“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV)
This verse is really interesting because it forces us to think about grieving over sin in two different ways. There’s a godly way to do it and there’s a worldly way to do it. There’s a godly way to grieve and a worldly way to grieve. So, what’s the difference and why does it matter?
Well, godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation. I want you to get the picture of godly grief here. It’s acknowledging our sin, it’s feeling sorrow over our sin, and it’s grieving over our sin. It’s a recognition that our sin has offended our Heavenly Father and we need to repent of what we’ve done.
Think of Psalm 51 here, when David has committed adultery with Bathsheba and he is grieving over his sin. He’s crying out for God’s mercy because he knows he has sinned–not just against this woman and her husband, but against God.
“Against you, you only, have I sinned,” he says in Psalm 51:4.
So, he acknowledges his sin, he grieves over his sin, and it produces a repentance that leads to salvation. He turns from his sin because he knows he needs salvation. He knows what he’s done isn’t right and so his grieving leads to action. His grieving leads to a running from sin to the mercy of God in salvation. That’s godly grief. It’s actionable repentance. We turn away from our sin and back to God.
But 2 Corinthians 7:10 doesn’t only describe godly grief. Paul gives us a stark warning against worldly grief too. Worldly grief is different. Worldly grief may acknowledge sin, and may even feel sorrow over sin, but it’s not sorrow over hurting someone else and ultimately it’s not sorrow over disobeying God. Maybe it’s sorrow over getting caught. Maybe it’s sorrow over the effects of sin in one’s life—the pain that sin causes. Maybe it’s a simple sorrow over the circumstances in life that are now our sad reality because of our sin.
But this worldly grief never considers Who we’ve ultimately sinned against. In other words, this sorrowful realization that one has offended the holy God of the universe, disobeyed Him, and many times hurt others in the process isn’t a part of worldly grief.
It doesn’t lead us to run to the mercy of God or plead for His forgiveness. It doesn’t cause us to cry out for the power to turn and not sin again. It never leads us to strive and live with righteousness and holiness for the glory of God.
Worldly grief misses all of that. And in that way, worldly grief doesn’t produce repentance that leads to salvation and life. Instead, worldly grief produces death.
When it comes to sin in our lives–both the sin that we are guilty of right now and the sin that we may commit today, tomorrow or this week– let’s pray that God would give us godly grief over that sin. Let’s pray that we would experience deep conviction and turn from our sin back to God.
Pray with me: “God, I pray for this in my life. I pray that you would cause me, by your grace, by the conviction of your Spirit, to grieve over sin in my life. Like, really to grieve over it, not to treat it lightly. To hate it, to want to turn from it. With everything in me, to want to turn from it. Not to want to turn back to it, but to turn from it. To run to your mercy. To receive your salvation. I want my life to honor you. I want to pursue holiness and Christlikeness and I know I have to turn from my sin to do that so today, with your help and strength, I repent of my sin and turn back to your loving and forgiving arms. Amen.”