Godly Grief

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV).

As children exploring the boundaries of permissible behaviors we all likely did things that landed us in trouble with our parents or other authority figures (or both!). In fact, we may have done those things completely without remorse… until we were caught.

Tears may have flowed freely as we faced disciplinary measures. We may have dramatically professed the sorrow that we felt for having stolen, lied, cheated, etc. But the truth of the matter is that we weren’t sorry for what we had done; we rather enjoyed it. We were, however, deeply remorseful that we were caught. Even if we never repeated the action, it was not the fact that it was wrong that kept us from doing it again; it was the fear of punishment that solidified our obedience.

Just as our crocodile tears were ineffective with our parents, God is equally unimpressed by them.

With some exceptions for children in abusive homes, our parents weren’t sitting around just hoping they could catch us doing something wrong so that they could punish us. Our parents loved us and tried to nurture correct behavior in us. Punishment was used as a deterrent to future misbehavior.

God, our Heavenly Father, is likewise not interested as much with behavior correction, but in heart correction. He wants to see us changed from the inside out.

A little boy was with his father and mother in church one Sunday. To his parents’ dismay, he stood up on the pew during the sermon. They gently sat him down again. This happened twice more. When he realized from his parents’ expressions that he had run out of grace, he plopped himself down in the pew, folded his arms across his chest, and mumbled angrily, “I may be sitting on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!”

I believe we often respond to God’s gentle conviction with annoyance that He noticed what we were hoping to get away with. Sometimes we may even get angry that brother or sister so-and-so doesn’t seem to be getting the same attention for the same actions.

We are totally missing the point.

When we have the attitudes we’ve been discussing, we are exhibiting worldly sorrow. Even serial killers have that kind of remorse about something. But God is looking for a higher reaction: godly sorrow.

Godly sorrow involves remorse for the action and not the consequence. Godly grief spurs a change not just in behavior, but also in heart. When we are genuinely sorrowful for what we have done, we turn away from the behavior–that’s what repentance is. We don’t want to go back to it again.

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV).

May we all find peace and comfort in the discipline of the Lord, knowing that He is nurturing us toward something, and not just away from something. And may we find in our hearts true godly sorrow for our sins, and the desire to turn toward Jesus.

Blessings on your day!

(A special thank you to Marjorie for the kind words and birthday greeting. I’m praying for you!)

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