Godly Sorrow

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2nd Corinthians 7:10)

What do you feel when you have sinned?

Sometimes I am afraid that I will be found out and that someone will criticize me, or reject me, or worse – insist that I do something about my evil tendencies.

Sometimes I am found out, and I am embarassed. I don’t like having others discover that I am no better than they are, or worse – that I have done something they would never do.

Sometimes I feel shame that I have failed. I am disappointed in myself. I had thought I was more in control, more mature, more healed. But no, nothing has changed. I have done the same old thing. I wonder if I will ever be able to stop.

Sometimes I just feel guilt. I have done the deed and I cannot hit an undo button and forget all about it. Sometimes the guilt hangs like a dark cloud over me, with no particular object apparent other than torment. Is this the vengeance of God upon me?

None of this junk is from God, of course. Jesus took all of my sin – past, present, and future – into himself and died with it. It’s all lost in the grave somehow. Buried in the depths of the sea, as the Bible promises. God has forgotten it – so why do I remember it constantly? Maybe I don’t really believe the good news.

There is one post-sin feeling that is good for us. This Godly sorrow Paul writes about – what is that? Some say it is the sorrow that comes from God, the sorrow that God produces in us by the conviction of the Holy Spirit when we have violated his law. All that may be true, but I believe this sorrow is that which God himself feels because of sin.

God is not afraid, embarrassed, ashamed or guilty when a man sins. His grief is quite different. In his compassion, he grieves the pain and suffering that our sin inflicts upon us, and upon those around us. He grieves the loss of joy and peace that we know. He knows what a wonderful world this could be (and will be one day) if sin did not pit man against man to the death.

This same sorrow can be ours, when we trust him. We do not need to fear his punishment, or wallow in shame. We don’t need to hide from other people – in fact there is great freedom and relief when we are transparent about our weakness and failure – we find we are not alone!

But now, as we draw near to God in our brokenness, we can experience his own sorrow over sin. Then it doesn’t really matter whether we did the deed or it was someone else, for we are grieving the loss to those hurt, not the loss to our own egos. Now we are not trying to hide, or protect our image, or justify ourselves – rather our desire is restoration and healing for the wounds inflicted. This is the longing of God. A longing he fully intends to satisfy finally. This Godly sorrow keeps us in tune with the heart of God, and builds in us the craving for his will in our own lives, and in this world.

2 thoughts on “Godly Sorrow”

  1. Recently I was reading a book on Christian growth and it talked about the difference between Godly sorrow and guilt. I had not thought about the difference but it is large. Guilt has not done a lot to stop me from sinning since it is focused on me and wanting to get rid of my bad feelings. I had thought of it this clearly in the past but Godly sorrow is concerned about how my sin affects others. Thinking about how my sin affects someone else is a much better way for me to consider it since I really do not want to hurt someone else. I can rationalize my own behavior but it is much harder to rationalize something when I know it will hurt someone else.
    And I really understand the fear someone will find out and reject me, the shame and the guilt; the disappointment that I thought I was more mature.
    But God has taken all of my sin, including the future. I am just starting to realize that.

  2. I usually divide sorrow into two categories. One is sorrow for having committed the act. Sorrow that I have done that which is offensive to God. The second is sorrow for consequences. I have always felt that this second class of sorrow was lesser. It is only being sorry that I was caught or that there is a price to pay, which implies that if I did not get caught or were to avoid the cost of sin it would be fine by me.
    What I see in your post is the possibility of a third kind of sorrow. One that originates, not with me, but with Him. And it is neither sorrow for the act or the consequences but sorrow for the loss of relationship and the cost of forgiveness and the time until restoration.

    Perhaps that is what Godly sorrow really is / His sorrow resonating in us.

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