Last night I was sitting with two other widow/widowers. It was a beautiful thing to watch as one widow poured out Christ-like compassion upon a widower who had recently lost his wife of over 40 years.
I enjoyed listening more than talking. It was great to be able to observe what God was doing as he brought together all of our painful experiences for mutual edification.
It was in the midst of our conversation that the older gentlemen made a statement that blessed me. Looking back on his marriage to a wonderful lady, he simply said “I have no regrets.”
His statement arrested my attention. I knew what he meant.
How terrible would life be if I had to live with regrets for something I had said or done to Jill? Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of times in our marriage where I hurt Jill with my words, actions, or attitudes -that’s a part of every marriage. But, I can honestly say I have no regrets because in each instance, Jill and I would reconcile with forgiveness.
One of the greatest blessings I have is the memory of telling Jill, just minutes before we were in the fatal accident, “I love you.” I can still see it in my mind -Jill looked right back at me from the back seat, smiled, and said “I love you too.” I meant it and she meant it. Life was good because we had no regrets.
Which is why, even though I never had a chance to hear her say, “I forgive you for the accident,” I know she does. Because we made a practice of making things right -forgiving as Christ has forgiven us. Its a beautiful gift of God to know that even in the last mistake I made in Jill’s life, she still forgives me -no regrets.
It reminds me of Ephesians 4:25-31: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger… Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear… Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
In this passage of Scripture, Paul gives us a great recipe for living without regret! Here’s a breakdown:
1) Never go to bed without reconciling. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Sometimes this isn’t possible. For instance, you might be at odds with someone in another state who has poor cell phone reception and no email. But, more times than not, if you are close enough to offend during the day, you are close enough to reconcile during the day. Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
2) Be proactive instead of reactive. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear…” While it is possible to unintentionally offend (I’ve done it plenty of times), for the most part, we know what we are doing. Why not start at the root of the problem? Ask God to change your heart so that everything that flows from it will be uplifting to others. Jesus said, “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
3) Be Christ-like. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Jesus had no regrets on the Cross. If we desire to live “regret free” must forgive as Christ has forgiven us. As always, imitating Christ is the most blessed way to live. When we forgive others, not only do we experience “regret free living,” but we identify with Christ and magnify His forgiveness toward us.
In the words of Don Henly, “I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the heart of the matter, but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter. But I think it’s about forgiveness…”
Ultimately, we live without regret because Christ has taken our sin and paid for it on the cross. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). All the regret for our sin has been eliminated in Christ’s sacrifice -reconciling us to God.
When we forgive others, not only do we enjoy the blessings of reconciliation, but we reflect ultimate reconciliation in Christ.
So go ahead, stop what you are doing and forgive those whom you need to forgive. Ask for forgiveness from those whom you’ve offended. Mend broken relationships. Cultivate friendships. “Shower the people you love with love” (obligatory James Taylor quote).
Take it from three widows/widowers, there’s no greater blessing than to know you have no regrets.