Life seems replete enough with regrets, sometimes over things we had little or no control in. Of course there are those matters in which we knew better. Or because of much weakness, we didn’t do well enough in. The “if onlys” hit us because we are left with the consequences of what happened or what we did or failed to do.
In the first place we don’t live in a fool proof existence. Invariably trouble will hit us; it’s just a matter of what the trouble is. We will avoid one problem if we could, only to discover another problem.
This is not to say that we can’t learn from others, especially those who are older, and do better in some ways than they did thanks to their wise counsel. And we should take very literally the meaning of scripture. If scripture says don’t touch that or even go near it, because it’s hot and you’ll get burned, then it is foolhardy to think or act otherwise, even a little bit. I also can’t help but think that I would have avoided some dumb decisions and made better ones if I would have been more in God’s written word, scripture. I have always been in scripture for the most part in my Christian journey. But I could have done better, and want to continue to grow in that.
When it comes right down to it, the “if onlys” don’t help at all, but take away from the attention and energy we need to give to the Lord and God’s will, and life before us. Sure we can learn from mistakes, moral as well as the details of living. Of course provided that we confess our sins and by grace actually are in the process of change. Not that we can get beyond sinning in this life; it’s just that we learn to nip in the bud any sin rising up in us. Nor that we won’t keep making mistakes along the way. Sometimes it does seem that things are a crap shoot, that we simply, hopefully after prayer, even much prayer, make the best decision we can and then let it go at that, working with it.
In the end we have to believe that God is behind us and before us, all around us, to help us in this life in every way needed until he calls us from it. We have to learn to rest in that. The Spirit will confirm God’s word from scripture to us, that God cares for us. It is good to hold to this truth by faith as we read the scriptures, and it is good to pray and get God’s peace over whatever matter we’re praying about. I am referring not to issues which already have a clearcut answer in scripture, such as the necessity of being faithful to one’s spouse in heart and body. I am referring to difficult matters which we’re invariably faced with by simply living in the world, in this existence. God is faithful.
And so our “if onlys” can turn into prayers and remind us to turn our attention to the One who is our help and salvation in this life and beyond.