2 Corinthians 7:10 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

     What’s the difference?  Sorrow is sorrow! Scripture tells us otherwise.  One kind of sorrow leads to change and another kind leads to death.  We experience both. Sometimes our past actions will pierce our hearts with the realization of our own wrong doing we may be overcome with grief in one of two ways; we may be sorrowful because of how our actions have hurt others or we may be sorrowful because of how the consequences of our actions are hurting ourselves.  One sorrow is selfless, the other is selfish.

     I’ve worked with men who have experienced a lot of worldly sorrow.  They have wasted years drinking and drugging, going to jail and living lives of petty crime to support their addictions.  They regret the wasted years, the lost opportunities and the emptiness of their lives after they have discarded their relationships of family and friends and then being without the comforts of their addiction as they start recovery.  Their sorrow starts out as pure selfishness.  It’s all about them.

     Cain exhibited this kind of selfish sorrow when he was downcast over what he perceived as God’s inordinate favour towards Abel quite forgetting that his own casual attitude towards God was the real problem; “Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door;it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6,7)  Cain couldn’t get over his self-centeredness and his attitude brought him to murder his brother.

    For some men, as they move through recovery, their sorrow doesn’t stay selfish.  As recovery proceeds and the fog of a drug beguiled mind lifts an even more painful realization sets in.  A person begins to realize the hurt they have brought into other lives – the lives of those who love or loved them.   They start looking back and begin to appreciate the wreckage they have caused.  The pain of broken relationships, disappointment and betrayal of parents, spouses and children cut through their tough selfish hides and create the first stirrings of feeling for others.  They begin to have Godly sorrow.

     Paul lays out the signs of selfless sorrow; “. . . 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.” (2 Corinthians 7:11)  This kind of sorrow produces repentance and a desire to change.   One telling mark of this kind of sorrow in a man is that his thoughts are not all about himself.  Rather Godly sorrow brings a deep seated concern for others and a desire to do the right thing by them.

     It is in this upheaval of the soil of a man’s heart that the seeds of the Gospel can grow and bear much fruit.  “He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:6)  Those that sow God’s Word with encouragement and love into such hearts take part in His work.  Those that sow curses and condemnation into hearts made vulnerable by Godly sorrow will reap the bitter mercies of their own tongues; “For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:2)

     Worldly sorrow doesn’t produce real change or growth in accordance with God’s will.  Yet, every man who experiences Godly sorrow will hear with gladness the message of the Gospel; “Therefore, if anyone in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

     Praise the Lord!