Godly Grief

When is the last time you were grieved by something?

The world we live in is broken. We’re reminded of it all the time by tragedies that rupture the ideal we crave. People we love die. There is sickness. There is poverty. People the world over commit atrocities against their fellow human beings. There are natural disasters. There are smaller schisms that are no less painful – the betrayal of a friend, a lost opportunity, a disappointment. Grief sometimes feels like an unwelcome visitor, sometimes like a constant companion. It’s something we all deal with at various times in our lives.

When is the last time you were grieved by your sin?

When we’re confronted by our sin, there are several ways we can respond. One of the more dangerous ways is to brush it off, to downplay it, or to hide it. It is tempting to avoid facing the reality of our sin and to leave it in the dark. We’re experts at justifying our actions and attitudes, explaining away any wrongdoing. We can be far too forgiving of ourselves. This attitude reveals we don’t really understand the holiness of God and the affront our sin is to that holiness.

A way I’m often tempted to respond is to be crushed by my grief. The reality of my depravity sweeps over me and like Isaiah, “I am undone.” (Isaiah 6:5, KJV) The problem with this reaction is when it doesn’t lead anywhere except to despair. I am trapped in regret and shame. When I respond in this way, I reveal I don’t truly trust the Lord to forgive me of my sin. I don’t trust him to redeem and restore. When he says he is making all things new, I don’t believe that includes me. It is a paradoxical kind of pride; in my insecurity, I believe that my sin alone is more than God can handle. I am paralyzed by the enormity of it. I am left in the darkness, too afraid to take a step into the light.

It is right to be grieved by our sin. The defining moment is what should follow our sorrow – repentance.

In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul is writing again to the Corinthian church and references the previous letter he sent to them. They were chastised in the previous letter – it was probably uncomfortable for them to read. He even says he regretted sending it for a time, because he knew they were hurt by it. But in verse 9, he says, “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.”

What is godly grief?

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

When we are saved, we are set free from our yoke of slavery – our slavery to sin. At one time, we were mastered by our sin; it controlled us and we loved it. Our affections were tied to our sin. In Christ, we are new creations. We are set free from that slavery. Our affections turn from the sin and shame we gloried in to our glorious God. He leads us out of darkness and into his marvelous light, and we are able to enjoy and love the light. Repentance means turning our affections from the sin that brings death to the God of life. It means turning away from the darkness and walking in the light. Spurgeon said, “Repentance is a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved.” To repent is to forsake your sin – to abandon it, to leave it behind. There are far better things ahead.

The Lord is faithful to us even in our grief. He uses it to draw us nearer to him. He allows us to feel the weight of it at times, that we might be moved by it.

When the sorrow we feel leads us to look no further than ourselves, we are left in the darkness. We can’t overcome it on our own, and so we are left broken on a path that leads only to death. But we don’t have to stay there! There is hope in spite of the sorrow. Jesus has overcome sin and death, and he invites us to share in his victory. His grace is sufficient to cover us, and he calls us to repentance. He calls us to have life to the full. He came to set us free from our slavery to sin.

In the midst of your grief, rejoice in the Lord’s faithfulness to you, that he allows you to feel sorrow that leads to repentance and to salvation. He redeems and restores. He is making you new.

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