“If only.” Sad words. We’ve all said them or thought them. These are words of frustration and disappointment, words of deep remorse. People dislike admitting the reality of failure.

• If only I had studied for that exam.

• If only I hadn’t raised my voice as I did.

• If only I had paid more attention to my health.

• If only I had spent more time with relatives and friends, rather than work.

• If only I had told my family I loved them more often.

We can dwell on the negative. Brood over our mistakes. Or we can pick ourselves up and try to rectify our situations as much as possible. 

To do this, we need to adapt and embrace a different mindset. 

Two New Words

So, what about the words “What if”?

Positive words. Words that imply hope. A picking-up-and-moving-onward-and-upward attitude. Facing reality as it is:

• What if I apply myself more?

• What if I think before speaking or reacting?

• What if I eat better and healthier?

• What if I contact relatives and friends, letting them know I care?

• What if I told my family I love them?

What a difference this would make! If we could get our personal lives in order, we’d feel so much better about ourselves. It’s vital that we take care of our physical being by exercising, eating well and making sure we get proper rest at night. Our emotional being must also get in sync with what we know to be right and good. Healthy relationships are important, with family members, but also with friends. This takes time and energy on our part, but it’s worth it. 

A New Path

And what about our spiritual being? Being in touch with creation can bring us so much joy: fragrant flowers, singing birds, animals of all kinds, magnificent lakes and rivers and oceans, lofty mountains, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. 

Creator God made everything for our sheer enjoyment, all because of His abundant love for us, His children. And, yes, He still loves us, even with our “if onlys.” For He is the One who brings to us hope and the assurance of His everlasting presence. Through the good times, and through life’s great challenges. 

Jesus once said: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). When we put our faith in Jesus, life does not have to be negative and full of regrets. We’ve all made “if only” mistakes, but “what if” we embrace a new and fresh vision of what life is all about? How transformational and wonderful that would be.

So, let’s follow a hopeful path for the days that lie ahead. And if we hold on to what we know is truth, we can never go wrong. For then we can look forward to a life that has real meaning for us, and a future that is bright and truly beautiful. No ifs, ands or buts about it!

Major Beverly Ivany is a retired Salvation Army pastor and the former writer of Words of Life, a daily devotional series published by The Salvation Army.

Illustration: Brad Pict/stock.Adobe.com

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