Did you ever regret that you had met a certain person, had gone to a particular place, had taken a certain job or had missed some life opportunity? Did you ever wonder, what if I had_____________(fill in the blank)
Regret is sorrow or remorse over something that has happened or that we have done. Regret can also be a sense of disappointment over what has not happened, such as regretting wasted years. To be human is to have regrets because making mistakes is a universal experience. The Bible gives much instruction that, if followed, will result in fewer regrets. God’s commands and boundaries are written down for us in His Word, and the more we adhere to them, the less we have to regret. However, in God’s grace and mercy, He has also provided a way to deal with regrets when we have not lived as wisely as He wants us to (see Psalm 51:12).
In considering what the Bible says about regrets, we should start with the fact that in a couple of places we are told that God “regretted” an action He took. The Hebrew root for the word “regret” actually means “to sigh.” Since we know God does not make mistakes, the concept of sighing is a more descriptive term for the kind of regret God experiences. Genesis 6:7 says that, after seeing the wickedness on the earth, God regretted making man. This does not mean that the Lord felt that He made a mistake in creating human beings, but that His heart was sorrowful as He witnessed the direction they were going. Since God knows everything beforehand, He already knew that sin would bring consequences, so He was not surprised by it (1 Peter 1:20; Ephesians 1:4; Isaiah 46:9–11). Instead, this glimpse into God’s character shows us that, even though He already knows we will sin, it still grieves Him when we choose it (Ephesians 4:30).
Human regret is different from God’s regret. Human regret occurs because we do not know all things and we do make mistakes. As we age, we often look back on decisions made in youth and regret our choices. However, those regrets usually fall into one of two categories. Our regrets arise from either foolish choices or sin choices, and each requires a different response.
First, we may experience regret because of foolish choices, situations in the past that we wish had been different. Peter is one biblical example of someone who deeply regretted a foolish decision. Although Peter was committed to Jesus, his fear made him run away when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, and he later denied his Lord. His actions did not come from a desire to sin, but from impulse, spiritual immaturity, and fear. He deeply regretted his actions and wept bitterly (Luke 22:62). Jesus knew about Peter’s regret and specifically asked to see him after His resurrection (Mark 16:7). We learn from this that our regrets are not hidden from God and He desires to restore us when we return to Him (Malachi 3:7; Jeremiah 24:7).
Regret can lead some to self-destruction, but God wants to use it to lead us toward repentance.