The Heartbreak of Godly Sorrow

by Richard Mansel, assistant editor
godlysorrow.jpgThe differences between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow are deep. The latter will spur us to come to God for the forgiveness of our sins with eager, humble hearts. Our entire lives will change, in the process.
In the Old Testament, the nation of Judah was led back to God by King Joash and the priest, Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24). Jehoiada worked tirelessly to rebuild the house of God and ensure that the worship of Jehovah returned to the people of God.
When Jehoiada died, the people quickly returned to the worship of idols. God sent Zechariah, the son of Jehoida, to spur them to repent. Instead, they killed Zechariah and, in the process, provide a good example of one way that worldly sorrow differs from godly sorrow (2 Chronicles 24:20-21)
At the heart of worldly sorrow, we find selfishness and embarrassment. We become upset that we must suffer the consequences of our actions. We care more for the bother and the societal pressures than for what we have done.
We think we should be able to act as we please. Instead, guilt brings us discomfort. In time, we move on and begin to do as we wish again, without remorse.
When a practitioner of worldly sorrow is convicted of error, they seek to discredit the accusation or, if necessary, trash the accuser or messenger. They have no remorse for their actual error, just the societal consequences or guilt that comes with it. Therefore, they must destroy the messenger.
Godly sorrow is completely opposed to worldly sorrow. It means that we understand the nature and destructiveness of sin. We realize that sin is the transgression of God’s laws (1 John 3:4; 1 John 5:17). Sin is deadly because it dooms our souls, if we are caught in its web (Romans 3:9-23). Sin sent Christ to the cross (Romans 6:23; Romans 5:8). God hates sin and does not want it anywhere in the lives of his children, because he understands what it will do to us.
When we grasp the power of godly sorrow, we will be empowered to greater heights of discipleship and holiness. Godly sorrow means that when we sin, we bring pain and heartbreak upon God. Therefore, our heart fills with sadness when we violate his will.
If a man hurts his wife with his words or actions, she may go into another room and cry. Will he sit and allow her to suffer and rationalize his behavior? Will he point out how many other men have hurt their wives? No, he will swiftly run and soothe her and apologize profusely. It tears him apart to see her suffer.
Will we develop the same attitude toward God? We see our wife’s tear-streaked face. Yet, we do not see the face of God. Accordingly, we feel less inclined to act with haste. However, the situation with God is even more dangerous than with our wife.
When we mature to the point that we cannot bear bringing pain upon God, we will truly “walk worthy of the calling with which we [were] called” (Ephesians 4:1, NKJV).
“For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; but that sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Godly sorrow produces a humble heart, an eagerness to be a good example and to walk in the glory of God (Ephesians 3:20-21). We will hunger for heaven.
When we sin, will we practice worldly sorrow or godly sorrow? Our eternal destiny is at stake.

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