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Seeds of the Kingdom

Pre-empting Aspirational Regret

by Peter Brokaar

26 November 2020

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… but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
1 John 3:2b-3, ESV

My interest in trail running led me to understand a term I had been unfamiliar with. It is ‘aspirational regret’. I came across it when I watched a documentary about a guy who is without a doubt the most accomplished trail runner of our generation. His feats have been truly remarkable. When he discovered at a young age that he had a knack for this sport, he set himself the goal of winning all the big, prestigious races in the world. This was meant to be a life-long pursuit, but he reached his goal in his early twenties. At that point something interesting happened. In the middle of a race (which he was winning), he suddenly stopped. His energy left him and he fell into a severe depression.

Psychologist say this was because of ‘aspirational regret’. This occurs when someone finally accomplishes their goals and they find that they have nothing left to live for. People aim for the top of the mountain, but, when they get there, they find that it gives them nothing. Life becomes meaningless.

We may not have athletic ambitions like this man. But could we too, be chasing dreams which will leave us empty in the end? It could be fame, wealth or the pursuit of lusts. In that case, we find that all we’re doing is feeding our selfish nature, which is never satisfied, but only increases in hunger when it is fed. Or perhaps we have loftier goals of accomplishing great things for the sake of humanity That is great, but there is still the question of what drives us. What are we looking to find? When we get to where we have always wanted to be, will we really feel fulfilled?

I think that the best way to ensure we never regret pursuing our life’s goals is by pursuing goals which are anchored in eternity, rather than on earth. As I have been reading more about the lives of those who have gone before us, I am learning that, in ages gone by, Christians placed a much greater emphasis on becoming more like Christ than we do in our generation. Becoming more like Jesus, being transformed into His image, surely is a goal worth pursuing!

Changing sinners to become more like Himself is one of God’s great aims in salvation. And the beauty of it is that, while we walk the earth, we are never truly done. The Apostle Paul said, ‘Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect …. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:12-14).

It’s brilliant to have a life-goal that is anchored in eternity. It provides direction and meaning to every day of our earthly lives. And we will never fully ‘get there’ on earth and have this horrible depressing feeling called ‘aspirational regret’. We keep being changed until the day we meet Jesus face to face. And I am certain that in heaven we won’t regret any efforts we spent on earth in becoming more like Him, but we will be reaping eternal rewards in heaven.

Prayer: Father, I am sorry if I have set goals for my life which in the end will prove to be empty and unfulfilling. Help me to set my sights on heaven. And until I get there, please help me to become more like Jesus every single day. Amen.

Peter Brokaar is Director of Ellel Ministries Scotland and has been there together with his wife Liz since 2005. They have 3 kids, all born in Scotland! In his free time he likes reading, cooking, running and surfing. Being at Ellel Scotland has given him the privilege of getting to know God deeper and sharing that joy with many others.


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