Regret to inform you

 “I regret to inform you…”

As a consequence of some of the major wars, WW1, WW2, the Vietnam War the following words were used in a letter sent to surviving family members:

‘I regret to inform you…’

There is a moment during the film ‘ Saving Private Ryan’ which shows a middle age woman washing dishes, as she looks out of her window she sees a car driving up to her house. She goes to her front porch to receive the visitors, one an army officer and the other a priest. The woman collapses knowing this can only be bad news. Three of her four sons have been killed whilst fighting the enemy: ‘I regret to inform you…’

Five words that indicate profound suffering and which can crush an individual, bringing devastating loss. Confronted by loss of life these five words are never welcome. A family is torn apart by grief, indescribable loss and irreparable separation. ‘I regret to inform you…’. I wonder; with so many millions of telegrams sent to so many people during the First World War did this form of expression, at its source, retain its meaning? Did it became impersonal, just words on a paper, relentlessly day after day the words were typed; only the person’s name was changed. Was this a mini war industry; needing an army of people who could only responded in this way to death and sadness? Those receiving such a letter were left to respond to this, the most intrusive correspondence, full of tragedy, unbearable. It is heart breaking.

And yet; these same words might mean you were unsuccessful in your job application; your attempt to receive benefits, treatment for an illness or a claim for insurance. One thing is for certain…it is never good news.

I regret to inform you… that your application for entry into heaven has been unsuccessful.

Having written to you on numerous occasions, encouraging you to make the right application, you must take some responsibility for ignoring the advice contained in the many letters written on how to make the appropriate submission. Not responding to correspondence, or to those, who deliberately took it upon themselves to talk through with you the correct procedure for making the appropriate application, reflects upon your mistaken hope that on the day everything will go smoothly. 

It is unfortunate that having been presented with the truth of salvation, (the resurrection from the dead through the love of Jesus; who’s death on the cross and resurrection has been well documented, and who offers you forgiveness of sins and eternal life), that you did nothing about it. In essence you denied yourself the offer that was freely given to you. 

I regret to inform you…

The word ‘regret’ clearly demonstrates how unsuccessful it has become to fulfil the opportunity that started out with so much promise. It is a sad word, smacking of failure. For many the Cross would seem to be the failure on Gods part to reconcile sinful man to himself. Jesus should have done better. Yet the bible tells us that the cross is the Triumph of God’s love. There was no correspondence starting with: ‘I regret to inform you.’ 

There is now a message of love and hope. ‘I am pleased to inform you that your application to heaven has been successful. Your free gift has been safely delivered and installed.’

Image Credit: Adrian Swancar