Hope and Regret
The other day, I was watching a rerun of one of the housewife reunion shows on Bravo and listened as Andy Cohen asked the group about their biggest regrets from the season. The ladies’ responses are always amazing and wildly entertaining, but this time, as I listened to each individual answer, I began to think more deeply about regrets and, more specifically, about my own.
Here’s the thing: when I begin to look back on my life, I see a series of events that happened exactly as they should have happened. The Bible tells us that from the moment we are born into this world, God has a perfect pre-determined plan for our lives. Our job is to trust in Him and draw near to Him when we begin to doubt or fear.
Okay, I can get on board with this belief, but I also have some questions. If it’s true that the events of our life are pre-determined, then what’s the point of prayer? Why would we ask God for something if He has already decided?
When I was in the ICU with my sick uncle, my aunt introduced me to the minister from her church. He had come to pray over my uncle’s weakening body. As I sat to the side with my cousins, I watched as this minister held my aunt’s hand and asked God to please heal my uncle’s body. I tried to close my eyes and absorb the words that were being offered up by this man of God, but something just wasn’t sitting right in my soul.
A few minutes later, the minister came and sat down next to me. I felt myself grow anxious, almost like I was naked with all my sins on full display. I diverted my eyes to the floor and prayed he would not speak directly to me.
“Caroline, how are you holding up?”
He saw me.
“Oh, well, I’m okay.” And then, I just couldn’t help myself. “But, I do have a question.”
“So, would you agree that God has a perfect plan for our lives that is pre-determined, even before we’re born?”
“Yes. That is what the Bible tells us.”
“Okay. So, I was just listening to your prayer and couldn’t help but notice that you asked God to heal my uncle. But, if God already has a plan for my uncle and if God already knows what’s going to happen, what’s the point of praying?”
Finally, “Well, that’s the question theologians have been struggling with for a very long time.”
Ah Ha! So I AM on to something.
The minister continued by referencing stories from the Bible in hopes of answering my question.
I left that conversation more confused than ever.
Later that same evening, I followed my aunt and cousins into the ICU waiting room. After a day of tough news and difficult decisions, we were all exhausted. A friend arrived with wine, whiskey, and pizza.
As we sat down to eat and drink together, I couldn’t help but notice the only other group in the waiting room. They were talking and hugging and even laughing. I had noticed them earlier and knew they were dealing with a dire situation. Seeing their joy amid such sorrow gave me comfort.
A few minutes later, this family stood to leave. As they walked by us, they all smiled and gave us a “we know what you’re going through because we’re going through it too” nod. We smiled and nodded in return. And then I noticed an older man who had stopped and was just standing next to us.
He asked us how we were holding up and if he could help in any way. My aunt engaged in polite small talk while my cousins and I enjoyed our wine and whiskey. After a few minutes of chit-chat, the mystery man asked if he could pray with us. Prayer was the last thing I wanted to do at that moment. I wanted to sit and drink my wine and forget all the questions for which I had no good answer.
But, we indulged this man by standing and holding hands.
“Dear Lord, thank you for this day, for this hospital, for these doctors and nurses and for this family. Thank you for the love they have for one another. And Lord, please help us always to remember that we send up hope through prayer and you send back joy. Amen.”
I kept my eyes closed after the prayer had ended. I held the mystery man’s hand a few seconds longer, not wanting to let this go. Send Hope up, receive joy in return. God takes our hopes and turns them into joy. Hope up, joy down. I completely got it.
As I released this man’s hand and slowly opened my eyes, I turned to thank him but found he was already gone.
So I ask myself again, do I have regrets in life? Maybe. Do I believe everything happens the way it should? Yes. Do I sometimes wish things had happened differently? Absolutely. Would I go back and change them if I could? I don’t think I would. And here’s why…
A life free of struggle sounds idyllic, but without the hard times, we’d never appreciate the good. With no darkness, we’d never realize we were in the light. I believe God cries the hardest when any of us suffer. He understood the incredible hardships some would face on this earth, so He created a lifeline to get us through. Y’all, He created Hope. Hope up, joy down. Hope up, peace down. Hope up, love down.
Hope, joy, peace, love: lifelines in the struggle. Angels in waiting rooms. Prayers always answered.
In love and Hope,