The seasonal shift is upon us: kids are going back to school; fall planning and projects have begun; and the weather is about to change. It’s easy to look back at the summer and think, “What if …” but is that what God wants for our life? Regret is a fickle friend. I think there is a better friend to be found.
Regret assumes all of the knowledge of today, much of which wasn’t available when past decisions were made. And as such, “regret” is never accurate. Regret also leads to self-pity—and “self-pity” only tells lies.
But there are some helpful things about regret—the self-reflective nature of regret can be used for good. So what if we had the self-reflection without the self-pity and without regret itself? What if, right now, each of us took the things we wish could have been different and turned them into positive change? That effort begins with reflecting on God's character.
Although God himself is unchanging in character—he is no fickle person—he is prone to make changes. God knows that things must be different to be better.
We see this in the life of Moses; Moses’ entire journey starts with his deep sadness about the enslavement of the Hebrew people (Exodus 2:11). Moses first responds incorrectly, with taking the life of a persecutor. Filled with worry, and surely regret, Moses runs to the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15). And this is where the story could end—with Moses living out his life as a fugitive. But God wants something from Moses; he wants to redeem Moses and use his life for good. Yahweh says to Moses:
“Surely I have seen the misery of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry of distress because of their oppressors, for I know their sufferings. And I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from this land to a good and wide land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, … look, the cry of distress of the Israelites has come to me, and also I see the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. And now come, and I will send you to Pharaoh, and you must bring my people, the Israelites, out from Egypt” (Exodus 3:7–10 LEB).
Moses believes God, but knows the severity of these words. He understands that the task of freeing the Hebrew slaves will be incredibly difficult. Moses says to God:
“‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out from Egypt?’ And [Yahweh] said, ‘Because I am with you, and this will be the sign for you that I myself have sent you: When you bring the people out from Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain’” (Exodus 3:11–12 LEB).
Moses’ life will not be one full of regret after all, but instead one of advocating on behalf of the oppressed. And God himself will be with Moses. And today, God himself wants to be with you. God wants to change the world through your life (John 17).
The new seasons of life bring with them new opportunities. Indeed, each day is new, but the feeling of a new season helps us to make commitments and take actions. Some of these actions are fueled by regret, while others are fueled by desire. But what if our new commitments were instead fueled by our love for our God?
We have an opportunity, right here and right now, to make a decision to walk alongside those in need. To be a people who, like Moses, lift up those on the underside of power—those without a voice. And we have a God who wants to see that happen.
We can turn our regret into advocacy. In the process, we may find that the next seasonal transition is marked by far less regret because our lives are too filled by doing good for the self-pity to reign.
Our God hears our cries and hears the cries of the hurting. The Exodus story proves that. What can you do this coming season to walk alongside those who desperately need an advocate? How can you change your lifestyle to better align it with God’s ways? Imagine the power of the Holy Spirit working through you this season to transform lives. And imagine all the glory you could give to Jesus when that happens.
Here is the season. Embrace it. Don't live in the past. Think of what you can do in the future. May God renew you. May he turn your regrets into advocacy.*
Join us in renewing Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus. Or partner with Jesus’ Economy by donating your time or birthday to making the world a better place.
*This article is adapted from my earlier article, "A New Year Renewed by God: Reflections on Exodus."