Godly Sorrow vs. Worldly Sorrow!

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PJ’s Daily Devotional for Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Today’s Bible Reading is 2 Corinthians 7 (If the hyperlink is not available go to: https://www.esv.org/2+Corinthians+7/).

Have you ever regretted (grieved) something you have done or didn’t do?  Did anything good come from that feeling of sorrow over your decision to act or not act?

In 2015, I was emotionally sidelined for months by grief and sorrow because of a decision I made.  I had let disappointment (the emotional reality we often experience because we live in a broken world) become despair (a choice when give ourselves over to our disappointment in an unhealthy way even though we have been delivered from it in Christ Jesus).  O Lord Jesus, I pray that you have mercy on us and deliver my brothers and sisters from despair.  Work in these precious people through your Holy Spirit, the One who walks with us, guides us, and counsels us into all truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I have experienced what happens when you move out of godly grief and into worldly grief!  Have you?

Listen to Paul in a key passage for understanding emotional health in God’s Kingdom, “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” (2 Corinthians 7:8-10).

Paul wrote a previous letter to the Corinthians (also referenced in 2 Corinthians 2:1-9) that caused them pain (Geek note: the Greek word for grief is lype; it is the same one used to describe the intense sorrow caused by someone’s death, defined as “a state of unhappiness marked by regret as a result of what has been done.”)

This word that can be accurately translated as either grief or sorrow, is distinguished by the adverbs godly and worldly.  There is literally a world between them and our emotional experience reflects; trust me on this as I personally know the difference!

Let me show you the escalation: It is my conjecture that humans (yes, all of us thanks to Genesis 3) live in a broken cursed world with a thread of disappointment.  Disappointment is an unfortunate reality of relationships and circumstances, but it does not need to dictate our emotional responses or worldview if we understand that it is just part of living on this side of heaven.

But, disappointment can become the cord of depression when it tightens around our chest, our gut, our mind, impairing our joy, our decision making, our way of being and living.  Now, I believe that this happens from time to time for most people (including Christians), but it doesn’t have to be a clinical issue that requires medication or habitual one that requires counseling.  If it does become either of these though (clinical or habitual), I recommend seeing your primary care doctor for medical help as well as pulling closer to Jesus and His Church for community support and Christian counseling.

But there is one more step in this process that is overlooked and often undiagnosed separate from depression in the world of psychology and counseling.  The Bible calls it the worldly grief that produces death (2 Corinthians 7:10); this is when the thread (disappointment) which has become a cord (depression) is now the deadly noose of despair that chokes the life out of a person emotionally, spiritually, physically, and relationally.  I know because in 2015 I gave myself over to this experience for months and experienced the dark night of the soul.  It is a prison!

Praise God that Jesus came to set the captives free!  Jesus breaks the chains of our captivity!  Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to lift us out of the miry pit and set our feet on the solid rock of our salvation! Jesus is the light that pierces the darkness! Jesus is the mighty fortress of our sanity and serenity!

This is not just theology or inspirational writing; this is tested and tried truth; this is my faith-reality; this is hope for you & me!

Here are 3 quick tips to turn to godly sorrow and away from worldly sorrow:

  1. Recognize that worldly sorrow (despair) is NOT your birth right; our birth right is hope! Despair is a giving yourself over to a worldview of despair—a future without hope.  In Christ, we do not grieve as the world grieves; we grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13)!  Hope gives life meaning, even in the midst of suffering!
  2. Repentance is the gift of God’s grace that gives life! Godly grief is real; the sorrow of your actions is real!  Don’t deny grief or sorrow; they are real and for a reason.  But neither give yourself over to your grief or sorrow.  What then?  Respond to your grief and sorrow by repenting—by saying sorry, getting right, and turning away from whatever you had done that had caused the grief in the first place.  Repentance is a life-giving word that leads to not only life in abundance on earth, but also eternal life in Heaven!  You will not regret repentance!
  3. Restore right relationships—keep short accounts with God and people! In other words, stay in healthy relationships.  Invest in faith, hope, and love; these are 3 greatest values on earth; live them!  Say sorry when you can; forgive yourself, forgive others, and accept forgiveness from others.  Be a person who upholds the importance of right relationships—be a hope-bearer to people; not a doomsayer!

How do you respond to disappointment in your everyday life?  It makes a difference—choose life by not giving yourself over to death.  As Paul says, you will not regret this decision!

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