Woman Teaching Woman

How should Christians redeem their regrets over past decisions?

Recently, I posted a dating ad from a 39-year-old never-married single mother. She explained that she was now a Christian and was looking for a man to marry her, so that she could have a second child “the right way”. Some people thought we should take her conversion at face value. Others thought she was desperate and looking for a financial bailout. How can we tell if she is really sincere?

Well, I was still thinking about the comments on that post when I saw another great post from Laura, who writes at An Affair With Reason. Her post is about the feelings of regret that people have because of their past mistakes, and how Christians should deal with those regrets.

She writes:

As I thought about what to write I became distressed, sorrowful, angry, and even despondent over some of my own decisions. As I sobbed inconsolably, I noticed that every caustic thought began with, “If only….” That’s when I realized I was still carrying the burden of regret and I didn’t know how to let go. It wasn’t that I still needed God’s forgiveness or that I had any doubts about my standing with him; I knew I was forgiven. It was the lifelong consequences that I experience to this day which embittered my soul and squelched my joy.

The “if onlys” are a heavy burden to carry. They represent shattered dreams that will never be recovered in this life. They invoke feelings of discontentment, grief, and doubt. They cause us to sob with regret for what could have been, to pray for second chances that we know will not be granted.

So what do we do with the regrets that we must live with for the rest of our lives? Lately, as I’ve reflected on conversations I’ve had with many women who have made regretful decisions over the years and on the direction of our culture, I’ve noticed two very distinct paths:

1. Attempt to assuage our own guilt and regret by convincing others to make the same foolish, and even sinful, decisions we made.

 OR

2. Humble ourselves, grieve our losses, and commit to teaching the younger generations to choose a better way.

The first path is the wide and well-traveled one. Tragically and despicably, most people today seek to justify themselves and ease their consciences by getting others on board with their own ignorance, foolishness, and sinfulness.

She’s got quite a few examples of the kinds of regrets that men and women have, and different ways of dealing with those regrets. Some ways self-serving, others God-serving. Her examples are really interesting. It reminds me of “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis, where he explains why some people don’t resist God, and others do. Some people want to justify the past, and keep making decisions to benefit themselves. Others want to serve God. They want to take on the difficult work of opening up to others, and loving them by telling them the truth.

When I hear someone with a past say that they have now become a Christian, I normally ask “is this conversion just convenient for you or is it the result of some process where your mind was changed through study?” You can ask the person to show their work – how did they get to the right answer? And what has becoming a Christian cost them? How does it affect their relationships with non-Christians?

People “convert to Christianity” all the time based on need. Sometimes they’re trying to get something for themselves, e.g. – wanting to not be judged for their past, so they can attract a partner to financially support them. But other people spend years reading books and changing their minds page by page, debate by debate. Then they put their knowledge into practice.

I have mentored women who did this. One girl who contacted me through the blog wasn’t able to talk to her smart atheist brother about her faith. Then, she read a bunch of apologetics books about science and history, then called me and slipped the phone into her pocket and let me listen to her make a bold, informed stand for her Christian worldview for two hours. She won every point.

When people really become Christians, they don’t do it in order to be happy and or to be liked. They take on work, and they take on shame, because they have a Boss now. That’s how you can tell that real repentance has taken place. The letters of Paul in the New Testament are filled with advice for Christians who want to be bold, put themselves second, and advocate for their Boss. You should read them. When you read the Bible, try to put aside your feelings, your desires, and your concerns about what people will think. You’ll find that putting work for the Boss ahead of what you want is worth the price of being “second”. I would start with Philippians, then go on to 1 Peter.

By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve linked to Laura’s posts. Here are some of the other times I’ve linked to her work on my blog: on voting, on Islam, on mentoring boys, on fighting with pastors, on learning what works when dealing with atheists. She had a 10 part series advising women how to choose a husband, which really made me feel good as a man. Today, most people see a husband as an accessory – like a handbag. He’s there to provide, or to be a handyman, or to complain at if the wife is unhappy. Men should read that series, and find out what we can do in a marriage, if we are valued for our distinctive male nature.

13 thoughts on “How should Christians redeem their regrets over past decisions?”

  1. The point about the two paths was spot on. I know a woman who sat in church for decades, went to Bible studies, etc. but didn’t know if the Bible said that fornication was wrong. She just encouraged her daughter to wait “until she was in a serious relationship,” whatever that is. This otherwise highly intelligent woman thought it was hypocrisy to tell someone to avoid mistakes she’d made. How foolish. Her kids were constantly at church growing up, but as a social club. They became completely worldly at college. She thought her marriage was an “8” even though she had sex with her husband once a year. When drunk. Big shock: He left her after 30 years of marriage.

    “Today, most people see a husband as an accessory – like a handbag. He’s there to provide, or to be a handyman, or to complain at if the wife is unhappy.”

    Yep. The videos where women act like they’ve seen the light and now realize how men are valuable are inextricably tied to them needing chores done, like mowing the lawn or fixing the house.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great comment!

      It bothers me that otherwise intelligent women don’t see any value in guiding the younger women. So many put a lot of effort into education and career, but nothing into Bible, apologetics and evidence. Then they look at young Christians and have no ability or interest in persuading them to be wise. Maybe it’s easier to just affirm and approve of whatever the secular culture is telling those women, whether it works or not. It’s less work, you don’t have to read or make a case for what the Bible says. Easy, and you don’t have to make any conflicts.

      As for the lack of understanding of male nature, whether it be needs (sex) or abilities (leadership), that’s everywhere. The “conservative” women are the ones who suddenly value men… As handymen! Or they start to praise chivalry… So long as chivalry means that men have to do things, but women don’t have to have any particular character or obligations.

      The nice thing about Laura’s list of 10 character traits of husband’s is that it at least puts them burden on women to know about these character traits, and to prefer them. At least someone is telling young women that have to do more than whatever they feel like doing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “It bothers me that otherwise intelligent women don’t see any value in guiding the younger women.”

        Especially when the Bible commands them to! (e.g., Titus) Good for Laura. Glad you point people to things like that.

        The word “chivalry” has been so abused and polluted that I avoid it. People seem to read their preferred definition into it, none of which seem to line up with the Bible.

        Re. careers — I’m blessed to enjoy things about my job, but as I often say, “There is a reason they pay us.” Feminism has completely glamorized careers, but few women will experience the false stereotype. “Submit to a husband who has committed to loving me as Christ loves the church? No way! Submit to a secular boss who may fire me at any time? Sign me up!”

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I’d rather be doing the female track of raising kids and having an influence with apologetics. I don’t think that people see how valuable influencing children, neighbors, Christians and college students could be. I’m talking about having a blog,a podcast, a small group and influencing the campus. Who wouldn’t want that?

          Work is just having to keep quiet about everything that matters, because everyone is competing on productivity, and everyone gets offended by religion and politics.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Regarding our past mistakes, the culture puts us in a no-win situation when giving advice. If you’ve done something, you are a hypocrite to speak against it. But if you haven’t done/tried a thing, you have no right to speak about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “When people really become Christians, they don’t do it in order to be happy and or to be liked. They take on work, and they take on shame, because they have a Boss now.”

    Can’t disagree. God has rules, regulations and expect Christians to properly teach the younger generation and non believers what it means to be a Christian. I try to teach my little brother what it means to be a Christian and try my best to answer his questions since no one else does. I have a weak atheist(closer to an agnostic) friend who ask me questions about Christianity as well.

    But with regret. That something I struggle with. Because for me when I did something wrong, I usually knew what I was doing. Which means I being stupid which hurts in the long term.

    If I didn’t know(ignorance) and made that mistake, the mistake doesn’t hurt as bad for both long and short term.

    We need more Christians to actually teach.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I listened to the entire video. Encouraging, thank you.

    I am sad for today’s lost because they have a stronghold preventing them for getting from Bradley what you did in the 90s or 00s and what I get from it. The hurdle is postmodern thinking. Specifically, Bradley said to examine the evidence using logic and principles such as the law of noncontradiction.
    Saying that is a huge distraction to too many people. They immediately hear that and retreat to a political identification with the left. For them to give Bradley credence would be akin to calling themselves racist killers. CRT training says logic is an oppressor’s tool, so I unfortunately think a huge amount of people will need a different tool to be reached.
    I don’t know what to make of these times, an age where even highly educated and really smart minds have based their identification on their emotional response to mainstream media’s presentation of reality.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I used to hear Walt Kaiser Jr. at chapel talk about things like “Rabbit’s Foot Christianity” (i.e., “God, if you get me out of this mess, I’ll do X” as well as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” — I graduated from seminary before Christian Smith wrote his book).

    In any case, a lot of this gets at the heart of repentance and “worldly sorrow” vs. “godly sorrow” as per 2Corinthians 7.

    There’s a big difference between the attitude of “I feel guilty, therefore, I will put on a show” and “telling God: God you are right, I am wrong, I have sinned — give me strength to do things your way and align my will to Yours.”

    And certainly, restitution is a biblical principle: nobody, not even Jesus, claimed Zacchaeus was legalistic for returning back four times the amount he cheated anyone out of.

    Carefully teaching others NOT to make the same mistakes you’ve made can be a part of that.

    I run a counter-cult ministry: yes, I got [suckered] into a cult for a while.

    I don’t ever want anyone to have to go through the kinds of things that other former members (as well as current members) have to endure.

    It is NOT hypocritical for me to try to dissuade people to join, or is it hypocritical to denounce what they do wrong: I can clearly see people derailing their lives by getting into various cults, and being used to advance the cult’s purposes.

    Likewise, maybe it’s not a cult — maybe it’s alcoholism or greed or whatever the 39-year old lady did with her life — people can help others make better choices in life, to follow God, and to run away from sin.

    Liked by 1 person

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