How to Avoid Regrets
YOU know what regret is. It is a wish that something could be done over and done differently. It is mental sorrow for past conduct or neglect. Do you have any regrets? All of us have done things that we wish we could go back and do differently.
But think for a moment about our God, Jehovah, in this respect. The Bible says: “The Excellency of Israel will not prove false, and He will not feel regrets, for He is not an earthling man so as to feel regrets.” (1 Sam. 15:29) Jehovah has no regrets. When he looks back, there is not a place or a time in the endless millenniums gone by where he ever made a mistake or acted unwisely, unjustly or unkindly. When Jehovah does something, it is right to begin with and never needs to be changed.
The same cannot be said for humans. This includes all earthly servants of Jehovah, with the exception, of course, of the perfect man Jesus Christ.—1 Pet. 2:22.
EXAMPLES OF REGRET BY HUMANS
For instance, there was God’s servant Moses. Moses had to deal with the rebellious people of Israel for forty years. He struggled and, at times, contended with them, trying to help them gain Jehovah’s approval so that they could enter the Promised Land. Finally, after many years of wandering in the wilderness, the time came for them to enter. What rejoicing there must have been in Israel!
But, just as they were about to go in, Jehovah reminded Moses in regard to himself and his brother Aaron: “You men acted undutifully toward me in the middle of the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.” Therefore God told Moses: “From a distance you will see the land, but you will not go there into the land that I am giving to the sons of Israel.” (Deut. 32:49-52) How Moses must have looked back with regret on how he had handled matters at Meribah!—Num. 20:9-13.
Then there was God’s servant David, who improperly took a census of Israel. He was called to account for this, and so pleaded with Jehovah: “I have sinned very much in what I have done. . . . let your servant’s error pass by, please; for I have acted very foolishly.” (2 Sam. 24:10) Obviously, David’s heart was filled with remorse over what he had done. His mistake was a serious one indeed; in time it resulted in loss of the lives of 70,000 of his people. (2 Sam. 24:15) How would you feel about making a mistake that ultimately involved the loss of the lives of 70,000 persons?
The Christian apostle Peter was another example. On the night before his death Jesus had made an ominous prediction about Peter. “On this night,” Jesus said, “before a cock crows, you will disown me three times.” Peter seemed indignant that the Master should even suggest such a thing! “Even if I should have to die with you,” Peter protested, “I will by no means disown you.”—Matt. 26:34, 35.
But the rapid events of that night quickly changed his circumstances. Within hours Peter found himself being accused before men who did not share his faith: “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” Before he realized what had happened, he had repeatedly told them: “I do not know the man!” Finally the cock crowed. The full weight of Peter’s wrong fell upon him with crushing impact. Brokenhearted, “he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Matt. 26:70-75) Words could hardly express the sorrow that Peter felt in regret.
The list goes on and on. We can hardly refer to any faithful servant of God from the past without finding that he had a personal cause to feel regret. Without question, the same must be true today. How about you? What regrets do you have?
Consider your past, say the last five years. Can you recall things that happened during those years that you now have reason to regret? Did you presume too much, as did Moses, and later suffer for it? Or, as in David’s case, did improper actions on your part result in hurt to other persons? Have you ever behaved as Peter did, allowing fear of others to pressure you into a wrong course? Or, in your case, it may be other matters that cause your regret. All of us know the unpleasant feeling of regret. The question is, What can we do?
SHALL WE WORRY?
Many persons worry. But will worry solve the problem? Apology to the one wronged may help to restore good relations. Avoiding the circumstances that led to the wrong will help to avoid future difficulty. But worry is nothing but a waste of time, and a dangerous waste at that. It often results in loss of sleep, ulcers and serious difficulties because one’s mind is not on the work at hand. Rather than solving a problem, it produces more.
If a person has acted improperly, perhaps violating God’s law or ignoring the counsel in His Word, then he should seek God’s forgiveness. In doing so, he should avail himself of the provisions that God has made. Jesus instructed his followers to pray to God for forgiveness. (Mark 11:24, 25) He did not say they would be rewarded for worry, but for asking in faith. Jehovah has made provision for forgiveness of the sins of those who truly repent, correct their course and humbly seek his forgiveness on the basis of the ransom.—Acts 3:19; 1 John 2:1, 2.
AVOIDING THINGS TO REGRET
Our chief concern now should be for the present and the future. We must maintain a course of faithfulness that will prevent any possible regrets at a future time. Just as we looked back over the past five years, let us look five years into the future. That will be the year 1974. What will we be regretting then? What are we doing right now, or failing to do now, that years from now we will wish we had done or had done differently?
Jehovah has provided sufficient information so that we can definitely know the trend of future events. His Word reveals that we are without question fast approaching the end of this entire wicked system of things. (Matt. 24:3-14; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 1 John 2:17) Intense hatred and violence will flare even hotter. Disregard for law will grow worse. Antagonism toward anything religious will become prevalent. This spirit will emerge so strong that it will ultimately result in the destruction of the entire empire of false religion, Babylon the Great.—Rev. 18:1-8.
So when the end of this system of things soon comes, what will be our greatest need? our most valuable possession? It will not be our money or material possessions. It will not be any friendly elements of the world. No, but our most valuable possession and greatest need will be an unshakable faith in our God, Jehovah.
We will need absolute assurance in our heart and mind that Jehovah is really alive and that all the Bible says about Him is true. We will have to possess a firm conviction that our salvation is guaranteed even if the Devil succeeds in taking our very lives. At that time, if there are any questions in your mind, any weaknesses in your faith, if you are not absolutely convinced that what you believe is true, you are going to have some regrets. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to remain firm without this faith.
A most urgent activity to which we need to apply ourselves now is building, strengthening, making firm our faith. As always, Jehovah provides for this need. All the essentials required for building faith are to be found in the daily activities of the Christian congregation. Faith is built through persistent prayer, daily study of God’s Word, association with others of like faith, faithful attendance at meetings and regular participation in the ministry.
Jehovah’s people would be most unwise to neglect these vital provisions. How foolish it would be to view prayer as a necessity only in time of urgent need! What a mistake to regard study of God’s Word as a drudgery to be avoided! How shortsighted to view the necessity of avoiding worldly association as an unfair restriction! How immature we would be to consider meetings as of little consequence in our weekly schedule! What a lack of appreciation we would show if we shared only irregularly in the ministry!
To what extent are you involved in this program? Are you a faithful participant or an occasional visitor? Are you an active supporter or a disinterested bystander? Have personal interests and their pursuit been your prime concern? Based on what we have learned from God’s Word, we can appreciate that those who now neglect their spiritual need will one day wish they had not. They are asking for regret.
We have no desire for these regrets. The apostle Paul advised us wisely when he urged us: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of [that is, nothing to regret], handling the word of the truth aright.” (2 Tim. 2:15) Let that “word of the truth” guide you. Apply its principles in all the affairs of life. Keep your eye focused on the marvelous hope to which it directs attention. Doing so, you will be spared O so many experiences that would be nothing but a cause for regret.