There are a few little phrases I think about and repeat to myself on a regular basis. One of the simplest but most frequent is this: You will never regret the sins you do not commit. It’s basic. It’s easy. It’s obvious. But I need to hear it again and again.
Like you, I know that dreadful sick-to-my-stomach feeling that follows a sin, and especially one of those sins I am particularly committed to battling and overcoming. Though I had promised myself that I would never again commit that sin, though I had prayed for the Lord’s help, and though I had addressed the pattern of temptation and attempted to nip it in the bud, still I had caved and blundered into it once again. And I understood: I failed to take hold of the grace the Holy Spirit offered in that very moment of temptation. I sinned only because I chose to sin, only because I wanted to sin, only because sin was more attractive to me in that moment than righteousness.
And so I know the flush of heat that creeps up my neck and over my face, the sweat that beads on my forehead when I acknowledge that, yes, I did it again.
I know the deep feeling of failure and am familiar with having to go before the Lord to confess it again and to admit that I’m far more of a spiritual infant than I care to admit.
I know the sense of disappointment in myself and the necessary hardship of having to tell a friend or tell my wife that I messed up.
Like you, I know what it is to regret a sin and to wish that I hadn’t committed it. Hence, I often repeat to myself that little phrase: You will never regret the sins you do not commit. It reminds me of the obvious fact that regret comes when I succumb to temptation and joy comes when I resist. I’ve never once regretted resisting a temptation, never once mourned turning away from a sin, never once felt guilty for obeying God’s Word. To the contrary, I’ve felt such satisfaction when temptation has given way to righteousness, when I’ve slammed the door instead of opening it, when I’ve fled the devil instead of welcoming him in. Regret and sin are close neighbors, but regret and righteousness exist a world apart.
And so in the moments when sin seems attractive and righteousness seems burdensome, in the moments when doing what God forbids feels like it will deliver joy and doing what he commands feels like it will make me miserable, I stop, I consider, and I repeat this little phrase: You will never regret the sins you do not commit.