The first line in the song “Scars in Heaven” by Casting Crowns cuts me to the core. It is, “If I had only known the last time would be the last time.” Despite being in ICU for three weeks, I fully expected Jasmine to recover. I envisioned when we would once again talk, laugh, hold hands, and say, “I love you.” That time never came.

I know I am not alone. God does not always tell us when a person’s time is imminent; it might come without notice. When it is unexpected, “If I had only known . . .” can become a torturous theme in our minds.

Life is not perfect, and neither are we. Even if we try to be our best, we will still fail, and when the opportunity to make things right is lost, regret can be overwhelming. It is painful to have regrets; it is natural to want to go back and change things, to do better and be better. We can’t, but past failure doesn’t define our future.

How, then, can we overcome the feelings of regret? How can we move forward? The Apostle Peter is the clearest example in the Bible of regret and restoration from failure. He loved Jesus. He pledged he would die for Him. Despite Peter’s sincere and good intentions, he caved under pressure and failed Jesus miserably. Realizing what he had done, “He went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62 ESV). 

Peter failed, but his life was not over. Failure humbled him, and he went on to do great things for God. How do we know that? From the pen of the man who lived with deep regret for a season came these words:

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. . . . So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen. (1 Peter 5:6, 10-11 NLT)

The following is my paraphrase of these verses in direct application to this commentary on overcoming regret.

Humble your heart before God. He has the power to overcome the regret that you are carrying of any past failure. He does not want you to live with regret for the rest of your life, but He wants to lift you out of it, enabling you to move forward. You carry the weight of guilt because of your past failure, and you cannot change the past. Confess it to Him. He already knows. He wants to restore meaning and purpose in your life.

Your failures are impotent compared to God’s power to restore. As you turn to Him, He will redeem the past and strengthen you. You will bring glory to Him as you build your life upon His promises. 

It is okay to have regrets, but do not allow them to define who you are nor prevent you from experiencing all that God has planned for you. Surrender to God; He will redeem your past, transform your present, and restore your hope for a brighter future. Move forward.

(Adapted from a chapter in the book by Morris Isara, What Now, God?, available on Amazon)