Someone has said, “If you have one eye on yesterday and the other eye on tomorrow, you’ll look at today cross-eyed.”

That’s what regrets do to us. It can paralyze us from thinking positively about God’s present working and even steal our enthusiasm for the future. We concentrate on the past or we fear about the consequences of the regretful incident in the future. 

In fact, regrets are a form of worry—we worry with thoughts like, “If only I had treated my child better” or “if only I hadn’t said that to my friend.” Such “worry” makes us unfocused about trusting God and receiving his loving approval for our efforts for His glory. What can we do to fight against “if only’s…”?

The Apostle Paul could have easily struggled with regrets—yet, he was able to write, “…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14 NIV).

The word “forget” does not mean to “not remember,” but instead, “not be held hostage by.” Paul is saying that his readers shouldn’t be held captive by the past. And actually, there is value in remembering the past. It can teach us what to avoid.

Furthermore, the key to overcoming regrets is to forgive; forgive ourselves and others. It is a choice to let go of focusing on the hurt that we inflicted upon ourselves or others, and the hurt that others have inflicted upon us. Our enemy, Satan, wants us to mentally bash ourselves over the head by tearing ourselves down. That’s not the source of confident Christian living! When we do that, we are not earning back God’s approval; we only dig ourselves into a pit of depression.

Isaiah 43:25 can motivate us to forgive ourselves. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (NIV).

At a time when I needed to forgive myself, I was struck by the phrase, “for My own sake.” I realized, Lord, You want to have fellowship with me because you love me so much. And if there is unforgiven sin within me, you can’t have fellowship with me, nor am I empowered to serve you.

God wants you to receive His forgiveness and empower you for godly living. Then you won’t be looking at life cross-eyed!