Many people in the Bible did things that brought them shame and regret, and people today are still doing things that bring them shame and regret. The good news is that in stories both old and new God can turn things around and work good out of bad situations (Romans 8:28–39). It requires our humility, confession of sin, and asking God for forgiveness (1 John 1:5–10).
Does the Bible talk about shame and regret?
Adam and Eve, the first humans to exist, were also the first humans to experience shame and regret when they committed the original sin. For the first time, they recognized their own nakedness and hid from God. They were banished from the garden of Eden; and sin, with its resultant death, has plagued humanity ever since (Romans 3:10–18, 23). After living life in a perfect world, Adam and Eve lived the remainder of their lives in a fallen world tarnished by sin (Genesis 3). But even as God pronounced the curses of sin, He promised a savior (Genesis 3:15). Jesus is the one who redeems us and rescues us from shame and regret.
King David had an affair with Bathsheba and then had her husband Uriah killed in battle. Bathsheba bore a son with David, but the baby was stricken with illness and died because of David's sinful actions. David must have dealt with a lot of shame and regret about this situation, but he turned back to the Lord and worshipped Him. God blessed David and Bathsheba with another son, Solomon, showing His power to redeem situations that have brought us shame (2 Samuel 11—12).
After sharing a Passover meal, Peter, one of Jesus' disciples, denied that he knew Jesus three times—Jesus predicted that this would happen and Peter said it wouldn't (John 13:37–38; Luke 22:31–34). Imagine Peter's shame and regret when he denied Jesus, especially after vehemently saying that he wouldn't and that he would even die for Christ. After his third denial, he saw Jesus: "And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.' And he went out and wept bitterly" (Luke 22:61–62). After Jesus' resurrection, Jesus returned to Peter commissioning him to feed His sheep (John 21:15–19). Peter went on to be an apostle, teaching people about Christ, and following his love for the Lord unto death as a martyr.
In all three of these examples, we see people who have missed the mark, causing them to experience shame and regret. But what we also see is them returning to God and Him working His good plans and purposes out of the situations that caused shame. Jesus brought reconciliation through his death: "And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast …" (Colossians 1:21–23). We have been given the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
Spiritual growth through spending time with God in prayer and Bible reading enables us to more fully love and trust Him—believing that He has removed our sins "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12). We can be sure of our eternal salvation (John 10:27–30; Hebrews 7:24–25). In the meantime, we continue to trust that God will complete His good work in us (Philippians 1:6).
There is "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Shame and regret should not have a place in the life of those who have submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ. We are all sinners, but by trusting in Christ we are justified. Focusing on the new things God has called you to will enable you to better forget the shame and regrets of old. We can follow Paul's example: "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13–14).
Christ redeemed us as His own. "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Life is no longer about us, which means it is no longer about our triumphs or struggles, either. A life redeemed by Christ is how we find true freedom from shame and regret. We have a dark past of sin, but a bright future of freedom in our obedience to Christ (Titus 3:3–7; Romans 6:4).
How can a Christian overcome the guilt of past sins?
Is forgiveness available for any and all of my sin? I have committed ____ sin. Will God forgive me?
What does the Bible teach about confidence?
What does the Bible teach about sadness?
In what way is peace a fruit of the Holy Spirit?