We’ve all heard the verse about “godly sorrow” versus the “sorrow of the world,” but what does this verse mean, and is there really a difference in the ways the people of God grieve, as opposed to the way others do?
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (II Corinthians 7:10)
Godly sorrow is identified as producing repentence which leads to our salvation; it is contrasted with worldly sorrow, which leads to death. The New Living Translation says:
“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NLT)
And The Message paraphrase presents it like this:
“Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.” (2 Corinthians 7:10 MSG)
Sin brings pain, guilt, shame and regret. It is a falling short of God’s perfect intent for us, therefore it hurts us and those we’ve violated. Our natural predisposition is to either ignore our sin, which hardens us and keeps us from confessing our part–remember that God warns, “If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts” (1 John 1:10 NLT)–or to grieve inconsolably, which can lead to many destructive behaviors–neither of which is correct.
When we sin–which we invariably will–the correct response is acknowledging we have done so, and laying it at Jesus’ feet, because, “…if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9 NLT), and to go on from there doing our best not to repeat that sin because God promises: “…if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7 NLT)
So, have you sinned? Is there unresolved guilt in your past which you’re either doing your best to avoid or which is eating you up? Don’t grieve the way those who’ve never reconciled with God grieve. Admit it to Jesus, ask for His forgiveness, and turn away from it. This is repentence, and it leads to your salvation:
“So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship [stay right] with the Son and with the Father. And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.” (1 John 2:24-25 NLT)
I confess my sin to You; thank You that You are faithful and just to forgive me and to cleanse me from all wickedness. Thank You for the eternal life I have in and through You! Amen.