Recognising your regrets – 2 Samuel 11-12

NOTE: this sermon series is largely based on the “Starting Over” series from Big Idea Resources[1]

 Introduction: Regrettable Tattoos

We are in a series of sermons called “Starting over – living beyond regret”.  And last week said that it is never too last to start over.  God has never stopped loving us and he has a purpose for your life.

Now, I don’t know what you think about tattoos – but there are some people who just do think before they get their tattoos… show 5 pics

Tattoos aside, the truth is we all have regrets.

  • Maybe we failed in our attempt to get a college degree.
  • Or we maxed out our credit cards again.
  • Or maybe we pushed someone away in a burst of anger or due to some foolish behavior.

We all have regrets, don’t we?

Series Recap

 (Go to Regret Wall) Last week we talked about the different kinds of regret:

  • Regrets of Action – These are times when we smacked our foreheads and say, “Oh! I can’t believe I did that!”
  • Regrets of Inaction – Times we failed to take action: opportunities missed, time wasted, words unspoken.
  • And then there are Regrets of Interaction. Sometimes our greatest regrets are due to something hurtful that was done to us. When bad things happen to us, we naturally regret them.

Nowadays there are ways to have misspelled tattoos removed.  But many of us hold on to our regrets and get stuck in what we call the Sorry Cycle — an endless pattern of longing and regret. And we can’t seem to shake what we’ve done or what’s been done to us.  We so LONG to make it right, but are never quite able to do so, which only leads to more regret.

This sermon series is about the GOOD NEWS that it is possible to live beyond your regrets. You can start over. No matter who you are, no matter what you regret, starting over is possible for you.  Last week we ended by saying that regret can be a helpful emotion that will help to launch us into a better future and a closer walk with God.

So over the next 3 weeks we’re going to learn three steps to starting over. And the first step begins with a choice every one of us has to make.

Choice #1: Hide Your Regret

When it comes to our regrets, many of us choose to Hide Our Regrets. (Choice #1: Hide Your Regret) And it makes sense; it’s a very natural response to want to keep our regrets hidden. If you have a misspelled tattoo on your shoulder, you’re going to keep that covered up, aren’t you?

But here’s the thing, that regret may be hidden, but it’s still there. — It’s not dead, it’s just buried alive. And anything buried alive will fight to come back life.

(Beach ball in clear tub of water) That’s why I have this beach ball here… Have you ever been in a swimming pool with a beach ball and tried to shove it under water? (Push the ball under water) What does it immediately want to do? (Release the ball and let it pop up) It wants to shoot up out of the water.

This is what it’s like when we choose to hide our regrets. It’s like we’re walking around trying to live our lives while at the same time holding a beach ball under water.

Maybe you’restarting a new relationship – you’re attracted to someone, but you have regrets from past relationships. You’re trying to put your best foot forward, but that regret is still there – trying to jump up and remind you of your past mistakes.

Maybe you’re thinking about taking on a venture of some kind, something that involves risk. You’ve prayed about it, sought wise counsel, and you see green lights saying to move forward; but the regret of failure from the past starts to whisper in your ear. You try to drown out those voices, but they keep popping up.

The regret can be anything:

  • A bankruptcy.
  • A divorce.
  • A harsh word that brought an end to a friendship.
  • Not having enough guts to take the risk
  • A job lost
  • A repeated sin pattern.

We don’t want to think about it, so we shove our regrets under the water. — And we can get really good at keeping them there.

(Push the beach ball under) Some of us push them down and live in denial. You know —  move along, there’s nothing to see here.

  • Look how happy I am,
  • Look how wonderful my family is,
  • See how successful I am. And we go on denying our regrets.

Others get really good at multitasking. The regret is there, but hey, I’m so busy or so angry or I have gotten really good at numbing myself to the regret.

But there is a real danger in hiding my regret…

  • Hiding my regret can keep me from giving my best to what is in front of me. And I’m likely to create new regrets, and add more beach balls to the tub.
  • Hiding my regret can also paralyze me. I can’t possibly move forward if I have to stay here holding this beach ball?
  • Not to mention, it’s exhausting. Holding a beach ball like this is fun for a minute, but try this for an hour, or a day, or a decade? That’s exhausting!

Word: David and Regret

In 2 Samuel 11, we find a story of someone who tried to hide his regret. David is the king of Israel.

  • He is powerful.
  • He is revered.
  • He is in control.

Let me sketch the scene: while his men are off fighting a war, David is strolling around on the roof of his palace when one evening he notices a beautiful woman in the building next door. Apparently, this was no innocent glance, because he’s instantly smitten. She is the wife of one of his most accomplished soldiers, Uriah. And David’s lust overrules his judgment. He calls for Bathsheba and sleeps with her. David knows this is wrong, and if he felt any regret that next day, he just pushes the beach ball under the water. He chooses to hide what he’s done.

But that beach ball starts to surface and becomes more difficult to hide when Bathsheba comes back and says, “I’m pregnant.”

Again, David faces a choice. Will he deal with his regret or will he try to hide it? — Sadly, he chooses to push a little harder to keep the beach ball under. He calls Uriah home from the battlefield figuring if Uriah sleeps with his wife he’ll think the child is his, and David’s regret can remain hidden. But Uriah refuses to enjoy the pleasures of home while his men are still risking their lives on the battlefield.

And this beach ball becomes an even bigger problem for King David.

Once again, David faces a choice, and once again he chooses to hide. He sends Uriah back to the front line and instructs his generals to abandon him on the battlefield so that Uriah is struck down and killed. Now not only is David an adulterer and a liar, he’s a murderer. Another beach ball in the water.

David is becoming pretty skilled at hiding his regrets. With one hand pushing the beach ball down, he now brings Bathsheba into his house and she becomes his wife. — The regret remains hidden. — Well, sort of.

God sends Nathan, a prophet, to tell David a little story that goes like this…

“There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” (2 Samuel 12:1-4)

David is incensed by Nathan’s story, and he says:

“As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! – He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” (2 Samuel 12:5-6)

Now, I wonder how long Nathan paused after hearing David’s response. I can imagine the tension building…

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7)

And the beach ball breaks through the surface.

Nathan goes on to tell David what God revealed to him.

  • The adultery.
  • The deception.
  • The murder.

And again, David has a choice. He could continue hiding. He got rid of Uriah, surely he had the means to take care of Nathan too. But thankfully, David makes a better choice.

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13)

David chose to RECOGNIZE his regret. (Choice #2: Recognize Your Regret) — And that is the choice we have to make if we hope to start over.

I want to lay you a clip of a guy named Greg.  He was faced with a similar decision: to hide or to recognize his regret.

Video: Greg Story Part 1 – Recognizing Regret (Video available on Big Idea Resources

Choice #2: Recognize Your Regret

 (On Screen: Choice #2) Over the next couple weeks, we’re going to hear more of Greg’s story, but his story of starting over began when he chose to recognize his regret

As long as we keep our regrets in the dark they will continue to have power over us.  Satan whispers in our ears, “If people find out, it will ruin you. If you’re honet you’ll be rejected.” And so there it sits…

  • buried but not dead,
  • hidden but still powerful.

It sits below the surface feeding our shame and our heartache. But if we want to start over, we’ve gotta bring it to the surface, expose it to the light, and recognize our regret.

And I know this is not easy. I’m a pretty prideful person, so when it comes to regret and stuff I wish I hadn’t done or wish I had done differently, the last thing I want to do is bring it to the surface. I’d rather keep it under the water, hope it will go away, or get better on its own. — But you know what I’m finding? It doesn’t go away.

So here’s the deal, I hope today can be a “Nathan moment” for every one of us. I believe God wants us to…

  • recognize our regrets,
  • break the Sorry Cycle,
  • and start over.

The Apostle Peter – we talked about how he overcame his regrets last week, wrote these words:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)

You have one of two options: To hide your regrets or to humble yourself and recognize them – banking on God’s promise through Jesus to forgive us and free us from our regret? So if you’re ready to trust God with your regret, here is what you need to do:

(Tell yourself.) First, get honest with yourself.You have regrets. There are things that have been done to you or things you have done. And first, you have face the facts head on…it…happened. You were wronged, you wronged someone, you broke a promise, told a lie, cheated, caused pain, received pain. Something happened. — Write it down. Say it out loud. Tell yourself…it happened.


(Tell God.) Get honest with God. What happened will come as no surprise to him, but he needs to hear it from you. There is nothing he doesn’t know AND nothing he doesn’t feel. He knows when you’re:

  • Hurting
  • Crying
  • Swearing
  • Numbing
  • Ignoring
  • Avoiding

He knows. And you’ve got to get honest with him about what happened and how you feel. That’s how a real relationship works. And, finally…

(Tell others) Get honest with someone else – someone who can be a Nathan to you and help you start over. We named our church “COMMUNITY” because we believe we need each other on this journey of finding our way back to God. We need others to help us start over.  So tell your small group or a trusted friend. Stop the hiding and let someone know.

Response Moment

This morning, we want to give you the opportunity to take the first step in starting over…to recognize your regrets. In a moment, I’m going to invite everyone to come to one of the Communion stations we have set up in the room as we celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. But as we do that, I want to offer you another opportunity today. I want to give you the chance to recognize your regret by writing on this Regret Wall.

You can write a single letter or word or draw a symbol that represents your regret. We’re not asking you to put your name on the wall. This is an opportunity for you to come clean…to tell yourself, tell God, and then later on tell someone else about your regret. As long as you hide it, it has power over you. So today can be a first step toward freedom. Today we offer you the chance to start over.

Sermon Questions

Please use / augment / discard these questions so that your group has a fruitful discussion

  1. Read 2 Samuel 11:1-12:14 (It is a long section, but worth reading to get the whole story)
  2. Before David started his elaborate cover up scheme for his sin, he allowed and entertained temptation.  What were the wrong moves David made in 11:1-4.  Compare with what James writes in 1:13-15
  3. David’s first cover up attempt was exposed by the pregnancy.  His second attempt is to get Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba.  His third attempt is to kill Uriah.  Discuss this statement as it relates to David and you: Christians do not fall into moral sin suddenly.
  4.  Why is the temptation to keep sin hidden so strong?  How do we keep our sin hidden?  What is the power of revealing sin and not hiding it?
  5. There are (literally in this story) casualties of sin.  What are other kinds of “casualties” of our sin?
  6. Nathan tells a parable that clearly exposes David but he does not see it!  What does this teach about the deceptive nature of sin?  Also, what does it teach about us needing a “Nathan” in our lives?
  7. How does David finally deal with this regret over his sin and deception?
  8. Why is it necessary to bring our sin into the light? Cf. John 1:5-9