The other day I wrote about “what-if” thinking thoughts that can rob you of peace about the future. Today I want to focus on “if only” thoughts that can rob you of peace and joy in the present. This is not new, I have written about it many times before. It is a topic that needs frequent attention because it comes up repeatedly in my counseling office. Counselee’s who express deep regret about things said and done long ago that they just cannot seem to stop thinking about. 

Many of us came to Christ after years of living life our own way. We said and did things we now look upon with disdain and sometimes even a shameful sense of horror. Meditating on the past doesn’t allow us to change it, and dwelling on it doesn’t improve the present. Remembering the past with gratitude for how God used it to bring us to Himself is glorifying. 

Our gracious Lord chose us for His own while we were still sinners. 

For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.…Romans 5:7-9 (NASB) 

Part of who we are today is made of the lessons of the past. It is a past the Lord sovereignly allowed each of us to have. He knew the exact day and time we would be saved, and the circumstances that would surround our salvation.  He has been sovereign over every moment of our lives, the good, the bad and the ugly. God knew all our future ugliness and He chose us anyway. We were chosen for redemption before the foundations of the world were set in place. While no sin pleases God or brings Him glory at the time, He is now glorified by our redemption in spite of our sin. The redemption of every sinner is an opportunity for God to show the matchless grace He has for us and the endless love He gives to His children. He chose us because He loves us. He chose us while we were sinners because it brings Him great glory to do so. When you are tempted to despair think on these things. 

As Ruler over time, be comforted in knowing that God will use all of the horrible, painful and embarrassing events of the past to make you into a fruitful servant of the kingdom. All of our life experiences make us useful for service to the Lord. Who better to minister to a woman with an unplanned pregnancy than a woman who regrets her abortion? Who better to counsel a woman in a difficult marriage than one who successfully and joyfully lives with a man she knew better than to marry? 

Meditate on this truth: 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29 (NASB) 

You and I are counted among many brothers and sisters who are being conformed into the likeness of Christ in part by the things of our past. “If only” thinking breeds remorse, impedes forward progress, and fails to acknowledge God’s presence and involvement in your past. Please, don’t spend your present berating yourself for the past, praise God He has brought you up out of the mire and set your feet upon the Rock (Psalm 40:2).