Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Psalms for Trials: Meditations on Praying the Psalms (Canon Press, 2018), and is published with the author’s permission.
“The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
from this time forth, and even forevermore.”
(Psalm 121:7-8 NKJV)
Regret is the pious cousin of unbelief. When we look back over the story of our life and we agonize over moments that we wish we had done differently, we are essentially disbelieving that God was guiding us, but we are piously taking the blame.
If we look at our story and we see sin, we should confess our sin but we must then believe that it is forgiven and forgotten. We must move on because that is what God does. We are not permitted to dwell on a sin or a mistake that God does not dwell on. Even David, when he regretted his action of adultery and murder, confessed his sin and found full assurance of God’s forgiveness.
When we dwell on our past mistakes we are proclaiming that our feelings about the past are more important that God’s words of forgiveness. We are not to spend our lives wishing we had done something differently. Even if we sinned in the past, God has already used that evil to bring about good in our story. He will continue to use even our darkest moments to bring light because that is what He always does.
Regret about the past can make us fearful to make decisions in the present. Psalm 121 is a song of hope. It says that God is our help, our keeper who never sleeps, our shade, our preserver. He will watch over all our steps in the future and He has watched over all our steps in the past.
God preserves your steps…
My first baby was delivered by emergency cesarean section after a sudden placenta abruption. There was no option of labor. We had to save her life, and by God’s kindness in giving us a skilled doctor, she was delivered healthy and alert. As more children came along, there was always the question of continuing to deliver by C-section or not. A variety of circumstances led us to choosing C-sections.
I have no regrets in our choice. I’m thankful that we have had three C-sections and three babies, even though I know that in some ways this is the harder road. It is most definitely the more expensive road. It has definitely brought more criticism from other women.
But God guided us then as we made those decisions. He wanted us in those hospitals with those doctors and nurses and anesthesiologists. He wanted His light, which shines in us, to be present there with those people for some reason. I may not always see the reason why He has guided us to one thing and away from another, but I know that the reasons are always much bigger than our own list of pros and cons. Believing that He was and is guiding us squelches out room for regret.
Whenever I find myself questioning decisions I have made, I speak Psalm 121 to my own heart. I am reminded that God promises to preserve all my steps. There was not a moment when He left me alone.
Choosing what to highlight…
When you look over your story, you have the option of highlighting what you want. You can look over your story and see all the trials, believing that your life has just been one struggle to the next. You can look over your story and wish you had done everything differently. You can retell how your story would have worked out if you had chosen differently. But this is not wise, and you are not believing God when He says that He preserves all your steps. Even if your past actions were sinful, it is unbelief to dwell on the regret. God has forgiven and forgotten.
Try retelling your story highlighting His goodness. When you start to see the past through the belief that God has always guided you, you will find that His mercy is an engulfing wave and you will wonder how you ever doubted that He was guiding you the whole time. You will see His mercy is far more frequent than His punishment. You will see that He guided you carefully through every decision. You will see that He preserved every step that you took, which will make you bold so that you can make decisions about the future.
Do you have regrets in your life? Do you have big decisions to make? As you pray for peace and guidance, remind yourself of this truth from Psalm 121: “The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” (NKJV)