We all have regrets. Our choices in the past can leave us disappointed in our present life. Life hasn’t turned out the way we expected or wanted. The longer we live, the more “opportunities” we have to look over our shoulder, wondering what might have been.
Sometimes, even when life is going well—and certainly when life is disappointing—we play a game of “if only.” It goes something like this: “If only I had done this or that instead of what I did. Oh, how much better life would be!” But there is a problem hidden in that “if only.” We don’t know that life would have been better had we done things differently. Our imaginations paints it as “wonderful,” but it would have been just as bad — or worse.
The truth is we don’t get a “do-over.” We get one life and we travel on it one way: forward in time. Whatever we have created in our choices (or was created for us by the choices of others), this truth remains: this is our one, precious life. We don’t get another.
How, then, shall we live now?
Shall we become bitter, weighing out all we have lost?
Shall we be defeated because we never got a chance in the sun?
Shall we complain, point fingers, and cast recriminations to every corner because life has not been fair or even kind?
We could. We often do.
Scripture, however, is clear we should not do any of those things. Paul said he counted all he had lost as nothing compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8). James 1:2 says we should “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” And over and over, scripture tells us to rejoice (Psalm 33:1) and rejoice (Habakkuk 3:18), and rejoice (1 Thessalonians 5:16)! In fact, one Wiki user reported counting 286 verses that tell us to rejoice. (FYI, I did not fact check that.) The point is that we should live and can live with thankful hearts for God’s walk with us. Our life may not be what we want it to be. Our life may not be what God wants it to be. Yet we can still be joyful and thankful.
There was a film released in 1995 called Mr. Holland’s Opus. It is the story of a man’s life as he struggled to create a magnificent musical work (an opus). I won’t spoil it for you as it is worth watching if you can find it. He becomes very despondent at one point thinking his life has been wasted. In the end, they show his Opus — a truly magnificent work, albeit it not the one he thought he was creating.
All of our lives are like Mr. Holland’s. We choose and choose and choose – and this is what we have now: the life I am living, the life you are living
. We are told by God to be thankful and rejoice, no matter our circumstances. So, we must, like Mr. Holland, look for the things that are of worth in our lives, in spite of any disappointments or regrets.
God is more faithful than we can know or imagine. He is the master at making lemonade from lemons. Further He isn’t keeping a tally of missed chances and blown opportunities. Only we humans do that.
As a fellow, finite human, I cannot begin to tell you all that is of worth and value in your life. I can, however, assure you there is something. Many things, even. The only road from “regret” to “rejoice” is the one where we pack up our disappointments and what-ifs and leave them at the foot of God’s throne (leave them, I say! Not leave them and pick them back up!). You and I are created to do good works. Let us leave behind these regrets that so entangle, and press on to the things God lays before us. God is still on the move – let us be also.
We won’t get a do-over – but we can have a do-now.
This is the day The Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.