Satan does some of his finest work in our memories. Well, at least in my memories. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m sort of unique in that I am constantly hitting the rewind button and replaying my failures and mistakes. God knows that there’s plenty to choose from. It’s those solitaire moments when Satan is at his best, and I’m at my worst.
Of course, we’re talking about regret here. What I wish I would have done. What I wish I hadn’t done. What I wish I would have known. What I wish I wouldn’t have said. What I wish I would have said. It seems like I’ve got a long list for each category. Just in case you’re a little more like me than what I figured, maybe the short version of my list will encourage you a little.
- I wish that I hadn’t taken so long to mature emotionally.
- I wish that I would have taken my undergrad college years more seriously.
- I wish I wouldn’t have borrowed so much money to renovate that house.
- I wish I could have stayed longer at the churches that I’ve served.
Okay, I think that’s enough. I’m sure you get the idea. As I sit here thinking and writing, I’ve begun to realize how troubling living in the past is – especially the past that we wish we could take a mulligan on. I can only think of one good thing that comes out of reliving my mistakes and failures: learning from them. Sometimes thinking about an event, conversation or decision just one time (right after the fact) doesn’t give us enough of an opportunity to process it and learn from it. Sometimes we need to let some time pass before we’re able to accurately reflect on the past. But other than this one benefit, I can think of nothing else positive that comes from laboring in the past.
On the other hand, I can think of more than a few bad things that does to me.
- Pulls my attention away from what’s most important right now; like my relationships with God, my wife, my kids and all the people in my life that love me. The more time I spend on the negative means I am devoting less time to what could be positive in my life.
- Satan uses these thoughts to eat away at my self-esteem and self-confidence. That’s important to and for everyone – regardless of your work or family situation. But I can say for certain that as a minister/church leader, it’s an absolute career killer. If I lose confidence in myself then it will reflect in my teaching, preaching and relationships in the church. Very few people are going to be interested or able to follow someone who isn’t convicted, passionate and sure of what he’s “selling”.
- Not only does it pull my attention away from God (like I mentioned in the first point), but it also wears down and strips away the fabric of my relationship with God. This is kind of a no-brainer, it’s not scriptural to live in the past. Take for example the teaching from the Prophet Jeremiah.
31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will allknow Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34
It’s not real hard for me to see that this timeless scripture applies to me as well. It such a refreshing thought to consider how I spend A LOT more time considering my failures and mistakes than what God does. Knowing that his is the only opinion that really counts, that seems kind of silly.
It helps me to admit that I have walked through more valleys filled with self-doubt than I care to remember. I know many others have as well. So I write this with the sincere desire that you would come to understand with just a little more clarity that God loves you dearly, forgives the penitent and longs for all his children to find the peace that comes only from knowing him.
May God bless and keep you in his warmth of his arms. Amen.
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