Making the Best of a Bad Decision: How to Put Your Regrets behind You, Embrace Grace, and Move toward a Better Future

Making the Best of a Bad Decision: How to Put Your Regrets behind You, Embrace Grace, and Move toward a Better Future

4.8 5
by Erwin W. Lutzer

View All Available Formats & Editions

Maybe you worry you’ve married the wrong person. Maybe you’re carrying the burden of a secret or have gone down a dangerous road. Maybe you’ve made a life choice that’s hurt someone else so badly you feel the relationship can never be restored. But there’s good news: you have the opportunity to clear your conscience, make things


Maybe you worry you’ve married the wrong person. Maybe you’re carrying the burden of a secret or have gone down a dangerous road. Maybe you’ve made a life choice that’s hurt someone else so badly you feel the relationship can never be restored. But there’s good news: you have the opportunity to clear your conscience, make things right with God and others, and get to a place of grace and new beginnings. Join pastor and bestselling author Erwin Lutzer as he shows you how to make the best of even your worst decisions and move forward into a better future.

Product Details

Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Sales rank:
File size:
467 KB

Read an Excerpt

Making the Best of a Bad Decision

How to put your regrets behind you, embrace grace, and move toward a better future

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Erwin W. Lutzer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-1143-2

Chapter One


Thankfully, it wasn't yours

What, in your opinion, was the worst decision ever made? No matter how badly you think you have blown it, I can assure you that others have made worse decisions. God was there to redeem their poor choices and set them on a different path, so we can be sure he is there for us when we take a wrong turn on the road of life.

Paradise Lost

In the Bible, we're told about a couple who made the worst decision of all time. Surrounded by the most perfect environment, they chose a path with incredibly far-reaching consequences. In fact, their decision has affected every generation since theirs, right up to today. No other decision has so negatively affected so many people for so long a time—for eternity, to be exact. Of course, at the moment of truth, they didn't know that their decision would boomerang and give birth to all kinds of evil: violence, natural disasters, and even death. Yes, Adam and Eve win the prize for the worst decision ever made. But if we can recognize that God was both able and willing to make the best of their self-made tragedy, we can be confident that he stands ready to help us, too.

The Opportunities They Had

Visualize Adam and Eve in Paradise. They enjoyed a perfect environment, with no unfulfilled needs. They lived in a beautiful garden, surrounded by God's masterful handiwork, and their five senses were undiminished and uncorrupted. Were they hungry? There were many trees in the Garden from which they could freely eat. And if they had wanted something they didn't already have, they could've asked God, and I'm sure he would have created it for them.

Eve had no insecurities. She not only lived in a perfect environment, but she also had a perfect husband! I'm sure Adam faithfully carried out the garbage and helped with the dinner dishes. No doubt he was sensitive, caring, romantic, and all those other things so rightly prized by women. Eve didn't have to worry about the woman next door becoming too friendly with Adam. She didn't have to compete with supermodels and actresses on every magazine cover. And she didn't have to lie awake at night wondering whether she had married the right man!

Adam and Eve also had the advantage of direct access to God. They walked with him in the cool of the day, evidently enjoying discussions and very likely having their questions answered. But one day they made a choice that ended their evening walks with the Almighty. Standing together by the one tree in the Garden they'd been told not to eat from, Adam and Eve made a decision that contaminated their relationship with God and with each other. In effect, by a single bite of a forbidden fruit, they became God's enemies, and their own beautiful relationship turned sour.

Now, if you ask why this couple chose to disobey God, even though they were in a perfect environment and had everything they wanted and needed, there's no good answer. The Bible doesn't give us a full explanation. What we do know is that, in our own day and age, people make bad decisions all the time, despite privileged circumstances and loving families. Like Adam and Eve, we often choose to do what we think is best for ourselves, and we disregard the warnings and wisdom of others, including God.

The Decision They Made

God's command was clear: "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die" (Genesis 2:16-17).

When Satan, in the guise of a serpent, approached Eve, he focused—as he so often does—on the one thing that God had placed off limits. He diverted Eve's attention from all the goodness surrounding her and Adam—the many trees from which they were free to eat—and called into question God's wisdom and love. He tricked Eve into thinking she could do better by disregarding God's clear command.

Adam, of course, doesn't get a free pass here. He stood by while Eve was tempted and then joined in her bad decision to eat the forbidden fruit. And so they sinned, even while surrounded by innumerable blessings.

Maybe your own story is like that. Maybe you were brought up in a stable home, with loving parents and wonderful opportunities. Yet the allure of doing your own thing distracted you from what you knew was best. Maybe you followed your desires and ignored your best instincts.

Let's look more closely at what drew Adam and Eve off track. It all began when Eve elevated her own desires above God's wisdom. The tree was desirable—it was pleasant to the eyes, and it appeared as if it would make her wise. At the moment of decision, that meant more to her than what God had said. She was deceived by her senses, and that gave her the courage to ignore God's word. In essence what the serpent said to her was, "Eve, feel, don't think. It looks good—do it! It if feels good, how can it be bad?"

Of course, our emotions don't always mislead us, but like Adam and Eve we are often tempted to take the path of least resistance when pursuing something we desire. The decisions we make can seem so simple, and yet the consequences can be devastating. God had warned Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the wrong fruit, but at that point they didn't even know what death was! There was no example of death in Paradise. Perhaps Eve was curious: "I wonder what death really is? Maybe death will be a wonderful experience, better than life itself." Then there was the added promise that, if they ate, they would be "like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5).

A Window into Our Hearts

Our minds can justify anything that our hearts really want to do. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are driven by our desires. We may think we make decisions based on rational considerations, but we are much more influenced by our passions and our appetites. Because we have to live with our consciences, we carefully rationalize what we really want to do—and continue to rationalize after we've done it. Our minds become enslaved to whatever our desires demand. We tell ourselves, Nobody's perfect, but I'm basically a good person. Besides, it isn't my fault things turned out the way they did.

Moments after Adam and Eve sinned, the finger-pointing began. Adam passed the blame to God and to Eve, and she passed it on to the serpent. Adam and Eve were incapable of seeing themselves as they really were, and so are we. Our rationalizations become deep and lasting, and we become entrenched until we are shaken awake by a moment of reality—often it takes a crisis to awaken the conscience. You've heard it said that most people change only when they see the light, but it's more accurate to say that we change only when we feel the heat!

Eve gave birth to a son and they named him Cain. As Eve nursed him, she had no idea the consequences of sin that awaited their little family. When a second son was born, they named him Abel. He grew to be a godly young man who learned to bring the right kind of offering—a blood sacrifice—to God. Cain, the firstborn, also brought an offering, one from the fruit of the ground. But God rejected his offering even as he accepted Abel's. Jealousy now took root in Cain's heart, and in a fit of rage he killed his brother. Another terrible decision. Thus the long and sordid history of dysfunctional families began.

No Return to Paradise

Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were naked but not ashamed. Imagine having a relationship with God, and with other people, without shame or guilt getting in the way. Imagine if your thoughts were so pure, so holy, that you would have no shame even if your most private musings were known to your spouse, your children, your parents, and your friends. Imagine the freedom this would bring to your relationships: no anger, lust, pride, or selfishness.

Despite their deep regret, Adam and Eve could not return to Paradise. God set up a barrier that forced them to stay away from the home they once enjoyed. Every morning when they awoke outside of Eden, they regretfully remembered that things were not as they once had been. Their innocence could not be restored; no amount of tears would grant them the privilege of spending so much as a night in the idyllic surroundings they had once enjoyed.

Sound familiar?

The young couple who have surrendered to temptation and slept together can never have their virginity restored. The man who has foolishly gambled away his savings or squandered it on a get-rich-quick scheme cannot recover what he has lost. The woman who has married against her parents' advice and now regrets having to live with an indifferent husband cannot retrace her steps and back out of her vows.

Ever since the days of Adam and Eve, we have been deceived by the attractiveness of sin just like they were. In fact, we're often eager to believe the lies that tell us we can do whatever our sinful desires dictate. It's as if we long to be deceived. We live with regrets, just as they did, and we wish we could undo our foolish decisions, but all those bad decisions create a barrier that keeps us from ever going back to the way things were.

But even as the door to Paradise was closing to Adam and Eve (and to us), the door of hope swung wide open. God assures us that something good can still be made from the pieces of our broken lives.

Hope amid Regret and Loss

After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid themselves among the trees of the Garden. They who had felt no shame were now crushed by its powerful effects. The trees that had once been a pleasant backdrop to fellowship with their Creator now became a wall to hide themselves from him and from one another. From then on, much psychological energy and ingenuity would be expended to keep hiding. Adam and Eve had reason to feel ashamed.

Shame is a powerful emotion. I'm told that in Japan, if a man is fired from his job, he often will not tell his family; and if he continues to be out of work, he will not go home. This has contributed to the rise of a street culture in Japanese cities. Suicide is on the rise. We so desire acceptance that we will be emotionally destroyed if we don't get it.

Albert Camus, in The Fall, writes, "Each of us insists on being innocent at all cost, even if he has to accuse the whole human race and heaven itself." Some people, filled with narcissistic obsessions, are psychologically incapable of taking responsibility for anything, no matter how unjust, corrupt, or abusive their behavior. They appear incapable of entering into the pain of others, but interpret such misfortunes only in relationship to themselves. They will go to their graves without uttering the words, "I have sinned" or "I'm sorry."

Adam and Eve both admitted to what they had done, but they wouldn't take responsibility for it. As the saying goes, the man blamed the woman, the woman blamed the serpent, and the serpent didn't have a leg to stand on! We have clearly followed in their footsteps, stoutly resisting our own responsibility; blaming others; shaping the facts to protect our selfish egos; and if necessary, destroying those around us in order to preserve our own sense of self-worth.

After the Fall, Adam and Eve weren't trying to find their way back to God; they simply hid from him. It was God who initiated the search (as he always does), walking in the Garden and calling out to the disgraced couple. If anything, they sought to become their own gods, so that they wouldn't have to be exposed to the holiness of the one whom they had wronged. But thankfully, the true God wouldn't let them go. His search among the trees of the Garden was the beginning of their redemption—and ours.

Into the middle of this mess, God came to inject a healthy dose of grace. He cursed the serpent, to be sure, but in doing so he gave a wonderful promise of hope to humanity. In Paradise Lost, John Milton speaks of it as "the fortunate fall," because when we are brought back to God there is glory in our restoration. Sin has no glory, but reconciliation does.

The Promise

When God confronted Adam and Eve about their sin, he also spoke to the serpent: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Genesis 3:15).

What does this promise mean?

A Redeemer committed to rescuing humanity from their sin and folly was on his way! The woman's offspring—a reference to Jesus Christ—would crush the head of the serpent, even as the serpent would bite him on the heel. In other words, the heel of the Redeemer would grind the head of the serpent into the dust. The Redeemer would win the battle decisively. No contest.

This story is familiar to anyone who has studied the Bible, but I recount it here because it is central to God's plan for making the best of our bad decisions. Bad decisions cannot be undone, but they can be redeemed. And Jesus Christ is the key.

Centuries later, when Jesus died on the cross, the serpent deceived himself by thinking, Now that I've killed him, I've destroyed my opposition! But three days later, Jesus rose from the grave; and a few weeks later, he went to heaven in undisputed triumph. His wound was light and temporary; the serpent's wound was fatal, decisive, and permanent. It's in the power of the Redeemer that we're able to make the best of our bad decisions.

"Through your faith in the working of God, ... [he] made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:12-15). Jesus disarmed Satan, exposing the devil as a shimmering fraud.

The Covering

After they sinned, Adam and Eve clothed themselves with fig leaves. No doubt if they'd had enough of them, they might have been able to make dresses and shirts. But even though the fig leaves enabled them to hide from one another, their self-styled clothing did not hide them from God. Fig leaves might make a dress, but they soon wither. God knew they needed a more permanent covering; an expensive covering that only he could supply.

"The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them" (Genesis 3:21). Where did God get the skins? Evidently, he killed one of the animals of the field. With this sacrificial provision, God began teaching a basic principle: Blood must be shed for the forgiveness and covering of our sin. There could be no cheap covering for sin.

God dressed Adam and Eve so that their fellowship with him could be restored and their sin and shame covered. Those animal skins had no intrinsic value, but they symbolized what would become clear later: that sin must be not only forgiven but covered. Throughout history, many animals were sacrificed, pointing to the future coming of Jesus, "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

Withering fig leaves wouldn't do. Centuries after Adam and Eve, God himself had to suffer on the cross so that we might be forgiven. His forgiveness, though costly to him, is given freely to us. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). That truth doesn't change just because we make some bad decisions.

What God Does with Our Sin

Many people today have a neurotic preoccupation with their sin. Sometimes they confess their sins to one another, which brings them temporary relief. Most often, they resolve to do better, trying to find within themselves a reason why God should forgive them. Even when they confess their sins to God, there is no permanent relief from the feeling that they have messed up and are condemned to mess up again in the future.

The first step toward breaking out of this trap is to understand that nothing within us merits God's forgiveness. Minimizing our sin does not make us worthy before God; magnifying our sin does not give us reason to think we are beyond forgiveness. Forgiveness and reconciliation with God are given freely, apart from what we have done or who we are.

We are pardoned because of the death of another—the promised Redeemer sent by God. We have been justified by his blood (Romans 5:9); we have our consciences cleansed by his blood (Hebrews 9:14); and the serpent—our accuser—has been defeated by his blood (Revelation 12:11). The work of Christ is the one and only basis of our forgiveness. Neither our goodness nor our badness affects this objective fact.


Excerpted from Making the Best of a Bad Decision by ERWIN W. LUTZER Copyright © 2011 by Erwin W. Lutzer. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Making the Best of a Bad Decision: How to Put Your Regrets Behind You, Embrace Grace, and Move toward a Better Future 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very helpful book full of keen insights for young or old, man or woman.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was simply amazing. Dr. Lutzer does an excellent job of explaining just how God can reveal himself within decisions and issues that seem unresolvable. He uses excellent analogies and explains how we can overcome these bad decisions with God's guidance. While the book is a simple read the depth of this book is simply astounishing. For me, it was a timely read.
TheAtypicalHousewife More than 1 year ago
Making the Best of a Bad Decision By Erwin W. Lutzer We've all made decisions that we regret, it's how we recover that really matters. However, it can be difficult to pick up the pieces and move on. This book is all about putting regrets behind you, and moving forwards with God grace. This book covers a wide range of bad decision, such as marrying the wrong person, having made a bad financial decision, or being stuck in a job you hate. One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the fact it used the bad decisions of biblical figures to show us that, yea, we may have made bad decisions, but someone else has too. In the end God will still forgive us!! I also loved that this book not only addresses the having made bad decisions, but how to move forward and make wise decisions from now on. This book is easy to understand, and is a great read. Another plus to this is the discussion guide in the back! It has great questions you can read through and answer, and even has an area for notes in the very back of the book. All in all, I would definitely recommend this book for someone to read, whether your decision was a big one, or maybe not so big, it's wonderful, and encouraging to know that God forgives us, all we have to do is sincerely ask. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishing Co. in exchange for an honest opinion.
Darmess More than 1 year ago
I received a complimentary copy of "Making the Best of A Bad Decision" by Erwin W Lutzer from Tyndale House Publishers for review purposes. Grace is that wonderful gift from God that restores us to Himself, no matter what we have said or done, no matter the poor decisions and choices we have made. This book is good news for the suffering heart that longs to trade in that bad decision and restore relationships and conscience, making things right with God and others. Author Erwin W Lutzer is the senior pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago. He has written numerous books to grow and enrich the Christian faith. This book is no exception. " Making the Best of a Bad Decision" is a journey of expectation and hope. We all have made bad decisions and unwise choices in our lives. We know the consequences of those decisions affect us and our loved ones for a lifetime. But the hope we have in Christ, redeems those choices and proves God's grace is greater than the failures in our workplace, family life, marriages, relationships, etc. We can then take the words of Romans 12:1-2 to heart and make a change for the future. We can make the wise choices, find redemption and reconciliation and move towards a better future. I found the lessons within this book to be such a blessing. I was comforted by the encouraging words and challenged to give God my own bad decisions while knowing I can rest assured in His promises of forgiveness and restoration. Whether you are facing financial, marital or other relational consequences of bad decisions, this book will guide your steps back to a restorative relationship with God. With a discussion guide at the back of the book, you will see your past decisions in an honest light and hopefully make the changes necessary to make better ones in your future.
Michelle2m More than 1 year ago
'Making the Best of a Bad Decision' by Erwin W. Lutzer is a great read for anyone that has ever made a bad decision, has a big decision to make, anyone that has regrets or is anxious about something in their past or future so I believe that basically covers all of us. Dr. Lutzer walks readers through various types of opportunities where one has or could fall into a poor choice with Biblical examples, answers based on scripture and with a gentle reassurance that no mistake is too big for God to handle. Topics covered include: when you choose second best, marriage, crossing moral boundaries, finances, vocation, when you've hurt others, the worst decision you could make and also how to make wise decisions in the future. It's a great resource book to turn to for God's wisdom when you are in a struggle based on your own bad decision. God wants to forgive us if we will only confess and turn it over to him. Don't let a bad decision or the fear of making one hinder your future seek out God's wisdom. Dr. Lutzer has done a wonderful job of focusing in how to do that in this book. This is a read I know I will reference again not just after I make a bad decision but to learn from other's past mistakes and to try and make better decisions for myself. I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of this review.