The Cross Deals With Our… Regrets
by Jay Parsons
The Cross Deals With Our Worth
1. The Cross Deals With Our... Worth
o regrets they don’t work, No regrets they only hurt”. So sang the popstar Robbie Williams about a once good relationship that had recently fallen apart. This line sums up how a lot of people feel about their past. We regret the things that have happened – the mistakes made and the sins committed – but we also hate the fact that we regret them too. The feeling of regret is one we really don’t like and is one we desperately want to get rid of, so we try and suppress it. We know the feeling of regret won’t change what happened “they don’t work”, and we know that the feeling is one of lingering pain that seems to have no positive effect on us “they only hurt”.
The problem is of course, that regret is very hard to shake off. That’s why Robbie is singing this to himself. He is telling himself to forget what happened, but he can’t, no matter how hard he tries. This is true of our experience too. No matter how hard we say to ourselves “no regrets”, the reality is that when we know we have really messed up we cannot get over it. The Bible picks up on this feeling of deep regret in the phrase ‘a crushed spirit’, something even more unbearable than physical illness. Proverbs 18v14 captures this: The human spirit can endure in times of illness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?
Our regrets over a past sinful decision often leads to a sense of emptiness and misery over what we have lost or what ‘might have been’, be it a business opportunity, a good reputation, a friendship, or a marriage. We can find ourselves crushed in spirit by the knowledge of it. Is there something like this for you? When you look back over your life, is there something that you know you lost through your own sinfulness? Through a bad decision you have made? Maybe it’s even that you look back and regret the whole course your life has taken. This can be pretty crushing can’t it. So does the Christian Gospel have anything to say to our regrets?
First, David says in the Psalms that The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34v18). David himself had major regrets in his life, terrible things he had done that could not be undone. After his adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband, his life was never the same. The biblical account reveals that these things tore apart his family, and his friends, and dramatically affected his ability to rule. But he didn’t sing “No regrets they don’t work, No regrets they only hurt”, he sang another song instead. Psalm 51 is David’s song of regret. He falls on his knees and pours out his heart, his regrets to God, asking him to deal with them. He tells God about his feeling of regret in v3: For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. It is always before him – he can’t shake it. But listen to how he starts his song. v1-2: 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
His regret over his past sin is put into second place by his knowledge of the character of God and his willingness to forgive. David has regrets, but he begins by acknowledging that God’s mercy and love for him is big enough to deal with it – to blot it out from his record. David is repentant and can call on God, with a broken and contrite heart (v17) confident that God will deal mercifully with his past sins – terrible as they were. The question is how does he deal with it? The clue is in v7, which says Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Hyssop is a brush like plant. Does this mean then that hyssop like soap for the soul, so that given a good scrub with it he will be sparkling again? No, David is calling to mind the sacrifice system. A priest would dip the hyssop plant into a bowl of blood from a sacrifice and use it to sprinkle the blood over the people. It was symbolic to show that the sacrifice had died in their place, and the shed blood spattered on the people told them that the blood was having an effect on them. The blood was effective in washing them clean of their sin – as clean and pure as fresh snow in the morning – so that they could have a relationship with a pure God. David then, in his song, calls on God to save him, to make the truth of this real to his heart, and to restore him.
But this of course points us to an even greater truth. The book of Hebrews makes it clear, that this strange custom was pointing forwards to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9v16-28). We are told in Hebrews 10v22 that we can now, through the sacrificial blood of Jesus on the cross, draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. It is a remarkable verse, but notice that phrase “hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience”. This is telling us that God has dealt with our regrets through the cross of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 7v10, Paul writes to the Corinthians 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
Because of the cross, like David, we too, can repent and call on him confidently to cleanse us. We too can bring our sinful past and deepest regrets to the Lord and trust him with it. We can draw near to him with assurance, knowing that ultimately he has dealt with the worst things in our history. We don’t need to wallow in worldly sorrow over what we have lost, because of what we have gained in him.
This of course, does not mean that there are no longer consequences for our sins, David’s life is testimony to that. But it does mean that we don’t need to suppress our regrets, pretending like they are not really there. The Christian doesn’t need to sing “No regrets”. We can own up to them, repent of them, and ask God to deal with them, to remove our feelings of emptiness and misery about them. Wonderfully, we can ask him to Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51v12) The cross deals with our regrets.