God’s good despite our pasts (amen)

blog picHey, Jesus followers: I keep hearing some phrases about our messy pasts that have me thinking. They’re meant to be uplifting, but a closer look makes me kinda uncomfortable. Here are a few:

 

  • I have no regrets.
  • If I could do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
  • I’m not ashamed of my past. Every bad choice made me who I am.

Maybe the intention is good, a positive outlook on a negative past. And I get that—Some terrible choices by yours truly have needed a sunny spin. But sayings like these do a disservice to God, implying that bad things are necessary prerequisites for good things to evolve—that our Lord somehow relies on evil beginnings to hatch His ultimate plan.

We must be careful (and Biblical) here: Evil has never partnered with good. God alone causes good, oftentimes stepping into a heartbreaking (and regrettable) situation to create good despite the bad—but never because He’s indebted to it.

Another consideration in sayings like these are two seemingly interchangeable words, regret and shame. I often see them used as equally harmful emotions. But again, cling to truth: Regret is not the enemy of moving past pain; shame is.

Regret, simply put, is to express disappointment about something that happened. In other words, whatever was done or said probably hurt someone. And hurting someone is never good, so we’re sorry. And Biblically speaking, we should be. In fact, the Bible says a lot about our need for sincere regret. We need to learn from the past, grow from it, move past it. Regret is necessary to the joyful, maturing Jesus life.

Shame, though, is a different animal. The dictionary calls it a “painful feeling of humiliation caused by wrong or foolish behavior.” Shame lingers like quicksand, not only keeping us stuck with guilt but also sinking us ever deeper. It not only stunts our spiritual growth but also attacks our peace. It’s paralyzing. It’s deadly.

So, Jesus girls, let’s rephrase these phrases. If I were Queen of All Sayings, here’s how I’d revise:

  • Sure, I have regrets: Sincere sorrow changes me for the better, leading me to God and to relief from guilt and shame. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
  • If I could do it all again, I’d change some things: Thankfully, though, God works out everything for my good—even those regrettable mistakes—when I walk closely with Him. (Romans 8:28)
  • Bad choices, all me. Good stuff, all Him. But the best part? Shame all gone: The Lord answered my cries and delivered me from my past. My face is now radiant, not ashamed. (Psalm 34:4-5)

Knowing God’s forgiving heart, there’s no need for haunting shame. It’s called mercy. And although I have regrets, it was Jesus—not the bad things—that made beauty from ashes. It’s called grace. And praise the Lord, He is always, always good! It’s called love. God’s abiding love.

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