Regret. That’s what I felt after my first day of volunteering. From my perspective, I had spent the whole time doing nothing, and I couldn’t imagine spending another precious Sunday doing the same pointless thing from 1 to 9 p.m. But I’d made a promise, having told the event planners that I would help out for two Sundays.
Author Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes, “It’s bad enough for me to make choices that hurt my own relationship with God. How much more serious is it to be the cause of someone else deciding to sin? . . . I choose the pathway of holiness for God’s sake and for my own sake.”
How do you discover God’s will in disputable matters? One believer in Jesus orders a glass of wine in a restaurant, while another believes drinking alcohol is wrong. One invites you to see a movie that someone else will not view due to its violence and profanity. So how do you make a decision on whether or not to do something when even mature Christians disagree over it?
A couple found themselves in a no-win situation. During an intense drought, they faced a $500 fine if they watered their lawn more than twice a week. So in time it turned brown. Local officials noticed and informed them that—in spite of the drought—they were required to keep their grass “looking healthy and green” or face (you guessed it) a $500 fine.
Complacency is one of the biggest dangers for people with severe allergies. I’m a prime example. It had been 10 long years since a severe latex allergy had seriously threatened to end my life. Believe me, it’s terrifying when you suddenly swell up like a balloon and can’t breathe. But then years rolled by and I forgot just how serious an allergic reaction can be.
My son loves the toy Legos—little plastic pieces that snap together—like fish love water! One of his most interesting creations was called the “minute machine.” He explained that his contraption could drive around and find all the extra minutes, sweep them up, and save them for later. After hearing this description, I wished I had a “minute machine” of my own. What if I could redeem all the underutilized minutes, hours, and weeks in my life and use that time to serve God?
Humorist Mark Twain once said, “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow.” The tale of the grasshopper and the ant by the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop is a stark reminder of the detrimental impact of lazy living. Throughout the summer, the ant worked hard, gathering and storing food for the winter. The lazy grasshopper laughed at him, saying it was time to play and sing. When winter gripped the land, however, the grasshopper had no food and begged the ant to let him have some, but there was no excess to share.
US President Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, was angered by an army officer who accused him of favoritism. Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a letter. Later, Stanton told the President he was ready to send the strongly worded letter. Lincoln said, “You don’t want to send that letter. . . . Put it in the stove. That’s what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry. It’s a good letter, and you had a good time writing it and feel better. Now burn it, and write another.”
Uncle Mark (not his real name) had his big toe removed because his arteries had become blocked after years of smoking 60 cigarettes a day. My husband and I used the traumatic event to talk to our kids about the consequences of destructive habits. We realized just how much Uncle Mark’s story had impacted them when a few days later we heard our son telling another family member to quit smoking or his big toe would need to be cut off!
The memory is vivid. My wife Merryn and I sat in emotional pain, talking. “If this really is our last chance to have a baby and it doesn’t happen,” Merryn said, “I need something else.” We’d spent the past decade trying everything to start a family—IVF treatment, healing prayer, adoption—all without success. We now awaited the result of one final IVF round. “If it doesn’t happen,” she said, her face downcast, “I have to have something else to look forward to.”
Sociologists at one university recently completed a study on regret. In it, they examined whether people felt more regret over what they had done or what they had failed to do. The researchers found that people’s regrets over their actions or inactions were roughly even when asked about the past week. Nearly the same number said, “I wish I hadn’t done that” as those who said “I wish I had done that.” But when asked to consider their life’s largest regrets, the vast majority said they were more troubled about missed opportunities. As John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’ ”
What do soldiers, athletes, and farmers have in common? Discipline. Soldiers go through drills day in and day out. They want to be battle ready. Athletes undergo strict training so they can compete in the race. Farmers work from the rising of the sun until it sets, patiently toiling in hope of a bountiful harvest.
As we pause and reflect on another 12 months gone by, we’re often quick to aim for greater balance in all areas during the new year. Author and pastor Andy Stanley suggests that we aim to find a rhythm in the changing seasons of life. Instead of trying to carve out equal amounts of time for each activity in order to attain and maintain a balanced lifestyle, there are seasons which require us to work longer or shorter hours, spend less or exercise more, cut out or add certain foods to our diet, and so on.