“Live life with no regrets” used to be a common phrase I couldn’t stand. I felt it suggested that we do not need to claim responsibility for our actions — that one could do anything without having to acknowledge its consequences, and this phrase seemed to give excuse to do so. A few years ago, my perspective on this changed.
There was a time in my life when an immense seduction of absolute “freedom” became tantalizing. Having been raised in a conservative home, experiencing this new freedom led me to feel I didn’t have to say “no” to anything anymore; what I didn’t realize was that I did not have to say “yes” to everything. However, in one of those moments of freedom, I was broken down to a level I didn’t know was possible. What I had allowed myself to say “yes” to, led to a sense of guilt, shame and regret overwhelming me.
I finally told a friend about my feelings. I was working through forgiving myself and said, “I can forgive, but I can’t not regret it.” She paused before running down the hall to come back with her Bible.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he called them out on the sin they let creep in. The Corinthian church became deeply sorrowful and turned from their sins. The excerpt my friend read from 2 Corinthians was something I’d read before, but had never really heard:
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. By all this we are encouraged (2 Corinthians 7:8-13, NIV, emphasis added).
That passage speaks for itself. Even though we sin, when the Holy Spirit moves us to become truly sorrowful and repentance manifests itself in our lives, we actually can live life free from regret. Why? Because good was produced from the mess. He works all things out “for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28), and He makes all things new (Revelation 21:5). This is truly living in freedom. This is the beauty of our God. This is the beautiful mystery of the grace-filled life He offers.