Is Regret a Biblical Emotion?

Regret can derail a person’s life. When they get so wrapped up in some awful thing that they did, they stop moving forward. They are simply stuck in the past mulling over that one bad decision that they made. And it affects every aspect of their lives, it steals their joy, feeds their worries, and takes their eyes off God. When we let regret fill our life we are looking at ourselves and our failures instead of looking at God and His victory over our sin.

So is regret a biblical emotion? I would say yes and no. I would say the immediate guilt and regret you get from your conscience after you did a wrong thing is good. Having that tinge of regret means that you are aware that you did something wrong. So then where does regret cross the line into sin?

When we let something other than God rule our lives, that is idolatry.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” 1

Christ’s death on the cross frees us from any condemnation, even our own. If God has forgiven our sins, who are we to punish ourselves for those sins. Are we more righteous than God is? Regret can be a pride issue…

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise dwell on these things.” 2 Dwelling on your past sins and having continual regret is literally the opposite of this verse.

God might be using that past sin to teach you a valuable lesson.  If you’re focusing on that sin you could be missing the entire point/ lesson that God intended you to receive.

Our past has been forgiven.

What about if you had good intentions and it really backfired…You did what you thought was best and apologize to that person and then let it go. Storytime: My maternal grandma died back when I was about 13 and I had my mom’s phone during the viewing service. And in my pubescent brain, I thought it would be a good idea to take a picture of my grandma in her casket and set it as my mom’s contact picture in her phone. (Looking back I have no idea why I thought this was a good idea.) And so my maternal grandpa called my mom the next day and she immediately burst into tears. And I had no idea why, but she then explained to me that the picture that I had taken the day before was now popped up on her iPhone, full screen. Looking back this was an awful idea and I’m sure it made my mom feel awful at the time. But I had good intentions, I just wanted my mom to have one last picture of my grandma before we buried her. I remember feeling terrible and continuously asking for her forgiveness. My best intentions had terrible results and I can’t change anything about it and that’s ok. I did what I thought was best at the time and now I just have to give it over to God.

“…for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”3

“For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”4

Your lack of forgiveness for yourself is actually pride. Humility is thinking about yourself less not self-abasement. So let’s do what God does in the previous two verses and not think about our previous sins any longer. Repent and change and move on.

So how do we combat the constant feeling of regret and shame after we have done something bad?

We remember who our God is. We remember that Jesus died for us, not because we were so good because we weren’t, but because of His love for us. He suffered and died for us while we hated Him. Literally hated Him. When we remind ourselves of the cross it is much harder to hold onto that regret. Because if the almighty, holy, and perfect God can forgive us of our sins, why do we as sinful, finite humans punish ourselves for our past sins? “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”5 If you are struggling with the Lord forgiving you, I really suggest you read the entirety of Psalm 103. I know it has helped me and can help you too.

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So lets as children of God not forget how loving and merciful He has been to us in the past, but also the future. He does not change and will always be merciful to those who trust in Him.

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” 6

Thank you for reading I hope you all have a grace-filled weekend!

Redeemed by the King

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Photo by Milan Popovic on Unsplash

Photo by chris liu on Unsplash

  1. Ephesians 6:11
  2. Philippians 4:8
  3. Jeremiah 31:34b
  4. Hebrews 8:12
  5. Psalms 103:12-14
  6. Ephesians 2:1-7