Irreversible decisions are the hardest to live with. You know you’ve done wrong, but it is too late to undo it. Now you must live with the consequences, whatever they may be. But how? Do you beat yourself up forever? Do you live in a state of habitual sullenness? Do you become bitter toward others or God? The pain of regret and the constant nagging of a conscience that knows it has been foolish have the potential of crippling you forever. Must this be, or is there a better way?
King David was a man forced to live with the consequences of his own irreversible poor choices. His escapade with the midnight bather (Bathsheba) was now over. He could no longer pretend it was just a bad dream. She was pregnant with his illegitimate son. Her husband was dead and the blood was on his hands—and the whole kingdom knew it. His sin was ever before him and feelings of regret had the potential of haunting him forever, leaving him spiritually incapacitated and useless to God. But did it have to be? Or, was there a better way?
Psalm 51 reveals that indeed there was a better way and David found it. It is the way of cleansing. It is the way of being washed by the forgiveness of God. It is the way of ceaseless praise for grace that is greater than sin. His musical prayer begins with a plea for grace: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies” (vs. 1). His plea to a God whom he knew could only act in accordance with His character produced a bold request for pardon: “Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin…purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (vs. 2, 7).
So confident was David in the promise of God’s forgiveness that he sang, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (v. 12). Herein lies the secret to dismantling the crippling power of wrong choices: we must refuse to allow the painful reality of our sin to get the upper hand by casting a dark shadow over the grace and forgiveness of God. Satan would love for us to become so obsessed by regret that we no longer stand in awe of a God that delights in restoring hopelessly flawed sinners. Restored to God, David was ready to be used by Him. “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You” (v. 13). Were the consequences gone? No. But the guilt was. Were regretful thoughts totally nonexistent? I doubt it. But David was determined to move on with God anyway. This was the Apostle Paul’s choice, as well, who said: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13, 14).
Like you, I too have made some bad yet irreversible decisions. In fact, at times I have allowed the painful consequences of these to almost overwhelm me. However, God’s empowering grace has been sufficient in the end. We all have things in our past we wish we could change, but some things cannot be undone. Some can, but many cannot. Some consequences remain until the end of time, but that does not mean we must let them cripple us. Let us not become slaves to them, but let us make them our slaves, forcing us to keep the restoration of God at the forefront of our minds. Let us forbid them to hinder our growth. Let us steadfastly refuse to let them interrupt our praise. Let us give them permission to exist only as reminders of the marvelous grace of our loving Lord.
Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
Let us not allow the effects of irreversible choices steal the joy that is found only in the refuge of the Cross of Christ.
[Excerpted from Delight in the WORD: Biblical Counsel for Everyday Issues]