.

We all live with some regrets.

The question is, will we allow our regrets to haunt every moment? Will we permit them to drive us toward certain decisions to avoid facing our mistakes?

A fence blocking a path

We can’t change some situations in our lives. We can dwell on them and let the regret eat us up from the inside out. 

Or, we can own the responsibility for the choices we made and trust that God both knows our hearts and offers us His mercy.

Sometimes, God allows regret to motivate us to humble ourselves and make things right with the other person.

A path that leads under a natural arch created by trees bending over the path. The path beyond can be seen.

We may or may not be able to change their mind or right the situation. But when we’ve done what we can to reconcile our wrongs, regret loses its power over us. 

On occasion, we may be called to run. But often, we must come to terms with our regret and relinquish it to the Lord. We must ask for His help and mercy so regret doesn’t continue to influence our thoughts, our decisions, our hearts.

David had a valid reason to run from his son. It’s possible Absalom would have killed him. He had the numbers of followers on his side.

A small bridge spanning a short space over a stream and large rocks

But God . . . 

God knows His plans for each of us. He knows we’re going to blow it sometimes (or maybe a lot of times). But what will we do after we mess up? 

When we come to the Lord with our mistakes, He can work in our hearts, gift us with His mercy, and renew our hearts toward Him.

Meme: "when we come to the Lord with our mistakes, He can work in our hearts, gift us with His mercy and renew our hearts toward him." on a backdrop of wildflowers growing out of a crevice between rocks

Running is rarely the best way to handle a situation. If it’s been our modus operandi in the past, maybe we need to consult God about how to deal with the present situation. When we ask for His wisdom, He says He’ll give it if we ask in faith without doubting.

 As for David, Absalom did all he could to usurp his father. In the end, though, he made choices that led to his murder. David regained the throne, even as he grieved the death of his son. I’ve always wondered if he grieved so deeply because there was so much left undone between him and Absalom.

Image of wildflowers growing from a crevice between rocks

I sometimes say my goal is to live life with no regrets. The only way to do this is to be authentic before my Lord, humble in my actions, and to seek Him in all I do.

What about you? How have you responded to regrets in your life? How do you come to terms with regrets?

Click to Tweet: We must come to terms with our regret and relinquish it to the Lord.

I’m linking up with #TellHisStory and #RaRaLinkup

33 thoughts on “Regret: After We’ve Failed”

  1. If you don’t regret your life
    you didn’t reach quite high enough;
    safe instead far from the strife
    dividing weakness from the tough.
    The mark of the life best played
    is success followed by sheer disaster
    because of the bold choices made
    to go higher, further, faster.
    Death should find you on your knees
    in bitter grief for that last mess,
    crying out, “Oh, God, oh PLEASE,
    why did I bloody have to press?”
    God will reply (and His Love impart),
    “Because you have My hero’s heart.”

    For some reason, writing this put me in mind of Brewer and Shipley’s “One Toke Over The Line”, so if I may, here’s the Youtube link to a true classic.

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  2. Jeanne, thank you for this insight. I am currently making my way through 2 Samuel. I was so moved by David’s response about Absalom’s death (2 Samuel 18). Even the messenger could not utter the words to David that Absalom had died knowing how much it would hurt David’s heart. It reminds me of the Lord’s response to our failures, His everlasting kindness to us. Even in our worst failures He sees, knows, and loves despite. Thank you again for this. It spoke straight to my heart about letting God continue to transform me, through failures and regrets.

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    1. How fun that you’re reading where I’ve recently been, Heidi! I’m so thankful for God’s kindness in the face of my failings. I don’t think I could bear failure without Him with me. Thank you for your encouraging words here, friend!

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  3. There’s a reason why I wrote in all my sons’ baby books that my wish for them was that they would live their lives in such a way that they had few regrets. It’s the regrets that gnawed at my stomach lining, leading me to resolve to parent and “wife” in a regret-free way, but even that is, of course, impossible. Thanks be to God who wipes the slate clean every single day.

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    1. I love, love that, Michele. And I’m most impressed that you were able to create your son’s baby books! I had great intentions, but I never did what I envisioned. And now . . . well, it feels a little too late to start a baby book when they are mid-teens. 🙂 And yes, parenting and “wife-ing” in a regret-free way is impossible, but being aware of that desire/intention helps temper our words and actions, don’t you think? And yes, I’m thankful that God allows us to begin each day with a clean slate. Thanks for your sharing here, friend!

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  4. Wow, Jeanne. Powerful.

    The enemy can use our endless regrets and hand-wringing to keep us looking back instead of looking ahead at all God wants to do in and through us.

    Praise God for forgiveness and fresh beginnings … even amidst the consequences.

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    1. Linda, when we allow, the enemy has a field day with our regrets. We have to choose to look forward, don’t we? Kind of like what Paul says in Philippians about pressing forward? I’m praising God with you, my friend. Even amid the consequences.

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  5. What a wonderful post, Jeanne! I loved how you wove the thoughts on regret into the story of David and Absalom from 2 Samuel.
    “We can’t change some situations in our lives. We can dwell on them and let the regret eat us up from the inside out. Or, we can own the responsibility for the choices we made and trust that God both knows our hearts and offers us His mercy.”
    Every day, I thank God for His mercy and love. Living a life with no regrets is a good goal. One I aspire to, but will never reach.

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    1. Laurie, I find myself thanking God for His mercy on a daily basis too. And yes, sadly, we’ll never fully live without regrets, but when we aim for that, I believe it helps us be more aware of our words, actions, and choices, don’t you think? Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  6. Jeanne, I LOVE THIS. But then you knew I would. I do have many regrets, from a long and often misspent life. If there’s a mistake to be made, I’ve probably made it. My consolation is that God has always helped me get back on my feet, and in some cases recoup my losses.
    We did an intensive study on Life of David last year in adult Sunday School and I always come away with the realization that he experienced every human emotion, made a ton of mistakes, and still was redeemed.
    Talk to you soon,
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. Awww, Kathy . . . I so appreciate you. God is always faithful to help us stand after we’ve fallen, isn’t He? David had such an amazing relationship with the Lord. I marvel that he was considered “a man after God’s own heart.” and a friend of God. And, isn’t God amazing to redeem each person, especially after they’ve messed up? We just need to humble ourselves and come before Him, with repentant hearts. Thanks for your words, friend.

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  7. “I sometimes say my goal is to live life with no regrets. The only way to do this is to be authentic before my Lord, humble in my actions, and to seek Him in all I do.” Truth! Great post.

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    1. Authenticity is key, isn’t it, Gail? When we are authentic before the Lord, humility is an integral element. It’s only as we’re humble that we can be transparent before Him who sees everything in our hearts and loves us anyway. Thanks for your wisdom here!

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    1. Anita, it’s so good to see you! Yes, we definitely need the council of the Lord in all of our decisions, especially after we’ve messed up. I’m thankful He works in us when we come to Him rather than running away.

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  8. Jeanne, the hard thing for me, at least in this season of life, is handling regrets that have no way of being rectified. Honestly, it sometimes takes another person to point out what is driving these regrets. For example, I wish I had spent more time with each of my parents, but at the deepest root of that regret is that I wish I could spend time with them now. It’s a hard process, but it does make me look at other relationships where I still can make changes and think about what I can do differently with those. You’re right … the best thing we can do with these burdens, real or perceived, is to turn them over to Jesus. Hugs, friend.

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  9. I have sometimes thought how devastated David must have felt to have his own son seeking his life, but yes, I’m sure his grief was even deeper because of the regrets, those “if onlys.” I find it a comfort that whatever mistakes we make with our children, and we will make mistakes, God has the power to redeem them. Love and blessings to you, Jeanne!

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    1. Yes, Trudy. I can’t imagine how painful it must have been to have your own child turn against and try to usurp your authority. And then to have those regrets that could no longer be changed . . . tough things indeed. I’m thankful God redeems our mistakes too. It’s so hard to watch the fruit of some of our mistakes. Love and blessings back, sweet friend!

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  10. Our human nature, especially if have a very internal nature, is to question our choices when things don’t work out like we thought. I’ve always loved the scene in Lion King when the monkey hits Simba on the head a couple of times to help him understand his mistakes are in the past and over. haha! Grace is absolutely necessary, and daily to know that we can do better when we are humble, just as you mention! Regret does creep into my thought life for sure, and most likely can hold me back at times, but trust I can do better but making those small better choices daily.

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    1. Lynn, that scene from The Lion King is so good. 🙂 I’m so glad God doesn’t hold our past mistakes over our heads, but that He offers us His grace, like a shower always available. And yes, I believe you’re right . . . humility is essential. I’m with you, thankful God enables us to make better small choices daily. Thank you for your words!

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  11. The enemy uses regrets to shackle us to failure and shame and a host of other negative things. But if we remember this, “when we’ve done what we can to reconcile our wrongs, regret loses its power over us.” Yes! Thanks, Jeanne, great thoughts!

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    1. Karen, you’re so right. The enemy uses our regrets as his playground. There are times when we’re going to do things we can’t undo. I think it’s those occasions that can be the most difficult to overcome in our thoughts and hearts. I’m thankful God helps us through those painful times and helps us when we turn to Him with them.

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  12. There are so many good thoughts in this post I love how you connected regrets to the story of David and his son. Running never accomplishes what we hope it will. And I agree that many times we end up coming face to face with our regrets. I love this —> we can own the responsibility for the choices we made and trust that God both knows our hearts and offers us His mercy.

    God always knows and He is never surprised by our choices. May I make the choice that allows God to replace my regrets with His love and grace.

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