After a full day of work, my wife enjoys plopping in her favorite chair, letting the TV play in the background, and losing herself in games on her iPad. This is harmless enough, but there’s one game she occasionally plays that I plead for her to stop. I know the dangers of this game, because I’ve played it too.

I call it the what-if game.

It’s easy to play. You just dredge up past decisions or events in your life, and ask yourself “What if I had done such-and-such differently?”

  • What if I had not treated my sister so bad all through our early years?
  • What if I had applied myself better in high school?
  • What if I gotten the degree I wanted and not the one everyone told me I should get?
  • What if I had said yes to the other job offer?
  • What if I not been so hard on my son regarding his grades?

This is a game you can play for hours. And the older you are, the easier it is to play because you have a potentially longer history of regrets and bad decisions.

Trust me on this: it’s a lousy game to play. You can forever be asking yourself, “What would life have been like if I had chosen door #1 instead of door #2?” That’s not to take away from a good healthy self-evaluation. Socrates supposedly said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” But it’s not healthy to keep second-guessing your past decisions.

So I have to periodically remind myself to keep looking—and moving—forward. The past is the past; I can’t change it. The apostle Paul has been an encouragement here. He said:

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

Of course, there is another approach to the what-if game that is more positive. What if I had not moved across the state when I did? I would not have met my wife!

Those speculative questions make me realize how God works in our lives no matter what. God does not control our lives in a way that we have absolutely no control or say in the matter, but I’ve come to see that He leads in wonderful, mysterious ways that bring His best for me into my life.

And that’s why there is no reason to play the “what-if” game. God works His grace in spite of my regrets and poor decisions. He fills our lives with His grace.

And I like living in His grace.


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