Read Genesis 2:15-3:24
Many people begin the New Year with regrets over choices made in the previous year and resolve to improve in the coming year. I wonder, is there no bigger statement of regret than that which starts with, “If only I . . .”?
“If only I hadn’t said those cruel words.”
“If only I had tried harder to make our relationship work.”
“If only I had spent more time with my children.”
All of these statements have unspoken outcomes of how life would have been better had they avoided doing or saying something they now regret. The problem with our if only I regrets is summed up in one word: “I,” because our regrets fail to acknowledge, ". . . but God," and take into account his ability to intervene or his desire to turn things around for his children and to do it for his glory.
I imagine Adam and Eve both spent a good amount of time thinking, “If only I had obeyed the Lord God.” Then, after they sinned, they hid from God. Is this not one of the signs of regret, to hide in shame? But what happened next? The Lord God came searching for them. He provided a sacrifice to cover them; he provided redemption. Even so, they still suffered the punishment for their sin, Eve would bear children in pain and she'd be at odds with her husband. And the ground would be cursed, causing Adam to toil in his labor.
What happened next may seem like cruel punishment, “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever’—therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life”
Genesis 3:22-24 (ESV).
However, being expelled from the Garden was actually a protection. God didn’t want them to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in their fallen state. Yet, the punishments God declared over their lives wasn’t without hope, for them or for us. When God pronounced judgment on the Serpent, we find the first indication that God would set things right and restore his creation: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” Genesis 3:15. Theologians call this passage the protoevangelium; proto meaning first, evangelium meaning gospel—the first gospel.
Over 2000 years ago, Jesus crushed the head of the serpent by his death and resurrection.
He overcame the power of sin for those who trust in his sacrifice—God provided
redemption, he covered our sin! Which is why God’s people can say, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:55.
What is your “If only I . . . ”? God gives us a solution to turn our bad decisions and broken relationships around for his glory. First, he is our Good Shepherd who searches for us and invites us to come to him for forgiveness, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9, Luke 15:3-7.
Second, we are to admit our shortcomings to those we offend and pray for them. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” James 5:16. We must do whatever is in our power to bring restoration and healing to others. "So far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" Romans 12:18.
Finally, our “If only I . . .” can become “If only I . . . but God . . .!” God can turn our messes into messages for his Kingdom! This is God's promise, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28.
Let us resolve this year not to live in regret for what might have been. Let us be faithful to God, believing that he can turn our failures around. Let us also pray for one another and love others more deeply. Amen.
Copyright 2021 Sarah Keith
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