Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Godly Sorrow

"For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."

The difference between a godly sorrow and a worldly sorrow is important. I have heard it described as the difference between being sorry you did something wrong and being sorry about getting caught or receiving consequences, but in my experience there is more to the story than that.

When I do something wrong, or, more often, when I omit doing something that I should do, or I live in a way that is less than full and complete, when I fail to try my best, I often feel genuinely sorrowful or regretful or guilty about it, but in a completely unhelpful way. When I feel down on myself or useless or discouraged in a way that only leads me to go further down the same path, it's not a godly sorrow. If I feel bad about being unproductive and it makes me procrastinate even more, it really is the action (or lack of action) that I feel bad about, not the consequences, but instead of motivating me those feelings are de-motivating me, making me retreat further and further from the real world and the things that I should be doing and facing and thinking about and deciding and pursuing.

So when I think about the difference between a godly sorrow and a worldly sorrow I think of what direction it propels someone in--towards salvation without regret, or towards death?

A godly sorrow about a situation, an action, an inaction, an attitude, or a habit leads to genuine attempts to remedy what is wrong, genuine turning away from the wrong or harmful things, and to genuine prayer for divine assistance towards looking at one's life in the right way.

If I have a prayer right now, it is that God give me a godly sorrow about my fears and inactions, so that I may be empowered to fight them instead of allowing them to increase their hold on me.

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