“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
2 Corinthians 7:10
We don’t often talk about “Godly sorrow.” In fact, it’s something that, if you never came across this scripture, you may never have even heard of. We hear a lot of talk about joy, peace, comfort, and other good things associated with God, but not often sorrow.
So what is this Godly sorrow, and what the difference between it and worldly sorrow. The key is in the context that the rest of the verse provides. Paul says Godly sorrow brings repentance. That helps us to understand better what the cause of Godly sorrow is – sin. Godly sorrow is the result of sin, the result of understanding that what you’ve done is a trespass against God, whom you love. It’s the same way that you might feel terrible after yelling at your parents or your children or maybe even a delinquent pet. It’s the feeling that you get when you know you’ve done something wrong to someone you love. You might say that’s just guilt. I think in a way, that’s true, but it’s more than that.
As Christians, we are assured that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. So even if the feeling we have is “guilt” in the sense that we know we’ve done wrong, it is not true guilt in that a judgment has been cast against us. Godly sorrow is to know that you’ve sinned against a God that loves and forgives you, that you’ve taken advantage of the mercy and grace he’s freely given, and that you don’t want to do it any more. That’s why Paul says it leads to repentance – it’s a feeling of deep regret and sorrow that makes you realize you want to change, to turn away from that sin.
How is that different from worldly sorrow? Well, to be short, the difference is the object of the sorrow. If we’re sorrowful over things we wish we had but can’t afford or a job we lost or a relationship that broke down, those are all worldly things. In the end, they have no eternal significance. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. If our sorrow is spent on those things, our end will be the same as theirs, death. If our sorrow is spent on Godly things, we will be turned toward repentance and eternal life.
Simply put, our sorrow reflects the things we value most. If that’s true, what are the things you’ve been sorrowful about, and what values does that sorrow reflect?
I pray that you would give us a Godly grief over the sin that we’ve allowed into our lives. I pray that this sorrow will lead us to repentance. Help us to value you and your will above all else, that we will not be tempted into worldly sorrow, but be turned toward repentance and life.
In Jesus’ Name,