Have you ever said something you regretted? The words came out of your mouth before you realized what was happening, and the recipient of those words was hurt? Perhaps you have done something that you regret and now are living with the consequences or perhaps others were hurt by your actions. That is where I find myself this morning. I said some things that I deeply regret and prayed the Lord God to show me forgiveness and to help me make it right again. We hurt people with our words and our actions; it is a curse, it is the sin that abides in this fleshly tent. But, there is hope in God.
“For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle that made you sorry, though only for awhile. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner; what diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!”
We do things and say things to hurt other people, and the regret comes. We want to make it right, we want to tell them we are sorry, we feel terrible and regret begins to eat away at us. The Lord God sees our regrets as a tool, and so should we. God uses our regrets to bring us to a place of repentance. As Christians, our regrets can be used by God to bring us to a place of humble brokenness before our Holy God.
Regret refers to an emotional response based off of choices that we make. We say something to hurt someone, and we regret the choice of our words. But God can use this regret that we feel to grow us and bring us to a place of peace and restoration in Him, and in the relationship we just tore apart. For me, I have many regrets. I find that the more I grow in Christ, the more regrets I have. I should have done this, I should have stood instead of sitting, I should have stayed silent instead of speaking, and the list goes on and on. But, if I am not careful, these regrets that I have can turn to bitterness, condemnation and can cause me to fall away from my Lord Jesus who desires for me to live my life in repentance and not regret.
Repentance is a “turning away from sin, a sincere desire to forsake a specific sin, and begin to obey God.” (Reformation Study Bible) Paul wrote the first letter to the Corinthians as a disciplinary letter. He wrote a pretty harsh reprimand to them. They could have gotten upset and rejected Paul’s discipline, they could have caused bitterness to well up inside them, but they did not. They sorrowed (regretted) over the things they had done, and this led them to repentance and restoration.
Regret can eat away at us if we do not allow the Lord God to use it to bring us to a place of repentance. Deep feelings of sorrow can overtake us. These deep feelings of regret can be from past sins, mistakes and misfortunes, they can be current, something you said a few minutes ago, or something you did yesterday, whatever the case- these regrets are to be brought to the surface and dealt with so that we do not allow bitterness to grow in us. We see the error of our ways, and we become sorrowful for what we have done and said. For us Christians, this is called “godly sorrow”. For godly sorrow leads us to repentance. We feel deep regret for the things we did and said because we know they hurt others and we have displeased God as well. But God shows us that when we seek to repent, to turn from what we were, what we did, and how we acted; repentance, forgiveness and restoration will come. Regret is not something we should suppress as Christians, it is an emotion that we should bring to the surface and lay at the feet of Jesus. He will show us how to make it right, He will show us the path to restoration and reconciliation.
The Corinthians felt godly sorrow, they regretted what they had done, and now sought forgiveness. The godly sorrow that leads us to repentance produces in us the necessary tools we need to change, grow and bring restoration back into the lives of those we have hurt. Paul tells the Corinthians that even though they are sorry, and that they have repented, they are not to be downcast. They are to look at what this regret and repentance produced in them, and what it is meant to produce in us.
“For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner. What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!” (2 Cor. 7:11)
Godly sorrow or regret will first produce in us diligence. They became more determined to live a better way, more determined to obey God and His Word to them. Regret shows us our wrongs, our sins against our God and our fellow brothers and sisters. We become determined to make amends, to right the wrongs we have caused and to allow the Lord God to begin the healing process.
The next fruit that regret will produce is a “cleaning” of ourselves. Regret shows us what is still in need of work in our hearts. We will sin, but the Lord Jesus Christ is faithful to forgive us of our sins when we confess them. This “cleaning” of ourselves is a desire to do better, to try harder, and to fight longer. It is a desire to be free from the sin that we have committed and to be cleansed from the unrighteousness it has created in our hearts. We seek a washing of our spirits and a cleansing of our souls.
Thirdly it produces indignation. It produces in us a desire to do away with this sin in our lives that we now feel regret over. This type of indignation creates in us an overwhelming desire to never do that again. We begin to seek the Lord God to help us resist the sin, and to grow and learn how to walk away from the temptation that is before us.
Next on the list of fruits that godly sorrow produces in us is fear. It is an alarm going off in our heads that we are not walking the path the Lord God desires us to be on. It is a fear of losing that person we just hurt. We begin to fear that our actions and our words may have caused them harm, and we fear the displeasure of the Lord God. This fear brings zeal.
Zeal is a deep longing, a desire, or a passionate response to someone. Godly sorrow will give us a renewed zeal for the people we have hurt. We will desire to seek their good, their forgiveness and to build again the broken pieces of our relationship. We will seek their good and not our own. This leads to the last fruit of vindication.
Vindication not for ourselves alone, but for those we hurt. We want to make it right; we desire to see justice done, even if that means we are the ones who take the punishment of their pain upon our own selves. This vindication becomes an overwhelming desire to lead the people we have hurt to healing and to restore what we have broken. We want to make the wrongs right in the sight of the Lord.
Regrets are something we all have to deal with on a daily basis. But if we can see these regrets not as bad, but as a godly sorrow that will lead us to a place of repentance before God, and bring restoration to what is broken, then and only then will we begin to let go of these regrets and begin to heal up the roots of bitterness that have taken hold of our lives. God can take any situation and turn it around; He can heal the broken parts of your life and bring a renewed desire to serve Him in all things. Our regrets are a tool God uses to bring us to a place of humble submission, a place of complete surrender so that He can fix what is broken in our lives. Do not allow your regrets to turn into bitterness, but lay them before the Lord God and allow Him to produce the fruits of repentance, reconciliation and restoration in your life. To God be the Glory forever and ever. Amen and Amen.