"How could I have DONE that? What in the world was I thinking?"
We've all had times when we acted poorly. Maybe you've responded too harshly to a child and punished him or her unfairly. Maybe you've criticized a parent and gossiped about a situation before you knew the whole story. Or maybe you've undermined a colleague or administrator, and are experiencing regret about not choosing your words more carefully.
It's a bad feeling to know that you've caused problems and pain for someone else due to your own selfishness or impulsivity. And that's especially true when there's no taking it back: what's done is done, and the consequences now are out of your hands.
I think we've all been in that terrible predicament, and this morning I read in Daniel chapter 6 about how King Darius experienced it, as well. It's the well-known tale of how Daniel was ordered to be thrown into the lion's den because he continued praying to the Lord and not the king. But in hearing that story over and over from childhood, somehow I missed a really important part: the king did not intend for Daniel to be harmed, and his response to the harm he inflicted is a actually an amazing model for us.
The king's advisers--those he had chosen to give him counsel and help him rule--were wicked, and their jealousy over Daniel caused them to look for fault in him. Finding none, they attempted to nail him for his religious beliefs. They convinced the king to sign the decree that would send praying people to the lion's den.
When the king realized that he had surrounded himself with corrupted counsel who had trapped him into sentencing his trusted friend Daniel, the scripture tells us in verse 14 that the king was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. He tried to change the law, but it was out of his hands. So the king gave the order [to kill Daniel], and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions' den. The king said to Daniel, "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!"
King Darius knew he had really screwed up, and there was nothing further he could do to rectify the situation. So, he accepted the mess for what it was, and trusted God to mitigate the damages.
Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep. At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions' den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?"
Daniel answered, "O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king." The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
Because of God's intervention, the king was able to issue an order against those who sought to kill Daniel, and they themselves received death. God did His part, then King Darius did his. The king wrote a new decree to prevent the situation from ever re-occuring, declaring that:
"...in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions."
Sometimes we won't be able to make things right when we've done wrong. And that's the time to go before God in prayer, not in shame and condemnation because our sin has already been confessed and forgiven. No, once we've admitted our wrongdoing and done what's in our power to rectify the problem, it's time to give the situation over to God. Speak boldly about God's power to make all things work together for good for those who love Him, and trust Him to save the innocent. Afterward will come a time of rejoicing, and a time of prevention.
If you are feeling condemned about how you've hurt another person, take comfort in the fact that you haven't sentenced them to death in a lion's den! And if God could protect Daniel from THAT, surely He can protect the one you hurt, as well. Allow Him to work, and then give Him the glory afterward.