“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest of these; It might have been.”
Those famous words written by John Greenleaf Whittier, have a fascinating appeal for most of us. Somewhere in each of our lives is an “If only”
Arguably, one of the most important inventions in history was the telephone. In 1875 while experimenting with the idea of transmitting speech by electrical means, Alexander Graham Bell discovered the basis principle that made the telephone possible. The next year on March 7th 1876, Elisha Gray of Oberlin, Ohio, applied for a patent for a telephone—two hours after Bell patented his invention! If Only!
If Only the captain of The Rena had been paying attention his ship would have never landed on the Astrolabe Reef. At the age of 76, Henry Fonda, the extremely gifted Hollywood actor of yesteryear, made this observation about himself;” I’ve been married 5times and are ashamed of myself. My life has been peppered with suicides—(two of his former wives) and I don’t like to look back at them. I don’t like myself. I never have. People mix me up with the roles that I play” If Only!
Go from that assessment of one man’s life, by himself, to that of another man. I’m sure that you are familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba, how Israel’s king committed adultery and then murder. Because of David’s failure, the name of God was blasphemed throughout Israel’
If Only was probably high on the lists of things that David said to himself; “If Only I’d have been with my troops where the king should have been. If Only I’d had stopped with the first look and not progressed to lust. If Only I hadn’t sent the order to kill Bathsheba’s husband”
David could have spent the rest of his life moaning his condition. He could have gathered a crowd after crowd and told them” You should have seen me when, Oh, the man I could have been!” Instead he cried out to God. Psalm 51; 16-17 reveals the answer…. God required a willing spirit, and will not reject a heart that is broken and sorry for its sin.
There are many other Bible heroes who made some bad decisions that resulted in regret. It was Paul, just to name one, who had painful memories of watching Stephen crumble beneath the vicious stoning that took his life. It was Paul—as Saul the persecutor who held the killers coats. Paul often recalled his former day’s as tormentor of Christians, If Only.
Malachi 2; 13 observed the agony of regret. His words have a familiar ring about them for all of us travellers who walk the road of Grace in a broken world. There’s no pain so intense as feeling God’s disappointment and of wishing you could turn the clock back.
If Only my home life, upbringing had been different, If Only I had had a good dad, If Only my mother had not been a drug addict, If only my parents hadn’t divorced, If Only I hadn’t been abused as a child, If Only we had been rich instead of poor, etc etc.
If Only keeps us tied to the past that we can’t change, If Only keeps us from learning from the past, If Only keeps us from moving on to a productive future. If Only is fantasy thinking that only makes us miserable and makes nothing better. If Only keeps us blaming and focusing on the past we can’t change, and keeps us from focusing on the future we can change. We cannot move forward until we drop the If Only from our lives. Matt7;7 “Ask and it will be given you…….Jesus was saying to His disciples in effect “ If you need directions through the twisted roads of life, ask me, I know the way”
Today, if you will surrender your to God and bury them, God will resurrect a new life full of possibilities. After following Him for nearly forty years, He has never ever let me down. Will you trust Him with your life?
Ron is President of the Whangarei Regional Ministers Association and Pastor at Onerahi Christian Community Church. He also serves as NZ Christian Network’s Regional Advocate for Northland