034 Will I Regret it?

Picture by geir tonnessen, CC BY 2.0

So far in this mini series on dreams we’ve talked about testing whether a dream is from God and working out when it’s time to let a dream die. Now it’s time to deal with regret. Or more specifically, the fear of future regret. If you let your dream go will you one day regret that you did? Read Renee’s letter below – it speaks to any broken dream, not just the dream of having a child – then take a look at my response. What advice would you add?

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Renee’s Letter

Hi Sheridan and Merryn.

I have a question. My husband and I are contemplating our future at present. After being assessed and accepted into the [Australian] adoption program, we have been waiting on the adoption list now for over 7 years and are considering calling it quits. I am turning 44 this year, and just feel emotionally incapable of continuing on.

We are wondering how we might feel if we do bring this journey to an end—how we move forward without regrets. I’m hoping you might shed some light on this through your own journey. How do you give up on a dream of parenthood without regretting what might have been? Or do you just keep keeping on, regardless of how tired you feel?

We gave up on IVF after a few tries, but still sit with the ‘what if’ question which comes up each time you hear about miracle babies born through IVF, and the progresses made in the technology. What if we do the same with adoption?

We’d really appreciate your insights.


Question: What advice would you give to Renee on regret? Tell her now

My Response

Hi Renee

I really am sorry to hear you’ve had to experience the wilderness that is infertility. Merryn and I resonate with so much of what you’ve written—the lengthy wait for the adoption agency to call, the cycle of raised expectations and dashed hopes, the ‘what if’ questions which can be so torturous, the feeling you can’t go on anymore. The fact you’ve waited for seven years for adoption alone says something about your tenacity. You must be very strong people to have lasted this long, especially after trying IVF before that. If you do call it a day, you’ve done so having tried very hard—and that should be remembered afterwards.

Let me address the central question you have, on regret. If you call an end to the journey to start a family, will you regret it later? I’ll put my thoughts in point form:

1. Yes, you might regret it. We need to face this head-on as it will actually help you prepare if you do choose to call the journey to an end. None of us knows the future, including how we’ll feel after making such a significant decision like this. You may feel regret, you may not. You may wish you’d waited one more week, one more month, one more year for the call to come and collect your adoptive child, or tried one more option like IVF again. Or you may feel so relieved at no longer carrying the weight of this problem that you’ll only ever feel light and free when comparing your future life with this past season. That’s the risk we take with any decision, by the way. You have no way of knowing the outcome either way (including the outcome of an adoption).

2. However, in our experience, this fear of future regret is strongest on this side of infertility rather than the other side. When Merryn and I called an end to our decade of infertility, bringing our dream of having a child to an end, it actually allowed us to grieve and start our lives over. Yes, there are days we occasionally wish things were different. But they are fewer and farther between because we’ve been able to move on. And you simply can’t do that emotionally until you’ve intentionally buried the unfulfilled dream and grieved well over it.

3. Thirdly, there is another fear lurking behind the ‘regret’ question and that question is this: ‘If we make the wrong decision, will our lives be ruined?’ Deep down this is what we really fear. And with Jesus the answer is decidedly No. If we head in the wrong direct he can lead us back on the right path. If we kill the dream too early he can resurrect it. Merryn and I have found God bring an unexpected new beginning out of our broken dream, which is what the Resurrection Year book is all about. He is redeeming our pain in ways that are truly amazing to us and taken us in a new life direction. Your life will not be over if you choose to end the search for a family. Trust Him to take you somewhere new through it.

4. Fourthly, we need to banish those ‘what if’ questions for good. Since we can never foresee the outcome of any decision we make, the ‘what if’ question can never be answered. (Even with the progress in technology, there’s no guarantee IVF would’ve worked for you.) We need to seek God over our decisions, trust that he’ll guide us (Proverbs 3:5-6), walk forward making adjustments as we need, but trusting He’s leading us even when it’s hard to see whether He is or not. I sometimes wonder if those ‘What if’ questions are just satan’s torture device on us.

I hope this helps in a small way, Renee.

Praying for you.


Your Response

What advice would you give to Renee on regret? Pass it on now. Call me using the ‘Send Voicemail’ button, or leave a comment now. Please also rate and share this podcast on iTunes to help others discover it.

Episode Resources

You may find the following links and resources helpful:


  1. Resurrection Year has been named a finalist for the ECPA Christian Book of the Year Award. Winners will be announced April 28!
  2. I will be doing a speaking tour of the US in October on Resurrection Year. If you are interested in having me speak, please get in touch soon
  3. I have a busy schedule of speaking through the UK also. The next event is a one-day retreat in Oxford called ‘From Broken Dreams to New Beginnings’ on Saturday April 5. Spaces are limited and tickets are cheap
  4. Interested in writing? I’ll be speaking at Panning for Gold, a writer’s weekend at Scargil House, Yorkshire, with Adrian and Bridget Plass in May
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  • DollFish

    Amazing. I am currently still trying to hold on to a dream (which involves another person who is not aware of this!) so I found this really helpful:

    3. Thirdly, there is another fear lurking behind the ‘regret’ question and that question is this: ‘If we make the wrong decision, will our lives be ruined?’ Deep down this is what we really fear. And with Jesus the answer is decidedly No. If we head in the wrong direct he can lead us back on the right path. If we kill the dream too early he can resurrect it.

    Thanks Sheridan.

    • My pleasure. That point is so crucial. We too often think if we make the wrong decision it’s all over.

  • Clare Alice

    Wow, these are big questions and Sheridan I love your answers.
    Something I have learnt about regret , due to dwelling in it a lot in years past, is this: It’s a wasteful, fruitless, pointless, draining, toxic, depressive and yes, ‘torturous’ emotion. And I really believe it’s founded on lies. Lies such as, “you’ve blown it now”, “your life story and your ledger is marred forever”, “it’s all your fault”, “you must always feel bad about this”, “you’re trapped”, “this situation can never change or get better”, “it’s bad today and always will be”, “you’ll never have another chance”, “you can never be fulfilled and content without the thing you gave up”, “you can never be free or forgiven”, “Your whole life pivoted on those actions/decisions you made back on October 31, 1984 (for instance) and there is no way of going back”,”There was only one perfect, ‘right’ plan for your life and now you’ve lost it”.
    And, another, more subtle and deeply buried lie that underpins all of these: “Only you can determine the course of your life, and if you take a step in the “wrong” direction ((look out, there’s another lie in itself!)… then God is powerless to change it”.
    All of those kinds of thinking are such falsehoods. I really used to think this way in a lot of situations, and made myself very unhappy doing so. I would think that God had only one elusive perfect career / man / path/ direction / etc out there for my life, and I would worry myself sick trying to find it, resulting in one very depressed young girl at times – – an outcome which was definitely not God’s plan for my life!
    With Jesus, all of those dark and hopeless kinds of thinking are dissolved in the light of his glorious, delightful truth:
    …That he intends for us to have life to the full, peace, and joy.
    (John 10:10, John 15:11, John 16:33). That means today, tommorrow and every day after!
    …That we are wonderfully free to make many decisions for the direction of our life… and while at times these decisions that we flawed humans make are not perfect, He can turn any of our curveballs around for his wonderful, fulfilling, good and glorious purposes for us (Romans 8:28)…
    …That he conquers all of the enemy’s toxic plans… (1 John 5:4)including regret.
    …That in spite of our decisions, good or bad, OUR LOVING FATHER IS STILL IN CHARGE Of our life! 🙂 (Proverbs 16:1)… and that is such a lovely thing and banishes all cause for fear.

    Sheridan I love it that you said “I sometimes wonder if those ‘What if’ questions are just satan’s torture device on us.”. I agree!

    Fear is another one of the enemy’s ugly torture devices. We fear making a decision, because we fear regretting what we decided! Fear and regret, two ugly tools used in tandem! Ugh, how cruel. Used to cripple us and stop us from moving forwards into the peace and joy Jesus intends for us.

    Well, thankfully , Jesus is greater than these tools … (John 16:33, 1 John 4:4) and we don’t need to remain in them.

    I too am in the middle of my own state of semi-permanent uncertainty regarding having children, at age nearly 37, because of factors mostly beyond my control. A well-meaning woman once said to me I should push for children because if I don’t I might end up resentful and regretful in my later years.
    Well, I have decided not to take that on board. Resentfulness and regret are a choice. And with the help of Jesus, I can walk completely utterly free of those things both now and in the future. Not by my own effort and discipline and trying hard, but in the supernatural grace, love and power of Jesus. Life may not turn out how I pictured it as a little girl, but that’s completely OK and I can be happy and content in scenarios that I didn’t expect or plan or envisage or intend. Because of Jesus.

    Renee, don’t fear regret. Jesus knows your weakness and has grace for it, and carries you through it and past it. His plan for your life is not regret. His plan is peace , contentment , and he can help you to enter into that … He can help you live and walk in that peace and contentment today, before you have even made any big decisions, whilst you are still in the middle of 7 years of ‘not knowing’. He can help you live and walk in that peace and contentment after you have made a decision too, whatever that decision may be. He may bring a child, or he may not, he may do something unexpected, or not. Either way, Jesus will be there bringing his Kingdom of peace, fulfilment and wholeness to earth in your every situation.

    Maybe the picture of the future that you are looking at and fearing, is a fiction and will not be. OR, maybe the picture of the future that you are looking at (and fearing) is a true picture that actually will be, but that is actually wonderful in its own way and not to be feared!
    Some people fear growing old, and then they get there and realise that it’s just as lovely as being young, and wonder why they feared it. The same thing applies for so many situations in life.

    I am coming to realise that when my mum used to say “she’ll be right mate”, (and still does), well, she was mostly right! I’ve been in some of the worst kind of situations and things just keep on turning out ok and good! With Jesus, that “she’ll be right” thinking has got some real Biblical truth to it. Not in a way that brushes off the reality of our pain, but in a way that shines a torch of hope into the future, shedding light on the peace and contentment that is there waiting for us. Peace and contentment that we can have now, and that comes not because of the perfect alignment of circumstances, but because Jesus is there with us, walking right by our side, and at times, carrying us.

    Renee, I think I just want to finish by saying, it’s going to be ok, even though you may feel not OK right now.
    I will pray for you. xxx

    • Clare Alice

      Oops… long comment…!

      • Just brilliant, Clare. You’ve written a whole article and sermon just there, full of helpful truth. Thanks for sharing your heart, your discoveries, and your faith.

    • Clare Alice

      One more afterthought for Renee: I should sum up my above thoughts by saying this (and I’m preaching to myself now too 🙂 ) Draw near to Jesus as much as you can… He is where you will find the peace you need…