Can sorrow be a blessing?
In todays culture we are taught to avoid sadness or sorrow, and people have come up with many coping mechanisms to avoid their sorrow such as, the use of substances, therapy, or even just listening to music. But in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he speaks of sorrow as if it is a blessing and rejoices in the sorrow the Corinthians felt upon reading his letter.
Paul writes “yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).
So how can Paul be rejoicing in the sorrow of his fellow brothers and sisters? It is because he isn’t talking about worldly sorrow he’s talking about godly sorrow. This is the kind of sorrow we as Christain’s need to have in order to “bring repentance that leads to salvation”. So what’s the difference between worldly and godly sorrow anyways?
Wordly sorrow is everything that godly sorrow is not. It is self serving, worldly sorrow is concerned with things of the world and not God. Maybe you’re sorrowful because your best friend found out about your sin and now you’re sad and embarrassed. Or maybe you’re sorrowful because you are afraid people will find out about your sin. Worldly sorrow is about how others view you and your sin and not how God views you or your sin.
Godly sorrow is concerned only with what God thinks of your sin, because of course God knows about your sin no matter how well you hide it from others. Paul lists six things that are attributed to godly sorrow: indignation, alarm, longing, concern, and readiness to see justice done. These attributes are key elements of godly sorrow and without godly sorrow, we as Christians cannot reach genuine repentance.
A biblical example of godly sorrow is in Matthew chapter 26 when Peter denies Jesus. “Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:74-75). Peter’s godly sorrow of his actions lead him to take measures to repent and therefore become a changed man.
In Psalms 30 David writes, “You have turned my mourning into dancing” (Psalms 30:11) and God will do the same for us. He will exchange your sorrow for His peace and joy when we repent. There will be no regret when we have godly sorrow for our sins, we will only have gladness and praise for our savior.
To repent means to turn away from, and it’s more than just being sorrowful. Genuine repentance and regret do not go hand in hand when it comes to godly sorrow.”Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). When we have godly sorrow we mourn over our sin as God does and we have no regret in turning away from that sin all together. God’s promises are greater than sin and the peace and joy He can provide us with is better than what any sin can bring us.
No one is perfect and godly sorrow can be hard to find in such a sinful world. Ask yourself, do I have godly or worldly sorrow for my sin? It’s hard to come to means with this question, I have struggled with it myself but, ask God to search your heart for hidden sin and to open your eyes to your sorrow and where it comes from. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7).
So while not all sorrow can be a blessing, godly sorrow brings change and worldly sorrow brings death. “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30).
If you are feeling convicted about your sin and have godly sorrow, rejoice! For God has intended this sorrow to save you. Be mindful of how you can live for eternity and never forget that you have God’s Holy Spirit inside you and He goes with you through every sin and sorrow.
I hope this post encourages you to talk to God about your sorrow as it did for me and I pray that the Holy Spirit within you helps you see your sin and sorrow for we have all fallen short of the glory of God.