As we read 2 Corinthians 7:10-13, we discover two types of sorrow: godly sorrow and worldly sorrow.
The apostle Paul describes the two sorrows by saying: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death,” (2 Corinthians 7:10-13).
From this description, these two “sorrows” are obviously different and lead to two different paths.
In this blog post, we’re going to be exploring the difference between these two sorrows and how you can be sure to practice godly sorrow as a Christian.
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Worldly sorrow doesn’t lead to repentance. It’s a sorrow that leads to self-pity and ultimately, spiritual death.
Worldly sorrow is self-centered and selfish. The sorrow isn’t about God, but about yourself. It’s about the pain you’ve caused yourself with your sin.
A biblical example of worldly sorrow is shown by Judas.
Judas was one of Jesus’s twelve disciples. He betrayed Jesus with a kiss to indicate to the soldiers who he was. They seized Jesus and arrested him.
Judas felt remorseful over it but this remorse didn’t lead to repentance. He was concerned about himself, not Jesus. He felt shame for what he had done. He might have thought it ruined his self-reputation.
Whatever the reason, Judas ends up hanging himself instead of confessing and turning away from his sin. This kind of sorrow doesn’t change or transform the person.
King Saul’s Example
Another biblical example of worldly sorrow is shown by King Saul.
The Lord had instructed King Saul to kill everything in the land occupied by the Amalekites. Saul disobeyed his orders.
In the narrative, it reads, “Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs- everything that was good,” (1 Samuel 15:9 ESV).
He wanted to benefit from the destruction; he was being selfish. The prophet Samuel confronts King Saul about what he has done. Saul admits that he has sinned but doesn’t repent of his sin.
He pleads with Samuel, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel,” (1 Samuel 15:30).
He recognizes his sin but doesn’t seem to truly care about it. If he did, he’d repent. Saul only cared about his reputation.
There is a sorrow that leads to repentance. This sorrow is known as godly sorrow.
Godly sorrow cares about the offense that’s been committed and the impact of it. It brings remorse that leads to repentance, which is a turning away of sin.
A good example of godly sorrow showcased in the gospels is seen through Peter’s denial.
Jesus predicts that Peter will deny Him three times before the rooster crows that night. Although he protests that this could never happen, it does. Peter denies Jesus and remembers his prediction.
When he remembers, “he broke down and wept,” (Mark 14:72 ESV).
Peter repents and tells Jesus he loves him three times when asked (John 21:15-25).
This sorrow brought Peter to repentance and didn’t keep him down. He went on to do great things for the Lord and play an integral part in the early church following.
Another biblical example of godly sorrow is shown by David. David is described as “a man after God’s own heart,” (Acts 13:22 ESV).
Still, David isn’t perfect. In 2 Samuel, we read about a story between David and Bethsheba.
David sleeps with Bethsheba, another man’s wife, and then plans the murder of her husband in an attempt to cover it up. The plan for his murder is successful. He then took Bethsheba as his wife and gave birth to his son.
The Lord sends a prophet Nathan to talk to David. Nathan explains how David has sinned against the Lord. In the end, David admits, “I have sinned against the Lord,” (2 Samuel 12:13 ESV). The Lord gives him grace and allows David to live. However, David has to deal with the consequences.
“Because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die,” (2 Samuel 12:14 ESV).
David showed godly sorrow for what he had done, realized his offense, and repented.
How to Develop Godly Sorrow
Although we’re saved as Christians, it doesn’t make us immune to sin. We still sin as humans – we’re not perfect.
Being aware of the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow helps us become aware of our own response to sin.
#1 Take a moment to examine yourself.
Self-awareness is important. The only way to fix something is to be aware of the problem.
Take a moment to examine yourself. How do you feel when you’ve sinned against God?
Be honest with yourself.
Are you sorry because you got caught? Because of the pain it caused you?
Or are you sorry because it’s an offense to God? Because it dishonors Him?
#2 Pray for God to give you godly sorrow.
We can’t change ourselves. Only God can change us.
If you’ve been indulging in worldly sorrow, pray for God to change you and give you a heart that practices godly sorrow. He’s faithful to answer prayers.
#3 Practice daily repentance.
Start practicing daily repentance. If you have a prayer journal (or even just a piece of paper), write down sins you’d like to repent from. Pray over these sins and ask God to give you the strength to turn away from them.
Ask Him to change you. If you stay consistent, you’ll start to see God change you!
I pray and hope we would be a people who practice godly sorrow. If you’re concerned about your response to sin, let me know in the comments below or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if it’s a personal matter. I’m happy to talk with you!
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