2 Corinthians 7:10: “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
It seems as if only a masochist would call sorrow a friend. In truth, I don’t believe that any one, including myself wants to jump into the front of the line to experience sorrow. We recently had prayer in our church for people that were experiencing sorrow over things occurring in their lives. Many more than I expected responded to the call for ministry. Generally, sorrow is a negative term to us. We associate it with pain and truly, it is usually brought on by some form of pain.
But, the Bible teaches us that, at a general level, there are two kinds of sorrow. I’d like to look at the difference between the two.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul spoke of these two types of sorrow. I believe that the two types of sorrow mentioned can have much in common. For instance, they both begin with pain. They often have the same source pain as their point of origination. In other words, worldly sorrow and godly sorrow could begin with pain from the same source; i.e.; death of a loved one, failed expectations, etc. It is not the source that makes one sorrow worldly and one godly, it is where the sorrow leads that defines them.
When we experience pain, sorrow is not our enemy but the messages we accept and responses we take determine where it leads. Worldly sorrow comes when we sorrow with no hope – when the pain or loss we have experienced sends a message to us that things have changed for the worse and will never get better. When we receive and believe these messages, the hopelessness that accompanies them brings death to our emotions and, if not dealt with, can culminate in death spiritually and in some cases, physical death. I’ve seen people experience the death of a spouse or a child and literally give up hope. Some even die soon after their loved ones. I’ve seen some experience a loss and then kill themselves. I’ve seen others simply give up on having anything good happen in the area that they experienced the loss in. Some purposely choose bad alternatives because they have lost hope for anything good.
Godly sorrow may begin with similar origins as worldly sorrow, but the outcome is much different.
The reason being that godly sorrow is processed through the Bible and the Holy Spirit and through these agents, hope remains alive. The word of God tells us in Romans 8:24-28:
“For we are saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
Look at this!
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
In the midst of sorrow, the Holy Spirit is working to strengthen us and to turn what has happened around to bring us something good. This revelation brings us hope in the midst of sorrow. Even when we are the source of our pain and sorrow because of personal failures, we have a dear friend called “repentance” who opens the door for us to deliverance.
That’s the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow:
Godly sorrow opens doors. Worldly sorrow closes them.
You may be experiencing some sorrow right now. What form will it take? Where will it lead you? Allow the Holy Spirit to rule you in the midst of sorrow and you will find a door open at the end of the hallway – one that you did not even know was there!