This is part 2 of the Finding Your Way Back to God series.
We all have regrets: a silly thing we did in junior high that still haunts us, not saying goodbye to a loved one who passed away, or failing to take that once-in-a-lifetime chance. Peter had some big regrets when he denied Jesus – even though he said he never would.
Luke 22:54-62 So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!” But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!” After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!” “No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted. About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.” But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.
This sad story has a happy ending: Jesus later forgave and restored Peter. No matter what we’ve done, if we turn to Jesus, he’ll forgive and restore us, too. Here are the three keys to making that happen.
Key #1: Recognize Your Regrets
Dealing with our regrets begins with recognizing them. Whether we’ve acted wrongly or failed to act rightly, we have to come clean if we’re ever going to overcome. That’s why the Bible shows us the value of confessing our sins to God (Psalm 32:5; 1 John 1:9) and to other believers (James 5:16).
1 John 1:9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
Key #2: Release Your Regrets
Once we recognize our sins and regrets, we can release them.
Isaiah 55:6-7 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
God asks us to prove that we are truly repentant by turning away from our sins and handing over our regrets. But he asks for more: we must forgive others, and we must forgive ourselves – because he has! If he is willing to throw our sins to the “bottom of the sea” (Micah 7:19), then we can joyfully grasp that promise and release our regrets.
Key #3: Redeem Your Regrets
Peter is a great example of redeemed regrets. After his colossal failure, he wept and left the courtyard bitterly, feeling worthless and ashamed. He wasn’t even there when Jesus was crucified. Yet after his resurrection, Jesus restored Peter and reminded him that he had called him to be an apostle and a disciple-maker (John 21:15-23). Jesus would not allow Peter to wallow in his regrets, but instead, he redeemed them.
John 21:15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus can redeem our regrets, too. Your addictions, your sins, and your failures can all be used by God to form you into the person he wants you to be, and you can draw on those experiences as you help others pursue God. But none of that will happen if you do not recognize, release, and redeem your regrets by giving them over to Jesus Christ.