Freedom from Past Regrets

Freedom from Past Regrets


Real Hurts, Real Freedom-Joseph’s Story (Genesis 37-50)

Message #6:  Rev. Scott Parker

Genesis 42:1-4; 50: 15-19

I love reading the stories about Calvin and his stuffed tiger Hobbes.

One day, Calvin is upset by the schoolyard bully and blurts out an insult, and instantly knows he is about to get clobbered

“Sometimes I wish my life had a rewind/erase button.”  -Calvin

“…And a Volume Control.”  -Hobbes

Wouldn’t it be great if ALL of our lives came w/ a rewind/erase button?

We all live with REGRETS


REGRETS:  If Only I…

  had said something                   hadn’t over-reacted           had a different situation


had made different priorities    hadn’t said what I said               hadn’t been selfish


was more understanding                     had been stronger             had tried harder


knew then what I know now     made a different choice                  had done______


If you could go back in your life and change THREE things you said or did,



I’M sure that Joseph’s brothers knew how they would answer that question.   Their snotty kid brother had the nerve to tell them that God gave him a dream that each of them would bow down before him—they were upset, and in the heat of the moment, threw their kid brother into the well—years later, they still lived with the regret. 

Genesis 42, Years later, We see that the entire land is experiencing a great famine- Jacob and his sons, Joseph’s brothers, are not immune.  They learn that there is grain in Egypt, and Jacob says to the sons:  , “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” Why are you just standing around w/ your hands in your pockets-why aren’t you heading toward Egypt?  We know why:  heading toward EGYPT is the last time they saw Joseph, screaming and pleading for his life.  Now going there is the only thing that will save their lives, and they’re paralyzed. It’s an Unforgiven past  has great power to put us in Bondage 

In the message I gave on forgiveness a few weeks back , we talked about an experience being “Unforgiven”-(not just whether or not the injured party says the 3 magic words) unforgiven-a past hurt is being KEPT ALIVE:  Even if the other person has forgiven us, if we aren’t able to RECEIVE forgiveness- the destructive power of  past event/act is at work in the PRESENT

Even Years later, the sin against Joseph continues to inflict damage upon his family

–Even the father Jacob continues to be paralyzed by the loss of Joseph and is overly protective of his youngest son Benjamin.

The entire family is

Paralyzed by Guilt;                   Driven by Anxiety and Fear;

Hiding their real selves;

Worst of all, they became Closed to new Possibilities.  What awaits them in Egypt is a forgiving brother who will give them the fat of the land, and they are oblivious to it.

What makes a past regret so dangerous is that is threatens to DEFINE US-the hurt hast the last word, and I will live under its shadow the rest of my life.  The regret says:

-I will never live that mistake down;  -I blew my chance at happiness

-that black mark will always be on me; -I will always be seen as a failure

-this hurt will always be a driving force in my life

LIVING WITH REGRET means that the Past keeps doing damage to us in the present.  But we don’t have to live that way! 



2) God’s Purposes-to be good to you, to use you in this life, to give you a meaningful life::are NOT LIMITED by our Regrettable Choices

The whole story began in  Genesis 37, when Joseph has a dream that his brothers will one day bow down before him—they immediately believe that this would not bode well for them.  They are ignorant (which some experts believe is a common trait of older siblings)  What they do not realize is that God’s plan is not simply to bless Joseph, but the brothers as well—that they and their descendants will be part of God’s master plan to save the world.  But they are ignorant to God’s plan, and do their brother Joseph in.  (a regrettable choice) but the story doesn’t end there:

Years later, in Genesis 50:  The brothers travel to Egypt, discover their long-lost brother, beg for Joseph’s forgiveness, throw themselves at his feet, bow before him, and JOSEPH WEEPS.

because  after all this time, and all this pain, the DREAM has become REALITY.

“What (the reader)  knows-that the brothers miss-is that the dream has been at work all along, not diminished by their morality.”  Brueggemann.I don’t think  God’s plan was for the brothers to betray Joseph,  but God would not let their betrayal stop his plan.

God wants to be good to you, and God’s plan for you is NOT LIMITED by your regrettable choices.

I used to think that God was like Monty Hall, the host of the Game Show LET’S MAKE A DEAL.  The good prize was hiding behind door 1, 2, or 3, and I had to pick a door, but I better choose right, ‘cause if I pick the wrong door, I get ZONKED—and go home with NOTHING.

God is not Monty Hall.  God does not want us to make regrettable choices, but God will not be limited by them.  Your regrettable choices in the past will not stop God’s plan for your life.

 Yet  the brothers remain stuck in the pain of the past for years, until they finally acknowledge and confess it  That’s when the dream is fulfilled and the blessing begins for them.  We humans are not very comfortable talking about our regrets, mistakes and sin. 

There is great freedom in it:

“(God) wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you.  You won’t have to go on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner.  Thank God for that…All sham was ended in the presence of Christ.  The misery of the sinner and the mercy of God.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We each have regrets, and It is a massive weight off our backs to  know that we can stop pretending that we don’t.


We are not truly free until we acknowledge our past sins and regrets, and it’s because we need to KNOW that we have been released from it, and that it is forgiven.

Even after they reunite with Joseph, even after Joseph lavish them with gifts and land, the brothers are still under the weight of the past.  When their father Jacob dies they say

    “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” Genesis 50:15

 “The enduring power of guilt and its resultant fear is a matter about which every family knows.  Like every family, these brothers know that the only one who can break the cycle and banish the guilt is the wronged party, the one whom they most fear.”  Brueggemann

The brothers swallow their fear and ask for Joseph’s forgiveness

 “So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”  The text doesn’t use the word “forgive,” but it does say that Joseph reassured them..

            “Reassure” = SPEAK TO THE HEART, words that “penetrate to the deepest dimensions of human existence,” to give us a sense of belonging and having a place—which is the FRUIT of forgiveness. 

We need that in our relationship with God.  We may “know” in our heads that God forgives us, but we need to be REASSURED—to KNOW in the deepest part of us that we are forgiven.

In seminary, I had a roommate-and at one point, I could tell he was becoming a mess:  couldn’t sleep, anxious.  Finally, he came to me and said, “Scott, when I was a teenager, I attempted to do a very very bad thing.  For reasons beyond my control, I didn’t succeed, and even the victim was unharmed and unaware, but I know what I tried to do.  I have prayed for forgiveness, and I know in my head that I am forgiven, but I can’t let it go.  I have never shared this with another soul.

Me:  You have to tell me what you did.

Aaron:  told me

Me:  I speak on behalf of Jesus Christ-you are forgiven

My friend needed a TANGIBLE, face-to-face assurance that God has forgiven him. 

We, too, need that TANGIBLE, SO REAL YOU CAN TOUCH IT “reassurance” of God’s forgiveness that assures us that we are released from our sins, that we belong to Him and that there is a place for us in his purposes and blessings. 


The Sacrament of Communion gives us that assurance, a tangible experience of God’s forgiveness and release.   And we will take part in that experience this morning. 


Forget the past—God is doing a new thing in your life, so live in the today

Receiving Forgiveness for Past Regrets Frees us to move past  the Past,

Experience the new things that God is doing in our lives Today, and to

 begin living in new, life-giving ways


“To repent is to come to your senses.  True repentance spends less time looking at the past and saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ than to the future and saying ‘Wow!’”  Frederick Buechner


Become FREE from the Past—Live TODAY


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