Do you carry feelings of regret? Regret can be damaging; it might not appear so on the outside, because we can still be functioning, going to church, and getting things done. But, deep in our souls, regret can be an emotional burden, affecting our ability to soak in joy.
One time, when my sons were still little, we had gone hiking and I noticed that Caleb, my younger son, was dragging his feet. Initially, I just kept telling him to catch up. “C’mon. Let’s keep going. On our walk back, I’ll give you some chocolate.” I rarely gave my kids candy, but on our hikes, I would carry snack-sized candies to motivate them. It wasn’t until we took a water break and I was close to Caleb that I noticed his backpack looked lumpy.
“What do you have in your backpack?” I asked. I discovered his backpack was very heavy.
It turns out this little boy was collecting rocks along the way and putting them in his backpack! No wonder he was so tired!
That’s what regret feels like. You know those hard things that you’ve been through and just tucked away because you figured they didn’t matter? God sees you and He cares about the regrets you carry.
What regrets are you carrying as you go through this day, this week, or this month, as we enter a new fall year?
I once thought regret didn’t harm anybody. I figured, I’m the only one who is affected by whatever it is I regret. But, on my journey to take better care of myself, God led me to learn that there are two kinds of regrets and it inspired me to see and treat my regret differently.
One kind of regret is called the action path. The other is the inaction path. The action path describes the things we regret because of something we did or mistakes we made that resulted in undesirable loss or pain. This is the type of regret that we can grow from — hard lessons learned that we gain wisdom from.
But the other kind of regret comes from inaction — researchers show that this kind of regret leads to depression, which can last for years. The inaction could have resulted from someone who stopped us, outside circumstances, or our own fears and insecurities. Regretting things that we never did, never tried, or were held back from pursuing brings sorrow and affects our emotional health.
Yet, Jesus says that He comes to give us joy and continues to fill us with joy and replenish our joy. In John 15:11, Jesus says that in Him our joy may be made full.
This doesn’t mean God wants us to squash our negative emotions. Rather, God wants us to bring our regrets to Him, so He can redeem them by helping us choose what gives us real joy. When we put feet to our faith, the bumps and mistakes we make along the way are things God will help us grow and recover from.
As I thought about some of the things I regretted not trying, a loving promise from Scripture came to my mind that is empowering me to do new things with God, to redeem regret with joy. I want to share God’s promise to empower you too:
You go before me and you follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Psalm 139:5 (NLT)
God goes before you. He knows the challenges ahead of you and nothing will catch God by surprise. God will catch you if you fall. You have a soft place to land. But notice something equally amazing: God is also behind you and God follows you! Other translations say, “You hem me in.”
Dear friends, God is not so far ahead that you are walking alone. No, in fact, Jesus is walking with you, and He is right behind you!
He is your shield. Jesus whispers, I am with you. I still place my hand of blessing upon you.
It’s never too late to choose joy. God’s faithfulness will follow you. Moment by moment. Step by step.
I hope this truth empowers you as much as it empowers me. That’s what I’ll be doing as I launch new ideas with God this fall. No regrets.
Let’s do new things together with Jesus. We are not alone. Overcome regret by redeeming it with joy. God is with you. You are God’s beloved!
Share one new thing you want to try, explore, or take a first step to choose joy this fall! Let’s encourage each other!
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Thank you for this post. I just purchased your book and am in the first few chapters. I am benefiting from hearing your story!! God Bless. Dee
Bonnie Gray says
Yay! Thank you, Dee! I’m so excited you’re reading my book –is it “Sweet Like Jasmine: Finding Identity in a Culture of Loneliness”? I’m SO blessed to hear the story is blessing you!! To God’s glory, it was named 2022 Christian Book Award Finalist by the Evangelical Christian Publisher’s Association (ECPA) — and it’s through you and beloved sisters-in-Christ that this book is reaching hearts with God’s love! I can only imagine your own beautiful God stories emerging as you read SLJ!!
What a good reminder for me. I have a tendency to look back and feel bad because of what I did, or think what I should have done instead and it keeps me stuck from enjoying the here and now.
Bonnie Gray says
Sweet Madeline (I love your name, btw), Thank you for sharing your heart and how this devotional spoke into your own journey and story. You are worthy of joy and all the beautiful things God has placed in your life to enjoy here and now will never expire. I’m thankful for all the wonderful things that God has for you, calling your name. How beautiful and beloved you are!
I’ve been reflecting on my life a lot lately. Yesterday was my 70th birthday and I have many regrets, past and present. I realize that those thoughts are keeping me from experiencing the joy God has for me today. While many things (including my husband’s health) are preventing me from doing things I would love to do and things I used to enjoy, I need to find the joy of my current reality and start living the life He’s given me, finding the joy that is here now. Thanks for this beautiful reminder, Bonnie.
Bonnie Gray says
Dear Gail, what a POWERFUL sweet moment you shared with God as you read the devotional today. I can tell you have the gift of discernment and wisdom — and a gift for words — to have such awareness to hear what God is touching your heart with! Thank you for sharing here with me. It’s an honor to hear your faith journey and ah-ha moment, sweet sister! Happy 70th Birthday, sister! I can only imagine the many beautiful treasures on your path this year!! May you feel empowered to choose joy as you feel inspired – you’re worthy!!
Beth Williams says
God assist Gail in releasing all regret to you. Help her to find joy in even the smallest of things like birds, squirrels, or flowers. Shower her with strength to handle whatever you give her. Bless her immensely. AMEN
Beautiful devotion. I never thought of regrets like rocks. Thank you.
Bonnie Gray says
Thank you for sharing, Charlene! Love hearing your ah-ha moment as today’s devotional spoke to your heart! Have a beautiful day, friend! You are beloved.
Sharon Jacobs says
I already did something new by taking a 3-day getaway/mini- retreat w/ the Lord staying in a treehouse. In fact, I am typing this from it right now. It’s been great!
Bonnie Gray says
oh, wow! Sharon — what a FABULOUS getaway/mini-retreat — in a treehouse!! I wish I could see it. Sounds absolutely a choose-joy moment!! Good for you! Go sister!! Thanks for writing us from your treehouse. yay! 🙂
Awesome! Needed this!
Bonnie Gray says
Thank you, Gloria! Love hearing today’s devotional spoke to your heart! Have a beautiful day, friend!
This really resonates with me today as I’m struggling with regret over things I said to someone very special. Words I didn’t mean and can’t take back. Anger spoken in the heat of the moment. It altered the course of our relationship. I am praying daily for reconciliation.
Bonnie Gray says
Thank you for sharing so vulnerably with us, Angela — your heart is a beautiful gift and is a light walking through real life, knowing we’re not alone. Give yourself the grace that God holds in his heart for you. He understands you and hears your prayers. May God’s comfort and peace bring your heart to a place of being held and supported. You are worthy of joy. You’re God’s beloved daughter.
Diane Bailey says
Bonnie, when I was young I collected rocks too. In the darkest corner, under my bed, I hide my collection. On Saturdays I would pull them out with a book of rock descriptions and decide which ones were worthy of keeping for their value or because they looked cool.
Regret, is a great analogy for holding onto things that weigh us down, or in my case, kept in the dark. Things that we think others would not understand.
Thank you for your beautiful words of encouragement today.
Bonnie Gray says
Sweet Diane, and fellow rock collector, I loved imagining you as a little girl categorizing the rocks you found and collected, placing them in the darkest corner. What a gifted writer you are. As you shared your story, the metaphor got extended – that we tend to place our regrets in a dark corner and categorize and return to looking at them. 🙂 By the way, I LOVE rocks. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a geologist! Thank YOU for your beautiful story and sharing with us. What a gift, sister!
Dawn Ferguson-Liitle says
Bonnie thank you for this as it has really spoken to me. The Joy Of The Lord Is Strength. We find this in Nehemiah 8:10. That verse is so true. I used think when after my late Mum passed away 4 years ago. I could have been a better Daughter to her spent more time with her. I went round every week one day a week and the odd weekends as well. Then another regret I did regret is. I never had her over to my home for lunch or tea like two sisters did every so often. I was never nor is my Husband are that type of people for entertaining our families especially our parent’s. But we did loads of other things for them and showed them our love our way and I still do. By doing now for my elderly Dad home help 7 days a week. Which I do on to Lord and for the Love of my Dad. But regret away back then was hard not feel for feeling guilty I didn’t invite my Mum now and then to my house for lunch or tea. It got it eat me up. I couldn’t find the joy that I had when my Mum was alive. As I began to say to myself why didn’t I be like my sister’s and have my Mum when alive over for the odd meal now and then. As she cooked for me when I went to see her once a week and the odd weekends. That is probably were the regret came from. Then one day the Lord through a person I can’t remember if was a friend or someone in my Church or who it was now. But thrh said Dawn don’t beat yourself up over it. You did things for your late Mum that your sisters didn’t do. Even though you didn’t have her round for a meal to your house. Your sisters doing that was there way of showing their love to your Mum their Mum too. You doing all the things you did for your Mum when visiting her once a week or at weekends as well. Was you showing your love to your Mum and if you stop and think about it. Your Mum wouldn’t have want it any other way from you and your sisters. Your Mum probably knew you were not an entertainer. So she even though might not have said you deep down appreciate all you did for her when round visiting her every week and the odd weekends. Plus what your sisters did by having her for the odd meal. So you have no regrets. You were a good Daughter to your Mum like your sisters. But showed it all you in different ways. That was you and your sisters ways of showing your Mum Love too. When that was said to me I knew God was speaking to me through that person. I began to heal and get my Joy back like it says in Neimah 8:10. I began to overcome my regret. I thank God for that person saying that to me that I can’t remember who it was. But very thankful. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little. In my prayers incourge. Xx❤️
Today’s reflection on regrets really resonated with me. Since my husband’s death seven years ago I seem to be living in the past. Regrets of what I should have done or said or the reverse. Shared more with him about my insecurities and fears. I don’t know why especially in the last couple of years this has bothered me so much. I try telling myself it’s in the past. I was so in love with him, still am, and he was the kindest, gentlest, loving man. But as with all relationships we say and do things sometimes that don’t show us in the best light. I know I can’t go back and change anything. I think I have been carrying rocks around for a long time. They are getting heavy and it’s time I put them down. I want to really experience the joy my family brings to me, the joy my faith and church bring to me. I’ll work on this. Thank you for your words today.
Thank you for this insight, it helped me!
Well, God has blessed us with many changes this year. Even as we grieve the loss of my mother in law and some dear friends after prolonged illnesses, we are also celebrating new life as our oldest daughter and her husband eagerly await the birth of their daughter next month (our first grandchild!) Our youngest daughter is getting married November 5. And I am retiring from nursing after working 39 years—primarily so I can be Grandma and help care for little Violet when her mommy returns to work.
Regrets? Yes, I have a few. I am retiring 6 months shy of 40 years. But it’s not worth the stress of continuing to work in a toxic environment. There will be adjustments, but I am looking forward to the change. I frequently felt guilty working while my daughters were growing up, but I was stuck on “nursing is a calling” and actual financial need. Hopefully I can help my own daughter not feel so guilty if it’s me caring for her little one.
Hello Bonnie, I just finished your book “Sweet Like Jasmine.” So, so, so good. Thank you for so bravely telling your story. I have a similar story – I am not Chinese – but other parts of my story are similar. The loneliness part of your story is what struck me so deeply as that has been such a big part of my story as well. Not belonging, not being wanted, not being cherished…..
Your faith from such a young age onward is very inspiring. God truly had His hand upon you and was calling you to Himself. I’m so sorry you endured so much as a child and also as an adult. I find myself wishing we were friends! Blessings to you sweet Bonnie.
Nancy Ruegg says
One joy I try to embrace when regrets come to call: God is redemptive by nature and unencumbered by time. I trust that even now he can redeem my poor choices of the past, bringing healing and restoration to those situations, as I repent of my participation. God didn’t put an expiration date on his promise to remove my transgressions as far as the east from the west (Psalm 103:12)–Hallelujah!
Beth Williams says
Love how you encourage women all the time. I used to have many regrets over how I lived my life in the past. Now God is redeeming all that & doing great things in my life. He’s giving me my joy back. Long story but quit good job to take care of parents. Was working part-time at hospital & didn’t see need to be home so much. God heard my prayers & pleas. He gave me a full-time benefitted position as ICU clerical. God is Always Good at redeeming our regrets!
The backpack is full, and I am tired. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned, and for your encouragement.
Life is good. God is good!