“Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance. For you were grieved as God willed, so that you didn’t experience any loss from us. For godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 (HCSB)
We all want to be happy, to enjoy life, and to avoid sadness. We are a nation of people that are popping more pills than quite possibly any other to try and alleviate our depression. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it may help us, but if we are taking them to avoid the sadness that is caused by a warranted remorse and regret of our current behavior, then it won’t help. In other words, there are some kinds of grief that are naturally supposed to lead us to repentance.
As a pastor, sometimes I get to counsel people who are experiencing a great sadness for something they have done but have yet to repent of. I tell them truthfully, “What you are experiencing is normal. We should feel remorse over sin. This remorse should lead us to calling out to God, telling him we are sorry, and asking for his forgiveness and help to lead a holy life.” Sometimes they are surprised when I tell them it is ok to be sad in certain situations. Just as it is ok to be sad at a funeral, so it is also ok to be sad when you have failed to do what you know is right.
Paul here in his letter to the Corinthians, says that there are two kinds of sorrow: One which leads to salvation, and one which leads to death. The worldly grief is a sorrow that doesn’t lead to salvation because it doesn’t lead to repentance. Pastoral counseling is absolutely no good if I tell people that God loves you so much, and doesn’t care what you’ve done. That’s a half-truth with a lie thrown in. God does love you, and he does love you so much he sent his Son to die for you on the cross.
Why did he die? Because he didn’t care about your sin? No! God forbid. What cost Jesus his life wasn’t something trivial. Sin is still a big deal to God. The good news is not that you shouldn’t experience remorse; no you absolutely should. The good news is that the sorrow you are experiencing right now for the sin you have done should lead us to the cross where we repent, and the Lord Jesus forgives us — so that our mourning is turned into dancing. Godly sorrow leads to salvation. Those who sow in tears will reap a harvest of joy.
What type of grief are you experiencing today? Is there an obvious reason you’ve been sad? Is there something you’ve done that you haven’t taken to Jesus yet, repented, and asked specifically to forgive you of? There is joy in a clean conscience. Perhaps you’ve been running from God. It’s natural, you know. Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden when they had sinned, and mankind has been running and hiding from God ever since.
In that hiding there is a worldly sorrow that many people experience. But for everyone who allows that sorrow to work in them so that they come out into the open, come back to the Father, and admit their need of Christ — then that sorrow produces a salvation that no one can take away. This is the kind of grief we all should desire. The humility of brokenness over one’s own sins is precious in the sight of God.
There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than for the 99 who need no repentance. Let us not fear repentance or the sorrow that comes with it. If we do what is right, if we turn our eyes upon Jesus, we will be saved, and everything old will be made new. Blessings to each of you as you walk with the Lord Jesus in these last days.
Brian Taylor began his ministry as a young man on the foreign mission field of Togo, West Africa serving with the International Mission Board of the SBC. He spent almost a decade serving as a music and youth minister in the Panhandle of Texas. For the last five and half years he has served as pastor of Forest Avenue Baptist Church in Sherman, and loves preaching and pastoring on the southside of Sherman. He has been married to his wife Sarah for 17 years, and they have five children. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.