There is a longer version of the story behind this question, but for now, I will give you the short and sweet version.
Several years ago, God gave me an opportunity that I believe was His intended plan for my life. However, I ended up not taking it because I was struggling with false guilt and self-condemnation and believed I wasn't good enough for it and didn't deserve it. I believe God took all of that from me because of my failure to act on it. My question is, given the circumstances and reasons why I did what I did, would God ever give me a second chance at what I missed out on, or has He taken it forever to discipline me? I didn't want to do what I did even though things happened that way. At the time I felt like it was the only way for me to truly be loving God enough and practicing righteousness, and I regret it every single day.
"Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it" (Isaiah 46:9-11).
When God decides a certain event will happen, the plan will go exactly as God wants. People are unable to change God's plans.
You stated that you struggle with false guilt and self-condemnation. It appears that this hasn't changed. You have decided that whatever struggles you are currently having are due to some past decision that you made, which you now wish you had chosen differently. Everyone makes poor choices at times. We all look at things in the past and realize that a different choice would likely have resulted in a better outcome. But you can't change the past. You work from where you are and aim to do the things that are pleasing to God.
God allows all of us the free-will to make dumb mistakes. Despite what has happened, do you move forward with wiser choices or not? I don't know what opportunity you passed up, but don't blame God by saying He is punishing you. Take ownership of what you had done and then do better.
Dear Mr. Hamilton,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my email. your words have given me some comfort. I hope you don't mind if I tell you my story so that maybe things can be a little clearer.
I didn't grow up in a Christian home and my childhood was full of abuse and anger. I survived and went off to college. For the first time in my life, things were good, and I was happy and safe. I loved my major, my teachers and made friends I didn't have growing up. A year later, a crisis led me to find God. I ran out of money and couldn't go back to school the next year. I don't know what about that situation caused me to turn to God, but I did and I wanted to know why all of this was happening.
Knowing next to nothing about Christianity and not knowing what I should be looking for, I joined the first church that convinced me that "God wanted me there". Some relatives of mine opened a small Pentecostal church in a nearby town, and I joined mainly because they were family. For two years, I didn't grow in that church and was told that God expected me to be good enough and that all the problems in my life were my fault for not being good enough. I left the Pentecostal church after getting to a point where I was so mentally and spiritually beaten down that I was considering ending my own life. I saw God as a monster and was terrified of Him and hated Him.
For a while I after I left, I didn't want to have anything to do with God and resisted and ran from Him in any way I could. But there was still a part of me that wanted to know Him. I looked at other Christians who had a joy about them and of knowing Him, and I wondered what was so wrong with me that I couldn't have what they had. I joined a nondenominational church in my area and ended up getting baptized. The day of my baptism, God lifted something off of me that I now believe was demonic oppression, and I finally saw God for who He really was. I suddenly had joy and peace and all of the things talked about in Scripture, and God added some extra things to that. He made known to me what His calling for me was and made a way for me to change my major and go back to school. He led me to join the college-aged ministry in my new church, where I started to make friendships that would have been amazing had things gone the way they were supposed to. He even gave me opportunities to minister to people He brought back into my life from my past. I had everything I could have wanted and more in the blink of an eye and my life couldn't have been more perfect. But they wouldn't be that way for long.
I guess I must have been really struggling with some things leftover from my very painful past, because one day the idea popped into my head that if I didn't do certain things, then God would punish me by taking all of that away and make my life back into what it was before all of those good things happened. I had somehow come to believe that taking out loans to pay for school was sinful and believed that if I quit a job I had been working during my two years being gone from school, that I wouldn't be able to be debt-free and wouldn't be good enough for or pleasing to God if I took on debt. I believed that the burning desire I had to quit my job was Satan tempting me to sin against God, that He would punish me for it if I gave in, and because I wouldn't quit my job as I now know He was directing me to, I missed out on the chance to have all of that and my life has been a wreck ever since.
I didn't do what I did because I wanted to go against God or do anything bad. I wanted to make sure that I was honoring Him in all my ways and believed that if I did what I wanted to do, then I wouldn't be loving God enough after what He'd done for me and sinning against Him. I still firmly believe that God took that opportunity from me after I wouldn't enter, because even after I realized I was wrong in my assumption that what I wanted to do was Satan tempting me, I begged God to help me recover and allow me to enter into that door and did all I could to fix what I'd done, but it still slammed shut anyway.
Little by little, all the things that He gave me began to disappear from my life. I ended up dropping out of school the semester I was originally supposed to graduate. I haven't done anything related to my original major/calling since. I've grown distant from God because of anger and hurt over what happened and have begged Him to let me go back and redo all of that many, many times. For other reasons, I believe God has permanently removed that calling from me. I will never be allowed to pursue it ever again. I know I won't ever get back the original opportunities that He gave me. I don't think the pain of what happened will ever go away and I don't understand why God would be doing this to me when it wasn't my aim to do anything wrong or refuse His will when I made the choice I did. But I feel like it doesn't matter to God what my reasons were for doing what I did or what my motives were and that He doesn't care and is punishing me anyway.
This is my story and why still almost 5 years later, things have not gotten any better. Thank you for listening
The basic answer I gave earlier doesn't change. What I see you doing is ascribing to God the decisions that you personally made.
Let me re-write your history in a shorter form.
You ran out of money and had to put your schooling on hold. You wanted to learn about Christianity, which was a good thing. You made a mistake of thinking that following relatives would lead you to Christ, but it is understandable when you didn't know what you were looking for. But instead of learning from God, you allowed other people to dictate what you should believe. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). You blamed God for your bad experiences at this religion that did not come from God.
You then joined another group. This time you did follow one of God's teachings, which was to be baptized (Acts 2:38). You started looking at life more positively and found a way to pay for more education. You decided to change your majors as well, which added more time to complete your degree. This isn't a bad thing if you are able to afford the extra time in school.
You reasonably tried to manage your money well by avoiding debt. You also work while attending classes. This also is a reasonable way to get through college. It isn't a sin to be in debt, but avoiding debt does make life easier. See Is it a Sin to be in Debt? Changing jobs is not wrong, but leaving yourself without an income would leave you in a difficult situation. I gather you passed up on an opportunity for a better job and now regret it. Hindsight helps people see better, but you learn from the past and move on.
This is about you going against God. God does things for His people behind the scenes but He allows us free choice. Sin is about breaking His teachings that are recorded in the Bible. Making a poor choice in your life is not necessarily a sin. Because you started calling things sinful that God never defined as sin in His Word, you set a trap for yourself. You set goals that were unobtainable and then beat yourself up for not reaching them. In truth, you were trying to be more righteous than what God said was righteous and that has caused you to slip into depression. The depression then impacted the other things you were doing.