It was the last night of camp. I was in a cabin full of amazing teenage girls that I admired for the lives they led and the examples they were to so many, including myself. After a week of nothing but Bible-based lessons and fellowship with His saints, they were struck by the fact that they would soon be returning to the “real world” and all the trials and temptations it offers. One by one, each member of this amazing group tearfully shared their fears and feelings of failure for not being the Christian they wanted to be. Each story was linked by an inability to let go of past mistakes.
It broke my heart to see the guilt these girls carried around with them. And it made me realize how often I had done the very same thing.
We all know what happened with David and Bathsheba (2 Sam 11-12). David was on his rooftop when he saw a beautiful woman bathing. This man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) acted on an impulse and decided to had to have her. He found out that she was married to Uriah the Hittite, one of his own mighty men (1 Chr. 11:41) that he held in high esteem. Still, he sent his messengers to take her and bring her to him. After he had taken what he wanted, she was sent home.
Shortly after, she told David she was pregnant. Unsure of what to do, David called Uriah home from battle in the hopes that he would be able to deceive everyone into believing that the child would be Uriah’s. His plan fell though and Uriah never even saw his wife. Out of ideas for deception, David simply ordered Uriah to the front lines and had the rest of the men fall back – essentially murdering Uriah.
Nathan, a prophet of God, came to David and eventually convinced him of the wrong he had committed and told him he would lose the child that Bathsheba was pregnant with as punishment for his deeds. And while there are so many lessons to be learned from this event, this is the point that has always most captured my attention. David fasted and lay on the ground for a week, hoping to change God’s mind. But he didn’t, and the child eventually died because of what David had done.
The second David found out his child was dead, his attitude changed completely. He got up. He washed and anointed himself. He changed his clothes. And he worshipped God.
His servants were amazed. This man had just spent a week trying to keep his child from dying and once his child actually lost his life, David worshipped God. His response to them amazes me:
“While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
See, David made his mistakes. But he acknowledged them (12:13). He accepted what he did and recognized that God has the right to give and to take away (Job 1:21). And he didn’t let his mistakes define his future. David didn’t spend the rest of his life mentally abusing and berating himself for all he had done wrong. He went on to accomplish the Lord’s work and is even included among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11.
Like David, we will make mistakes. Like David, we need to admit our mistakes and accept the consequences of our actions, because you can’t heal from mistakes you won’t acknowledge. Like David, we need to move on though. We need to recognize that God loves us and is patient with us (2 Peter 3:9). Rather than diminishing ourselves because we don’t feel worthy (hint: we aren’t), we need to follow David’s example. Worship and praise Him for His mercy, and the Sacrifice that means we DON’T have to carry those mistakes with us. Why should you fast? Why should you doubt? Let go of the weights you are keeping on yourself, because once you repent it means that He has let go and you’re the only one keeping them there. Be free to serve Him.