Regret - 1

A recent survey of older adults listed various regrets in their lives. Many were fairly predictable: not traveling more; underachievement; not finishing a degree; working too much; taking some things too seriously; etc. No doubt, in the midst of life with all its responsibilities, expectations, pressures and emotions it is easy to confuse priorities and make imbalanced judgments. Sometimes those mistakes come with far-reaching regrets that we didn’t realize would haunt us years later.

One of the great blessings of conforming one’s life to the commandments, doctrine, wisdom and examples of Scripture is the setting of proper priorities, motivations and goals that affect the decisions we make. Scriptural principles provide solid landmarks; they help us navigate through the fog and suppress impulses that may shipwreck us on a hidden reef.

For example, one of the regrets mentioned was getting a divorce. The teaching of Scripture on the permanence of marriage is clear: “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mt 19:6). The overarching design of marriage is a life-long partnership. The reason for this is not arbitrary. Rather, when one considers the commitment required in developing a stable relationship, one strong enough to build a nuclear family upon and which truly provides the emotional needs of trust, companionship, intimacy and care, the casual severing of that relationship is deeply destructive.

Yet at certain points along the way the rigors of life may sorely test a marital covenant. Major stressors such as the tragic loss of a child, protracted illness, financial trouble, substance abuse, or even the lesser pressures of family interference, clashing opinions, emotional distance or neglect can persuade couples that divorce is the best alternative. And in a society which strongly advocates “no fault” divorce, this decision may appear to be an easy out. What often results is a premature decision which leaves deep emotional scars on spouses, children and society at large.

But those who respect God and His expectations for marriage will seek to work through problems. They will endure seasons of distress or disappointment in the hope that their investment in the relationship will be blessed and that relations will improve. And even if the marriage falls short of a desired ideal, they would rather honor their commitment and follow God’s will than walk away and face the even greater unhappiness of marital dissolution.

But someone may protest: “You just don’t understand how miserable some marriages are – constant bickering and arguing; living with a selfish spouse; verbal abuse. No one should be expected to live like that.” Well, the critic would be correct that I don’t understand firsthand how such marriages are, for mine doesn’t fit that template. But I do understand, albeit secondhand, what additional damage divorce does. And I do understand that people can change over time; they mellow, they learn, they regret … and a marriage that was unhappy for a time can become something quite different in the long run if a couple perseveres.

Another example is destroying a child’s life because of the challenges of rearing him or her (i.e., abortion, which is a too-sanitized euphemism). Once again, our society vehemently advocates for “a woman’s right to choose” (another disgusting euphemism) to end her child’s life rather than face the consequences of a previous irresponsible choice. The realities of raising a child – the money, effort, inconvenience, restrictions on personal ambitions, etc. – are juxtaposed with the value, wonder and joy of one’s own offspring. And young women are convinced by the millions to choose convenience over commitment and end their baby’s life. But to what later regret?

How many women in later life grieve over what might have been, what their child might have become, if they had but endured the trials and tribulations and raised them. Worse monsters are the advocates of abortion, for they are not the ones who are emotionally distraught and trying to work through the confusion of an unplanned pregnancy. And they are not the ones who will have to live with the regrets years down the road. No, they coldly, deliberately convince a young woman to end her child’s life either for financial gain or some morally degenerate ideology that treats human life as “tissue” to be discarded.

The bottom line on regret: There are some decisions that cannot be undone. True, some mistakes can be corrected; sins can be forgiven; relationships can be mended. But regrets for the damage done lingers, and it is a heavy burden. May we seek wisdom from God and His word in making the sound decisions that bear no regret, for they are based in righteousness, love, mercy and selflessness.