The worst kind of pain to get over is often regret.
We may even be able to forgive everyone else in our life who has failed us. But, we don’t know how to give that same grace and mercy to our self. Consequently, we also don’t know how to stop the agony of wishing we had done things differently in the places where we had failed, especially when we made mistakes that hurt those we love. For example, I kept getting battered by remembering that after my children were abused in my first marriage, I put them in another unsafe home with my second husband where they were hurt in even more horrifically damaging ways.
I began to find my way out of this torment when I was able to see how God looked at my failures as a mother. This is what He showed me. It is for anyone who needs this same reassuring and really different perspective:
“You couldn’t have tried harder to be a good mom. It just was not possible. You had no more you could give. So you need to stop judging yourself by what you now realize they needed from you. You need to see that it just couldn’t happen back then.
You also need to encourage yourself that you did try your very best with what you were capable of giving to them at that time.
This is how I see you and it’s how I, as your Dad, long for you to see yourself.”
Once I let this kindness from the Father into my heart I finally was able to forgive myself.
But I also experienced that though the guilt was gone, it didn’t mean that thinking about my regrets wouldn’t hurt anymore. They could still flash through my mind, uninvited and unexpectedly. For example, for years the holidays stirred up a world of heartache any time I was hit with what I had lost in my relationships with my children. When I was full of guilt, the torment wouldn’t go away. But now, I was able to work through those emotions and get to the other side of them, more and more quickly. I did that by reminding myself:
“I can’t change the choices that I made in the past. I can only make healthy choices in the present.”
At the same time, I learned I had to shut down the painful thoughts by making myself stop them and changing them to whatever helped me to have the Father’s comfort and peace.
So, I switched my thinking to:
What I was grateful for
A scripture that helped me to have peace
Simple, from the heart, childlike words to God about how much I love Him.
Often, I’ve also been greatly encouraged by thinking about the life of Paul. He was a man who easily could have been mentally and emotionally destroyed by remembering his failures. These are some of the horrific things he did:
Paul had the power to stop innocent Stephen from being stoned to death. But he stood there and let that man, whose face shined like an angel, be viciously killed.
Then, after that death “a great wave of persecution began that same day. Saul went everywhere to devastate the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them in jail.”
After he was saved and serving the Father as an apostle, he wrote to the Corinthians how he felt about all this.
“I am the least worthy of the apostles and I am not fit or deserving to be called an apostle, because I once wronged and pursued and molested the church of God, oppressing it with violence.
You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion, how I violently persecuted the Christians. I did my best to get rid of them. I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the followers of Jesus. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many of the believers in Jerusalem to be sent to prison.
I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them whipped in the synagogues to try to get them to curse Christ. I was so violently opposed to them that I even hounded them in distant cities of foreign lands.” 1 Corinthians 15:9 AMP, Galatians 1:13, Acts 8:1-3, 26:9-11 NLT
This is a world of pain for any human being to overcome. It’s enough to haunt anyone with emotionally crippling guilt for the rest of their life.
But, Paul got free!
He went on to fully live the Father’s plan for him to make a difference in the lives of others.
He did that by refusing to let his deeply regretted past destroy him. Instead, he made up his mind to receive the Father’s forgiveness.
In response to that mercy, Paul found the courage to forgive himself.
Then, he made the hard choice to stop thinking about it all and move on with his life.
That is what I had to do also.