We all deal with regret. Hurtful words we said. Promises we didn’t keep. Money we stole. Alcohol we consumed. Confidences we betrayed. Dark lusts we indulged. Some regret is relational—a divorce, an estranged son, a deceased mother. Some is financial—an investment that went bad, a lease you can’t get out of, a business partnership headed for court. Sometimes it’s health related—diabetes resulting from poor lifestyle choices, cancer that could have been detected early had you undergone regular physicals, kidney stones that developed from simply not drinking enough water.
• “If only I had stopped smoking…”
• “If only I hadn’t gone to that party…”
• “If only I hadn’t opened that drawer…”
• “If only I had looked both ways…”
• “If only I hadn’t taken that job…”
Many of our “if only”s don’t have permanent, life-shattering consequences; others, however, do. Unfortunately, there is no rewind button we can push. There are no “do-over”s in life. What is done is done. Now we have to live with the consequences.
Thankfully, there is forgiveness available to all who acknowledge their wrongdoings and turn from them. The Apostle John tells us in his first letter, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). God doesn’t hold our offenses against us in the courtroom of heaven. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:8). This is the good news!
Still, we wonder about the future before us. Is God’s perfect will for our lives out of the question? Is Plan A no longer available? Are we stuck with Plan B (or worse) for marriage, our career, our financial well-being?
In the book of Joel there is an amazing verse spoken to a group of backslidden believers. God’s chosen people the Israelites had turned their backs on God. They had lived for themselves, repeatedly resisting His calls to change their ways. Now judgment was coming—an invasion of locusts. Not only would the locusts destroy the produce of that year, they would so completely eat up all the buds and debark the trees, that the land would not recover for years to come.
But God would take pity on His people. He promised to those who would repent: “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm” (2:25). The word repay means “to recompense or make up to you.” God promises to not only forgive but to restore, to make right. One translation reads, “I will give you back what you lost.”
Wow! You and I still have a future to look forward to no matter what bad we have done, no matter what good we have not done! Plan A is still in place. The Prodigal Son is a case in point. He squandered everything his father gave him in wild living, but after he came to his senses, he returned to his father and confessed his sin. He was immediately forgiven and given back his place of prominence in his father’s household (see Luke 15:11 ff.).
God is not like man. He does not repay evil with evil. He loves to bless—not curse. If God’s plans depended on our performance, we’d all be on—not Plan B—but Plan Z to the 20th power. We’ve all made plenty of wrong turns, going left when we should have gone right and vice versa.
God is still sovereign. We can’t ultimately upset His perfect plans for our life. God perfectly accomplishes all He desires, from the macro to the micro, from the really important to the seemingly inconsequential. God reigns. His will is never crossed or ever not done because your and my freedom is subject to His sovereignty. This means that His Plan A for you is right on track despite your mistakes and sins. In fact, the mystery is that your mistakes and sins actually serve His will for your life.
Theologian Sinclair Ferguson writes, “There is nothing that takes our God by surprise; there is nothing that takes place outside of His superintendence and watch-care; and there is nothing that can ever happen that can distort or destroy His eternal purposes for His people—nothing whatsoever!”
God’s Plan A for you is right where you are. No mistakes of yours can undo or alter God’s Plan A for your life. Your life is not ruined! God repays!