I just read a somewhat depressing article describing secret regrets of twenty-something men. It was a collection of short testimonials from guys who weren't able to share their feelings with someone they really cared about, who let their "true love" get away, who weren't able to forgive a wrong and who hurt someone they had loved.
I was somewhat surprised, yet inspired, at their honest heartfelt admission of (self-described) insecurity, selfishness, mistakes, cowardliness and immaturity, mostly because they were made by a group of young (probably non-Christian) guys in today's society.
No matter what the age group, religious background, or economic status though, most men, and I would include myself in this, probably share some of these along with a number of other regrets from their past.
So, what is it that holds us back from doing what we really want to do and what we know to be right?
Paul ponders this in Romans 7:18, "For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it."
Are we just going along with what other people think or say we should do? Do we not care? Are we trying to take the easy (or lazy) road? Do we put more emphasis on ourselves and our pride than others? Or are our decisions (or non-decisions) based upon some aspect of fear—fear of failure, fear of being vulnerable, fear of being embarrassed, fear of appearing weak or fear of making the wrong choice?
Fear can be contagious, spread from the pessimism of those around us, and seems to be the common denominator in many aspects of our life today.
We are fearful of losing our jobs, our investments and our homes, we fear international terrorism, we fear where the nation is headed, we fear the stock market's volatility, we are influenced by the fear of what a person may do in political office, we are fearful of starting a new relationship, we fear being alone, and we fear what we do not understand.
We don't draw conclusions based on facts, sound biblical advice and our hearts, but rather on fear. When we make our choices (or avoid them) in this way, they often result in regret—for not doing what we believe in, for not being ourselves or for worrying about things we cannot control.
If we reflect upon yesterday with regrets and tomorrow with fear, we are not content in our situation or the lives we are leading. Wouldn't we rather have regret for not doing what people say or for almost anything else than regret not doing what our heart tells us to and wonder how our lives would have been different if we had?
If you ever watch professional sports, you see athletes competing with a no fear, no one is going to beat me attitude. With every shot, every move and every play, they make decisions to act and confidently commit completely, without regret. They give everything they have and play like "there is no tomorrow," because there may not be in sports, or in life.
You don't even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! (James 4:14).
As children, many of us grew up with the thought that nothing could touch us or harm us. We felt invincible and lived fearlessly. However, somewhere between then and now, we lost that assurance, that "I can do anything" spirit. At some point in our lives, fear took its place, influenced by society, parents, friends, experiences or from a number of other sources.
As we "matured," many of those fears developed and became second nature to us, and we have grown to accept it and it in us. Today our fears often dictate how we live.
Fear is referenced hundreds of times in the Bible, but in the majority of cases it speaks of fearing the Lord, which brings peace and confidence, not fear of circumstances.
So, how do we face our fears so we don't live with regrets? We accept and trust in the perfect love of the Lord. We ask him for his direction and peace. We trust him in our situations, and after much prayer we step out in confidence.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:18-19).
Earlier this year I joined a sport I had always wanted to participate in since being introduced to it seven years ago—six-man outrigger canoe racing. I fell in love with being part of a team, working together to battle fatigue and the elements, and paddling on the open ocean.
I never really had an outward "fear" of the ocean, but I never challenged it either. For the most part, I stayed out of it and it didn't bother me.
What I never expected in the sport were "water changes," which occur in long-distance races (20+ miles) where teams are allowed three replacements who follow along in an escort boat. To change out paddlers, teammates must dive into the open ocean and tread water until they can jump into the canoe or climb back into the boat.
When I overcame some of my fears (of failure, of being unqualified and of the "unknown") and leapt out of the canoe, I not only triumphed over some of those things that used to hold me back, but also gained the confidence to face other fears in my life—"if I can do this, I can do (almost) anything."
It just takes one small step into one small adventure to start the change.
As Peter stepped out of the boat in faith in the midst of a storm to meet Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:29), each of us needs to step out in those "fearful" situations if we are going to take advantage of the opportunities we are given.
Scripture reassures us, "No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it" (Romans 10:11).
Don't allow your fears or doubts to rob you from your heart's desire. Don't end up like the other disciples, who cowered in the boat and followed the group. Get up, take a step out and trust God like your life depended upon it and like there is no tomorrow. You won't be disappointed and you won't regret it.
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
— Corrie Ten Boom
Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel. An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to CYdmg@yahoo.com.
**This article first published on November 4, 2010.