If there was one thing about your past that you could change what would it be? Would you choose a different career? What about moving to the oth
er side of the world? Maybe you spoke some words you shouldn’t have. Dealing with remorse is part of the human experience. I remember my father always saying ”If, if’s and but’s were pots and pans, life would be a kitchen.” When I was a child I never truly grasped the meaning. However, now that I have experienced life I can relate to that statement.
Everyone has what if’s, everyone has but’s. The question is what do we do with all of these pots and pans? How can I avoid being consumed by my regrets? Whether we realize it or not but your regrets could be eating you alive. It is a known fact that regrets have a damaging effect not only on the mind but also the body. It causes stress, depression, anxiety, and even arthritis. Those are only a few examples of the negative effects of regret. In many cases recovering from regret can take, years, months, or even a lifetime. Unfortunately some never recover from their regrets. I personally have many I’m still trying to recover and heal from.
I’m sure Adam and Eve regretted eating from the tree. The same can be said of David and his relationship with Bathsheba. Even Judas regretted betraying Jesus (Matthew 27:3). The question is how can we heal from remorse?
The journey to healing from remorse begins with repentance from our actions or lack of actions. Repentance is more than feeling sorry for your actions. An easy way to view repentance is like realizing you're driving in the wrong direction. Do you keep driving that way as you say to yourself, “I’m going in the wrong direction?” Of course not. Once you realize you’re going the wrong way you simply turn around. For each of us the action of turning around is something different.
Judas for example attempted to repent. Yet he failed. He attempted to reverse his actions to the wrong priest. He tried to bring his 30 pieces of silver back. The Priest and elders response was what is done is done. They were not concerned about the feelings that were flowing through Judas heart. Judas should have went to the priest he betrayed, the High Priest Jesus Christ. Eventually Judas remorse lead to him committing suicide.
Judas is not the only one who used suicide as an attempt to escape remorse. Many have and continue to commit suicide because they couldn’t (or feel like they can’t) live with their regrets. The number is even higher for the people who live with regret on a daily basis. Regret more times than not is the doorway that leads to some form of depression. The United States spends an estimated of $44 to $55 billion a year on cost associated with depression. In order to deal with regret we must address the specific source of the regret whether it’s a person or situation. Otherwise we are just spinning our wheels.
Like Judas, Peter also felt remorse for his actions during the crucifixion weekend. Peter denied Christ three times. You could tell by his actions he regretted denying Christ. He was back to his old habit of fishing. Maybe as he was fishing he was thinking about Luke 9:23 where Jesus says, “If you deny me before men, I will deny you before my Father in heaven.” Or perhaps he was thinking of Matthew 10:33 where Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be my disciple he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. In Peter’s mind he couldn’t follow Christ he had just denied three times. He couldn’t cast out demons, heal the sick or preach the good news to the broken. Why? Because he himself was broken, possibly even depressed because of regret.
I have been in that place, many have. In John 21 we see Peter take steps to heal from regret. “4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. 6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water
Here we see Peter take his first steps towards repentance. Peter jumps out the boat, unlike the other time recorded in scripture where he asks Jesus if he can come towards him as he begins to walk on water. This time he doesn’t want for Jesus to ask. When Jesus says, “It is the Lord.” Peter immediately comes to Jesus. When the rest of the disciples made it to the shore, the fire was going and the fish was already ready. Scripture does not record what they talked about. It must have been something only for Peter’s ears.
However, John 21 does give us a key to repentance. What scripture does show is is that Jesus asked Peter the same question three times. He asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Jesus knew in his heart that Peter loved him. So why did he ask? One reason is that Jesus wanted Peter to know for himself. Maybe Peter questioned within himself if he truly loved Jesus. The second thing is that Peter had to confess his love for Jesus. Instead of him denying his association with Christ, he was confirming a bond that can never be broken. Additionally, Peter was breaking the curse that comes with denying Christ before men.
That curse is Jesus denying you before his Father in heaven. Your journey towards repentance is complete once you have reversed your mind, your actions, your words. Maybe the person will not receive your words or your actions. Maybe they are not in that place of forgiveness yet. However, there is one in heaven who sees and knows all. As recorded in his book Jesus says in Matthew 6:14, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you”. This also applies to forgiving yourself. Sometimes the one we have the hardest time
forgiving is ourselves.
One final note on healing from remorse. Repentance is not only the change of direction. It’s the act of us acknowledging that God’s grace is sufficient to cover our remorse. So no matter what you have done if you are reading this article there is still time for you.