Some people say they have no regrets. I am not one of those people. I have many regrets. I have more regrets than I care to recall, and I usually do not care to recall my regrets. Regret is hard because it involves a past that cannot be altered, a future that might have been different, and a present that probably shouldn’t be so hard. But looking back at our regrets doesn’t always have to be so depressing – it can be a source of encouragement and a promise for the future. If we look back carefully and expand our scope beyond ourselves, we can often find God in the midst of our regret.
Back in the time of Moses, after he had been used by God to bring the people out of captivity in Egypt, Moses led the people through the wilderness for forty years. Forty years in a desert with over two million men, women, children, nursing babies, the elderly, and the sick plus animals and supplies…let that sink in. It would be horrible! Next time you are irritated with where you are, whether it is in a fast food line, grocery store line, or Costco on a Saturday afternoon, it could be worse. You could be in a desert with millions of people waiting to get nowhere fast because of something stupid you did.
The Israelites were in the desert for forty years because they were stubborn and refused to obey God. Prior to their forty-year sentence, they had seen God do great things such as saving them from the Egyptians, separating the Red Sea so they could walk through it, providing a cloud that would hide them from their enemies and shield them from the sun, providing a pillar of fire for warmth and light at night and even providing food from the sky and water from rocks. They had also witnessed Him being true to His every word. He promised great things and He warned them of great things and He delivered every time. However, even with all that they didn’t trust Him.
When God brought them to the Promised Land, they sent spies to look at the land and verify if what God had said about it was true. The spies confirmed God’s words. The land grew vegetation such that a cluster of grapes had to be carried by two men and the land truly flowed with milk and honey! Then there was the other part God had told them that was also true – there were people living there and occupying the land already. God had already told them that He was going to help them get rid of these people but the Israelites could not see past their own fear and they refused to go into the land. As a result, God told them they would walk through the desert forty years before they were allowed to return to the Promised Land. Well the people immediately regretted their decision but it was too late. They had to live out the consequences of their disobedience.
Fast forward through the forty years and the people had another chance to enter the Promised Land. While entering, Moses walked them down memory lane and reminded them of their bad decisions and unfaithfulness. He reminded them of their needless suffering time and again because of their bad decisions. Then he says to them,
The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything. | Deuteronomy 2:7
Yet the LORD says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the LORD your God. “ | Deuteronomy 29:5-6
In other words, Moses tells the Israelites, even when you were paying the consequences for your dumb decisions, God was there the whole time. Not only did He watch you, He carried you and provided for you. You did not lack anything. You walked through a desert for forty years and He even kept your shoes from tearing apart and your clothes from wearing out. He fed you in a way you couldn’t have imagined or even asked for. God was there!
I challenge you to look at your past regrets and the resulting consequences you suffered through or are currently suffering through. Can you find God in them? Can you see that even when He lets you suffer He doesn’t leave you to suffer? We do not serve a God who gives up on us when we screw up. We belong to a God who never lets go.
I hate having regrets. I hate that I have made some really bad choices. However, I love that I can see God in them when I look for Him. It is proof in my own life of what He has promised me in His Word:
…For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” | Hebrews 13:5b
…And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. | Matthew 28:20b
It is a reminder that He carries me through the bad so that He can get me to the good He has waiting for me.