Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.2 Corinthians 7:10
Whenever somebody accuses you of being wrong or tells you the truth about yourself, it hurts. It can produce one of two reactions, what Paul calls either
godly sorrow or
worldly sorrow. We all feel hurt, but the question, of course, is,
Is it godly sorrow, or is it worldly sorrow? Godly sorrow is the pain of suddenly becoming aware of something about yourself that has been hidden to you. An awareness of something wrong about yourself that you have not been able to see always creates a sense of anger, perhaps, of defensiveness, of injury, and often of tears. It is the moment of self-awareness, or what we call a
moment of truth. Have you ever had that happen to you? You were going about your life, thinking you were doing okay, when somebody came along and told you something about yourself. Even as that person said the words, there was a stab in your heart that said,
That's right, isn't it? You may be defensive, you may argue, or you may fight back, but deep inside you know that is true. It hurts, but if it is godly hurt, it leads to repentance. It makes you change. You alter your behavior.
I well remember how when I was a young Christian I had a great struggle in my life with an oversensitivity to people. I had such a poor self-image that I was dependent upon the way people thought about me for my feelings about myself. Consequently, if they did not always say nice things and treat me well, I was very hurt and upset. You could cause me to go into a morass of self-pity for days merely by making an offhand remark about me that cut me down. I had my moment of truth one day when I was talking with a Christian about another matter, but in the conversation she said something that struck like an arrow into my heart. She said,
I've learned that sensitivity is nothing but selfishness. I did not want to admit it, but I knew it was true. I knew that what I really wanted was to be the center of attention and have everybody ministering to me and taking care of me.
The next time somebody hurt me, however, I decided to act on the basis of what I had learned and say,
That's not his fault. He didn't intend to say something offensive. It is I who am feeling it. I'm taking it wrong. I did this, and after several such experiences, I suddenly began to feel a marvelous sense of freedom. The tiger was off my back, and I was free to enjoy things much more than I ever had before. I will never forget the sense of liberation that came when I acknowledged even the painful truth that somebody had unwittingly spoken to me. That is what Paul is talking about. Godly sorrow acknowledges the truth and changes its behavior, and that in turn leads to a sense of freedom and deliverance.
Lord, thank You for the opportunities You give me to repent. Help me to respond not just by feeling bad but also by acting on the basis of the truth I have learned.
Godly repentance cleanses and liberates us. Do we keep the door of repentance open to God's saving grace in us and through us?