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.