Have you as a Christian wished you had done more with your life? Does it sometimes discourage you to think of the time you have wasted? Do you even get depressed at times wishing you had been more faithful to God? I’ve recently been reading a book by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones called Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and Cure. In Chapter 6 entitled “Vain Regrets” Lloyd-Jones deals with this rather common problem.
His first point is based on common sense. He points out that Christians have more than common sense to deal with life issues, but they still should have common sense. He says, “The past cannot be recalled and you can do nothing about it. You can sit down and be miserable and you can go round and round in circles of regret for the rest of your life, but it will make no difference to what you have done.” “We must never for a second worry about anything that cannot be affected or changed by us. It is a waste of energy. If you can do nothing about a situation stop thinking about it; never again look back at it, never think of it.” He goes on to remind us that spending time dwelling on the past uses up precious time in the present which we might later also regret. It’s a never ending cycle unless we stop doing it.
Obviously, besides common sense, we have Scripture to guide us. Lloyd-Jones points us to the Apostle Paul who said, “Last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the Apostles, that I am not fit to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God” 1 Corinthians 15:8-10 It is possible that Paul thought back with regret for not having been in the faith sooner and for having persecuted the Christians. Besides that, he was the last of anyone to have seen Jesus Christ.
Lloyd-Jones writes, “He did not spend the rest of his life sitting in a corner and saying, ‘I am the last to come in. Why did I do that? How could I have rejected Him?’ What struck him was the amazing grace that brought him in at all. And so he entered into the new life with tremendous zeal, and though ‘last of all’ yet, in a sense, he became the first.”
“ ‘I am what I am’ whatever the past may have been. It is what I am that matters. What am I? I am forgiven, I am reconciled to God by the Blood of His Son upon the Cross. I am a child of God, I am adopted into God’s family, and I am an heir with Christ.”
Then Lloyd-Jones takes us to Matthew 20 and the parable of the vineyard workers. In that parable, those who worked only the last hour of the day got the same pay as those who had worked from the morning. “Those men were the last to enter the vineyard, it was the eleventh hour, but they were in. That was thing that counted. They had been taken hold of, they had been employed, they had been brought in. It is the being in that matters, not when you come in, or how you come in.”
In a later portion of the chapter he writes, “Go back again to the parable. He does not count service as other people do. He is interested in the heart. We are interested in time, we all clock in and count the time we have spent, the work we have done. Like the first men in the parable we claim to have done all, and boast of the time we have spent in the work. And if we are not among those who went in at the beginning we are concerned because we have not done this and that, and because we have missed all this time. Our Lord is not interested in our work in this way. It is the widow’s mite He is interested in. It is not the amount of money, it is the woman’s heart. And it is the same in that parable in the twentieth of Matthew. For the same reason He gave the people who had been in the vineyard for only one hour the same as He gave to those who had been in all day.”
Often when we focus on our discouragement for not having accomplished this or that, we are actually preoccupied with our self and what we have missed or what we could have contributed to the cause. “What are they doing? They are still judging themselves instead of leaving judgment to God. They lash themselves and scarify themselves metaphorically because they were so late and so long, and they go on condemning themselves. They appear to be very humble and full of contrition, but it is a mock modesty, it is a self-concern. Listen to Paul saying the self-same thing in the fourth chapter of first Corinthians. ‘Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you or of man’s judgment; yea (and this is one of the greatest things Paul ever said), yea, I judge not mine own self; for I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified; but He that judgeth me is the Lord’. As Christians we must leave our judgment to Him. He is the Judge and you have no right to waste His time or your own time and energy in condemning yourself. Forget yourself, leave the judgment to Him; get on with the work.”
I hope that this short summary of chapter 6 of Lloyd-Jones’ book Spiritual Depression has been helpful. It has to me. This is a good book to own to strengthen your own Christian life and to help you be of help to others who may be discouraged in life.