If Only …by Scott Morton (an excerpt shared with permission)
As I sat at my desk that day, I realized I was angry.
It was a familiar feeling. I argued a lot. Not face to face, but mentally. Usually with people from the past. This was the pattern of my life. Every five or six weeks, I’d find myself in a rough of discouragement for two or three days. Grumpy. Moody. Unable to sleep. There had to be a reason.
So, despite the pressing deadlines of the work on my desk, I went to a favorite place to reflect on my lack of joy. Scott shares details of his decision to give up the opportunity to play professional baseball, and how he daydreamed what if…
Out of desperation that day, he turned to the Bible…. and ended up doing an in-depth study of regret. Over those months he discovered some practical insights for dealing with regret – the joylessness that comes when you focus on what might have been:
Identify the source of your regret.
Regret is precipitated by disappointment. Some Biblical examples of tragedy and treachery causing regret are
Naomi – Following the death of her husband and sons Naomi was left with knowledge of never having children or grandchildren or a provider. Widows without family could expect only poverty. She was so distraught she changed her name to Mara (Bitter).
Scott was also disappointed –by himself. He wondered despite a successful ministry, if his career move made in haste caused him to miss the will of God.
All three incidences of regret were stirred up by a disappointment.
From his study Scott found when he was feeling grumpy and angry he can stop and identify the source of regret by reviewing any disappointments from the day.
Those disappointments he found “can become a breeding ground for regret unless specifically identified and surrendered to the Lord. Until then, no amount of pep talks, Sunday sermons, or days off will lift the heaviness.
Scott’s resolution to this challenge was to invite “Scott the hasty decisionmaker” to sit across the table. He named the regretted decisions, and forgave himself for hasty decisions, foolish sins and lack of self-control he’d displayed.
Don’t rehash the past
Mental arguments of how life would have been different if only do no good. They only keep me, he said, feeling sorry for myself
Trust God’s Sovereignty. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Joseph made that statement (Genesis 50:20) to the brothers who threw him into a pit and then sold him to a band of gypsies heading for Egypt. He was able to see a greater purpose behind his hard times, and was therefore able to say “it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Gen. 45:8)
Sometimes our regret centers around a sinful choice. Whether tragedy, tyranny relationships, jobs, parenting or our physical body, we all have regrets.
Though God continually confirmed his calling to His service, Scott admitted, ‘I still had days of defeat when regret wells up inside.’ But suppose it was a mistake. I could still rest in the assurance that God would not abandon me to the results of my failure.
Nothing in all creation – not our bad decisions or the results of others’ failings in our lives will be able to separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39) or from His loving purposes for us.
Let us put away the past “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” – Philippians 3:13 – lookng forward to how our sovereign God will work in our lives.
What disappointments have you experienced this week, month, or year? If you can see a pattern of disappointment turning to regret, go back as far as necessary to identify the specific disappointment that keeps you discontent with your life.
Following the steps of forgiving yourself, refusing to rehash the past, and trusting in God’s sovereignty, can you use a ‘bigger picture” for your life? What possible larger arena could God be moving you into?
Scott Morton served with the Navigators in collegiate and community ministry before becoming director of Donor Development at the Navigators U.S. headquarters. He and his wife, Alma, have three children.
Scott Morton played a crucial role in Ken’s and my discipleship as young believers. We are continually faithful for the foundation of understanding, studying, applying and sharing God’s Word he and the Navigators provided.