Regrets are what happen on the other side of life.
There’s the saddest of pictures in the New Testament, in a story Jesus told of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The rich man lived in luxury while Lazarus lived in squalor just outside the rich man’s mansion. The rich man died and entered hell while Lazarus entered heaven. The rich man begged Abraham for mercy, but was told that he was getting what he deserved, and that there was no do-over.
Talk about regrets!
Our lives are made up of years and months and weeks and days. Each day brings new opportunities that, if seized, will lead us to the end of life without regret. But there are three regrets that will change your life forever…
Regrets not Finding Your Life’s Purpose
It’s not what you think.
My wife knew from the time she was a little girl that she wanted to be a teacher. I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up. Purpose in life grows out of your identity, who you are. It may have nothing to do with your career, or it may lead you to one.
Let’s first start with what we know:
You are not the person of your past
You are not the person others see you to be
You are not the person of someone else’s dreams
You are not even the person that you dream you will be
Once you agree with the above you are ready to embrace the truth: You are the person God created you to be, even if you don’t believe in God. Your “life’s purpose” is not a pursuit of some goal – yours or someone else’s – but rather the pursuit of God. In Him lies your life’s purpose.
Here’s how I know: “In your book were written… the days that were formed for me when as yet there were none of them.” These words from Psalm 139 should loop in your mind as a reminder that, when you find God, you’ve found your life’s purpose.
Regrets not spending time with family
I’ve told this story before. Here it comes again. “In my last class at seminary we had gathered to hear a popular local pastor speak to us about ministry, expecting he would tell us how to do it. Instead he told the story of how he almost lost his marriage and his church doing the work of ‘ministry.’ It was not what we expected to hear. It was exactly what we needed to hear.
“After that class, I went back to our apartment, gave my wife a hug and promised her that I would never have to learn that lesson twice; that our marriage and our family would always come before the ‘work of ministry.”
Over the years I have reminded myself that what I do as a husband, a father (and now a grandfather) matters more than all of the other things in life.” As Jesus said, “A man’s (or woman’s or boy’s or girl’s) life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.”
That’s just stuff.
Regrets not worshiping God
“Don’t get all religious on me here!”
Well, guess what – you are religious, if by that you mean that you are by nature a worshiper of something or someone. We are all worshipers, like shoppers, going through life, trying on spiritual fashions, searching for the perfect fit.
I’m not one of those who believe, “There are many ways to God,” but I do believe we’re all on paths that lead to God. The detours and back roads lead somewhere else. Along the way we will all have to decide whether what Jesus said was true: “I am the way the truth and the life. No man comes to the father except through me.” If he was telling the truth, the single pursuit of Christ is the only thing that really matters.
There’s another story in the New Testament that occurs at the death of Jesus on the cross. It is the story of the criminal hanging beside him. Actually, there were two. One mocked Jesus, “Save yourself and us if you are the Christ!” The other scolded him. “Stop it! We’re getting what we deserve. He has done nothing wrong.” Then, turning to Jesus, he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered, “Truly, today you will be with me in paradise.”
It’s never, never, never too late to escape regret.