More than forty years ago I wrote these words in the fly-leaf of my Bible, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these,’It might have been’.” Each time I see a person with bright prospects crash and burn, never reaching their potential, I think of those words. How sad! I never knew the story behind that little poem until I read this by Dr. Paul Chappell:
“John Greenleaf Whittier, in his poem Maud Muller describes a couple who are smitten with each other but neither speaks out to let the other know because of the great divide between their wealth, education, and social standing. Instead they each go on with their lives, only to look back in the end with regret for the road not taken:
God pity them both! and pity us all,
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall;
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”
But there is something far worse than regretting a missed opportunity, and that is regretting sin after it is too late to go back and undo what has been done. Many people sin despite knowing that it is wrong, because they have believed the lie that somehow they will escape the consequences. That has never yet happened in all of human history, for God has written the law of sowing and reaping into the very fabric of His creation. Sin always brings consequences, and the only way to avoid the regret that comes with those consequences is to avoid the sin in the first place.
If you view each temptation to sin through the lens of the end result after the consequences are experienced, you will find the allure of sin greatly diminished. The Bible says that Moses was willing to forego “the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25) to do what was right. When we realize how fleeting those pleasures are and how long the regret and suffering last, we find it easier to do right.”
He who is wise resolves to live a righteous life today, so that he will not have to look back with regret tomorrow.