Releasing your regrets – Psalm 51

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



The first week of this series I told a funny story about myself, last week we laughed at some regrettable tattoos.  This week it’s the chance of dogs!


That dogs is tenacious – but he can’t get where he wants to go because he won’t drop the stick.  The same can be true of us – we can’t live beyond regret without releasing our regrets first.

Series Recap

Last week we were introduced to David – the great and powerful Israelite King that had everything going for him.  He was called “a man after God’s own heart”.  And yet he had devastating regret in his life.  From his palace roof he sees a beautiful woman bathing.  He calls her up to the palace and sleeps with her.  She falls pregnant and David choses to hide his failure and sin.  And it goes from bad to worse – adultery, deceit, lies, and murder.

Finally he is confronted by the prophet Nathan and the truth all comes out.  Again David has a choice: more hiding (he could have had Nathan killed) or recognize and admit his regrets. Thankfully, David chooses the latter. (On Screen: Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13) He takes the first step toward Starting Over; he recognizes his regret.

David was kind of stuck in what we have called the “Sorry cycle”.  I don’t believe that he didn’t long for better, but his first regret (adultery) lead to another (lies and deceit), lead to another (murder).  And it was only a moment of uncomfortable confrontation and honesty that sprung him out of the “sorry cycle”.

I was really glad and thankful, but also really heart sore to see the response we had last week.  Glad because I think many people had a “Nathan moment” of authentic honesty.  But really heart sore because each piece of paper here represents the deep longing and real pain of an individual.

So we said we are on a journey towards living a life beyond regrets.  But recognising your regret is not enough.  They can be:

  • 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.


Last week, we introduced you to Greg and his story of regret and starting over. Greg had become addicted to drugs and alcohol at a very young age. His choices had ripped apart his family. When we left him in part 1 of his story, he had just moved to Chicago where he was making his first attempt at getting sober. Here’s part 2 of Greg’s story:


(Video: Regret Testimony – Part 2 Greg’s Story Available on


Recognizing our regret isn’t enough. Maybe our circumstances are different than Greg’s, but most of us know what it’s like to cycle through longing and regret, longing and regret. If we’re truly going to break the Sorry Cycle, we have to take a second step. The second step in Starting Over is to Release Your Regrets. In order to move forward, we have to let go…but how?


In an attempt to make service quicker and more accessible, many companies have a troubleshooting section for their product on their website or in the manual that was in the box.  It has helpful stuff in it like: is the device plugged in at the wall socket?  Is the switch at the wall socket on?  And then when you hit a real problem it says, “please call our service office so that we can be of further assistance.


Well I’ve got a trouble shoot guide here that I hope will be far more helpful!  Regret is the signal that something is not working as it should and if we want to release our regrets I have three questions to ask that


Question #1: Do you regret hurting someone?

One of the regrets that most often keeps us caught in the “Sorry Cycle” is relational hurts – regrets that involve other people.  We beat ourselves up because we have hurt others.  He’s the thing: being in relationships is a dangerous because people tend to be more selfish that they realise and they hurt other people.  I do it.  Ask my wife!  Ask other people who are close to me – I have had to apologise for my presumption, my angry words, my indifference.


When our action, inaction or interaction has hurt someone we need to ask for forgiveness from the person we hurt. It is so easy to talk ourselves out of this though. It’s awkward. It’s humbling. Sometimes we’re afraid we’ve damaged things beyond repair, and fear we’ll be rejected if we attempt reconciliation. But as awkward as it is, having a face-to-face conversation with the person where we ask forgiveness is how we release our regret.


In Romans, Paul is writing to new Christ-followers about how to love one another when he says: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)


To release your regret, you need to ask for forgiveness. Could the person we’ve offended hold a grudge?  Yes. Could they not accept our request to be forgiven? Yes. We can’t control how the other person reacts, but when we’ve done all we can do to live at peace, we can release it.  Until we do that they tend to fester and fester!


Do you regret hurting someone else? Ask forgiveness from the person, and then release it.


The second troubleshooting question we can ask is:

Question #2: Do you regret committing a sin? Sin isn’t a very popular word, but we avoid it to our own detriment when it comes to releasing regrets.  Sin and regret are linked – and I’ll show you how


People think about sin in different ways:

  • A simple definition is: “doing something bad”, “a moral failure”. This is where David finds himself in our Bible passage from last week.  He had committed adultery, he had lied and deceived, and then he had commissioned murder.  This kind of definition of sin is not wrong, but it is too superficial;
  • When you see sin simply as “‘doing wrong things” and “moral failures” then God becomes a kill joy who is spoiling your fun (there are parts of sin that are fun that’s why people do them: “I just saw a beautiful woman from my rooftop and now I going to have to have an affair” – I’m pretty sure David enjoyed the momentary pleasure).
  • Sin is runs deeper that what we do externally. It is about our motives and attitudes too.  It is about the heart – who is on the throne of our hearts.  Is it God or is it me/you?
  • In essence sin is choosing to reject God’s good rulership in our lives and placing ourselves on the throne. Then we do what pleases us and not what pleases God and that results in all kinds of sins (the actual things we do wrong).  Sin is about the throne – we reject God who loves us more than we can ever comprehend.  And we know that – think carefully: before you ever commit sins, you reject God.  Sin isn’t about breaking a rule; sin is relational.


Back to our story about David…David understood this, that’s why he said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” We might think, “No, David, you sinned against Uriah by having him killed and taking his wife,” and, while that is true, David understood that there was an even bigger reality…he sinned against God. He dethroned God. He put himself on the throne.


So how do we release this kind of regret? We Ask God for Forgiveness. In the same way that sweeping regrets and sins under the carpet does not mean that they are dealt with or that they go away in a human relationship, so in a relationship with God you need to ask for forgiveness.  And it is awkward, and you are going to want to avoid or hide.  But that’s what brings restored relationship!


Maybe praying to God isn’t something you’re used to doing, maybe it is, but all of us can. Out loud, silently, or through writing; we can ask God for forgiveness.


That’s how David released his regret. Scholars agree that David penned Psalm 51 following his encounter with the prophet, Nathan. In it he writes:


Have mercy on me, O God,

    according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion

    blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity

    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,

    and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned

    and done what is evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:1-4a)


Do you hear David owning his sin? Owning the wrong he committed against God? He asks God to help him start over as he writes:


Create in me a pure heart, O God,

    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence

    or take your Holy Spirit from me. (Psalm 51:10-11)


In this prayer of confession, David recommits to his relationship with God. If you don’t know how to ask God for forgiveness, try praying David’s prayer in Psalm 51. It’s a beautiful, honest prayer of release.


Now here’s the most encouraging thing I am going to say this more: as opposed to human beings who may reject your request for forgiveness, who may choose to hold a life-long grudge – God promises to forgive. (On Screen: 1 John 1:9) and cleanse.  The sin is gone. God no longer recognizes it or associates it with us. We need to resist picking it back up again.


Do you regret committing a sin? Ask God for forgiveness, and then release it.


The final troubleshooting question is a bit different than the first two. Question #3: Do you regret someone hurting you?  In could have been the interaction with other people that hurt you deeply and you carry that deep regret:

  • Maybe you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and the texting driver crossed the centerline?
  • Maybe an adult treated you badly when you were young?
  • Maybe your body betrayed you as you heard the words, “You have cancer”.


This type of regret can lead to shame, bitterness, or feeling sorry for ourselves.


How many of you saw the movie “Unbroken” – it was release in SA in 2015. The movie tells the story of Louis Zamperini, the former Olympic track athlete who spent two horrific years in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps during World War II. Zamperini was tormented by prison guards in ways that are difficult to watch on screen. After being released, Zamperini dreamed of getting revenge on the soldiers who had mistreated him.


But then in 1949, he became a follower of Jesus. The following year, he traveled to Japan to visit some of the imprisoned Japanese war criminals. He embraced his former guards and assured them he’d forgiven them. Years later, he tried to reach out to one guard who had tortured him the most; but the man refused the meeting. Zamperini felt it didn’t matter. The forgiveness in his heart had long since set him free from the prison of hate.


How did Zamperini get rid of is need for revenge? He forgave. Rather than holding on to his desire for retribution, Zamperini decided to release his former tormenters from what their actions deserved.


To release the regret of being hurt by someone or some circumstance, we need to Forgive the person who wronged you.  This absolutely is easier said than done. Our humanness wants to be vengeful. We often are filled with so many questions that feel like they need answers. But holding on to our hurt only keeps us from moving forward.


In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul writes:


“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)


How do we forgive someone who has hurt us? We draw strength from the God who has forgiven us. The life giving power of the forgiveness of God at work in our hearts enables us to forgive others.  Our massive debt of regrets and sin against God has been forgiven through Christ’s costly death on the cross.  And when you realise, like Zamperini, how much you’ve been forgiven, you are empowered to offer forgiveness to others.  AND to even forgive yourself



  • You need to reach out and start a conversation
  • Maybe you don’t personally know the offender,
  • Maybe the person is deceased,
  • Maybe the person is no longer safe, or
  • Maybe the offender isn’t a person – it’s some act of nature or your own physical body.
  • Perhaps releasing your regret starts with writing a letter. Sit down and get your thoughts on paper. Write out your point-of-view and the pain you want to release. You may never mail this letter. Sometimes just the act of writing can be therapeutic in your journey toward healing.


One last caution about these types of regrets… Sometimes in our pain, we start to question God’s goodness. But God is never the author of evil. He is never your enemy. He feels your pain right alongside you. This is not a time to run from God. It’s a time to run toward him for comfort and guidance. He wants to help you release your regrets.


Do you regret being hurt by someone or something? Forgive the offender, and release your regret.



(On Screen: Release Your Regrets) We all have regrets. Too often like a dog with a giant stick we hold onto them and they keep us from moving forward. It’s time to release them. It’s time to let go.


Sermon Questions

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

  1. Last week Grant encouraged us to recognise our regrets.  But to move past your regrets you need to release them.
    1. Why do you think people struggle to release their regrets?
    2. How is it related to the sorry cycle of longing and regret?
  2. Recap Greg’s video testimony.  Was there anything that particularly resonated with you in his story?
  3. Grant suggested three “troubleshooting questions” to help us release our regrets.
    1. Read Romans 12:18.  What does this teach about asking for forgiveness from someone you have hurt?
    2. Grant defined sin as: choosing to reject God’s good rulership in our lives and placing ourselves on the throne.  Do you think this is an adequate definition?  How is it helpful?  What is missing?
    3. Read Ps 51:1-10.  What does David’s prayer (after adultery, deceit and murder) teach us about asking for forgiveness from God?
    4. Read Ephesian 4:32.  What does this teach about forgiving others?
    5. Read Matt 18:21-35.  How does this parable help us better understand Ephesians 4:32?  How can we find the power to forgive?
  4. Journaling can be a very helpful way to respond to the way that God is working in your heart.  Give each group member a copy of the page below.  Give each person 15-20 minutes to prayerfully answer the three questions.


Releasing your regret: spend time answering the questions that are most appropriate for you

  1. Do you regret hurting someone? How do you need to make right?
  2. Do you regret hurting (sinning against) God? How do you need to make right?

Do you regret being hurt by someone or some event?  Who and how do you need to forgive?