Avoiding Future Regret; Take II

Psalm 32:1-5
John 13:1-11
I John 1:1-2:2

Two weeks ago, we noted that the definition of regret is “being sad, repentant, remorseful or disappointed about past decisions or missed opportunities.” We acknowledged therefore that ‘regret’ interferes with our being happier than we might otherwise be because we can’t be happy and at the same time sad, repentant, remorseful or disappointed.

We noted that the Apostle Paul had regrets but in Philippians, he wrote: “but I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” (3:14).

We considered some action steps we could take in order to do just that: If you missed that day or would be interested in reviewing, read it here.

Last week, we considered four things we could do in the present to avoid future regret:

Turn mistakes into stepping stones.
Let go of perfectionistic tendencies.
Don’t bring your work home with you.
Strive to live out the fruit of the Spirit.

Review that message here.

Today, I want to continue last week’s theme by giving you steps 5, 6 and 7 to take today
in order to avoid regret in the future.

Five, tell those you love that you love them.

Love and being loved is one of the best, if not the best, things in life. God gave us a tongue to express ourselves; so let’s express ourselves.

For some reason this can be difficult; especially if you were raised in a home where love was not verbalized. If love is not expressed in the family, usually, but not always, children do not learn how to express it either.

And of course, men have the most difficulty. You may have heard that women are more verbal than men. And it is true that men have a tendency to show love in their actions rather than verbalize it. But even so men, it is important to put love into your words.

The Apostle Peter reminds us in his first letter: “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other” (I Peter 4:8).

This past week, I read the following story:

It was the day my father died. In the small hospital room, I was supporting him in my arms, when my father slumped back, and I lowered his head gently onto the pillow. I told my mother, “It’s all over, Mom. Dad is dead!” I will never know why these were her first words after his death. My mother said, “Oh, he was so proud of you. He loved you so much.” Somehow I knew these words were saying something very important to me. They were like a sudden shaft of light, like a startling thought I had never before absorbed. Yet there was a definite edge of pain, as though I were going to know my father better in death than I had ever known him in life. Later, while a doctor was verifying death, I was leaning against the wall in the far corner of the room, crying softly. A nurse came over to me and put a comforting arm around me. I couldn’t talk through my tears. I wanted to tell her: “I’m not crying because my father is dead. I’m crying because my father never told me that he was proud of me. He never told me that he loved me.” Of course, I was expected to know these things. I was expected to know the great part I played in his life and the great part I occupied in his heart, but he never told me. 1

None of us are promised tomorrow, so let’s be like God and express our love today

Six, be intentional about forgiving others quickly.

You knew I was going to bring this up, didn’t you? Yes, it’s tough. But to forgive another person, and quickly, can save us so much regret in the future.

Sue Monk Kidd is a nurse who has written several articles that have been published in Guideposts magazine. In one she talks about entering the ICU room of a 50-year-old Mr. Williams who had suffered a slight heart attack a few hours before. As she scanned his vitals, he said, “Nurse, would you call my daughter? Tell her I’ve had a little heart attack. You see, I live alone and she is the only family I have.”
His respiration suddenly sped up so she turned his oxygen up a little.
“Yes, I’ll call her,” she said.
He gripped the sheets and pulled himself forward, “Will you call her right away . . . as soon as you can?”
“I’ll go call her right now,” she replied and turned to leave the room and then he asked for a piece of paper and a pencil. She dug a scrap of paper and a pen from her pocket and set it on the bedside table, and then walked to the nurses’ station to make the call to his daughter.
“Janie, this is Sue Kidd, a registered nurse at the hospital. I’m calling to let you know your father was admitted with a slight heart attack.”
“No!” she screamed into the phone, “He’s not dying is he?”
“His condition is stable at the moment.”
“You must not let him die!” she said.
“I assure you he is getting the very best care.”
“But you don’t understand,” she pleaded. “My daddy and I haven’t spoken in almost a year. We had a terrible argument on my 21st birthday, over my boyfriend. I ran out of the house and haven’t been back. All these months I’ve wanted to go to him for forgiveness. The last thing I said to him was, ‘I hate you.’” Her voice cracked and she began to sob.
Sue Kidd breathed a prayer. “Please, God, let this daughter find forgiveness.”
Suddenly she thought about her own father who lived two states away that although they were on good terms, they hadn’t spoken for two months.
“I’ll be there in 45 minutes,” Janie said and hung up.
About that time Sue heard the warning from Mr. Williams monitor; he was in cardiac arrest. As she ran down the hall, she prayed, “O God, don’t let it end this way.” Doctors and nurses tried their best to save him but to no avail. As the doctor called the time of death, she leaned against a window frame and wondered how she was going to face the daughter. When she left the room, she saw her against the wall by a water fountain with the doctor informing her that her father was gone. Then he moved on, leaving her slumped against the wall. The nurse took her hand and led her into the nurses’ lounge.
“Janie, I’m so sorry,” she said.
“I never hated him, you know. I loved him,” she said. Suddenly she said, “I want to see him.” They walked slowly down the corridor to room 712. Janie leaned over the bed and buried her face in the sheets sobbing. Nurse Kidd backed against the bedside table; where she noticed a piece of paper. She picked it up and read:

‘My dearest Janie, I forgive you. I pray you will also forgive me. I know that you love me. I love you too. Daddy’

The note was shaking in her hands as she handed it to his daughter. She read it once; then twice and then hugged the scrap of paper to her chest. “Thank You, God,” the nurse whispered a prayer.
Then in her own words, she wrote, “I crept from the room and hurried to the phone to call my father. I would tell him, “I love you, Dad.” 2

No wonder Jesus says, “When you have problems with someone else, settle with that person quickly” (Matthew 5:25). Because as time passes without forgiveness, the harder it becomes to take that step to forgive and the result is regret begins to pile up in our account.

Thirdly, begin to live with a clear conscience today.

John Wooden once observed, “There is no pillow as soft as a clear conscience.” People who live with clear conscience live happier lives. This means two things.

First, receiving forgiveness for past errors, mistakes, wrongdoings; i.e., sin. We all sin, we all need to be forgiven by God. According to the Bible it is futile, ineffective and even vain to attempt to secure our forgiveness by impressing God with how good we are! According to the Bible, the only way to receive forgiveness is by asking to be forgiven through the merits of the One who died.

This also means at the beginning and/or end of every day doing a spiritual inventory, where we talk to God about anything that is standing between us and Him. We can think of it as spiritual breathing out our sins in confession and breathing in God’s power and cleansing. This practice derives from the Apostle John’s first letter to the church: “If we confess our sins, He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9)

We can be justified (made right) only once; but we need to be forgiven every day.

Jesus illustrated this point when He washed the apostles’ feet. Peter asked him to wash his hands and his head, as well as his feet. Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean.” A man invited to a dinner party in Jerusalem would take a bath before going out. On arrival at his friend’s house, he would not be offered another bath; but a slave would meet him at the front door and wash his feet.

So when we first come to Christ in repentance and faith, we receive a ‘bath’ (justification, which is outwardly symbolized by water baptism). It never needs to be repeated. We are in the Prophet Isaiah’s words, made as white (pure) as snow (1:18). But as we walk through the dusty streets of the world, we constantly need to ‘have our feet washed’ (our need for daily forgiveness).

It seems that professional golfer Ben Hogan once accidentally taped his ball and it moved just slightly. Hogan said to his caddie, “That will cost us a stroke.”
“I didn’t see it, Mr. Hogan,” the caddie said, “and I’m sure no one else did.”
“I saw it,” said Hogan, “and that’s enough; I have to live with me.”

This is me.

This is who we want to be.

Most of us remember those laundry detergent commercials where some kid gets grape juice on his white t-shirt. Mom puts the stained shirt in the wash with the advertised detergent, and presto, the stain is gone. Then they show a side-by-side comparison of the shirt before and after the wash. The stained shirt is on the left and the washed shirt is on the right, white enough to make an angel self-conscious. What do we say when we see the comparison? “Yeah, right!” We don’t believe it because our experience with grape juice stains tells us that it is impossible to remove it that thoroughly.

That “yeah, right” attitude can also keep us from accepting what Jesus did to clean us up.
God promises us that if we believe in Jesus we will be made whiter than snow. But our experience tells us we cannot change. We have tried everything and nothing has worked.
So we hear the message of the gospel and think, “Yeah right, not me.”

If that is your attitude, you are forgetting the commercial’s secret. Is the shirt on the right really the one that went through the wash? No! It’s a brand new one! No laundry detergent works that well.

That is also how God makes you clean. He makes you brand new; He gives you new birth; He makes you a new creation. Paul says, “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; behold the old is gone, the new has come” (II Corinthians 5:17).

What’s it going to be?


Or this?

1 Bolton, Robert. People Skills. [New York: Simon and Schuster, © 1979].
Pages 180-181.

2 Guideposts Magazine, 1979.

Randy K'Meyer

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