2 Corinthians 7:10 – “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” NASB
The idea of sorrow is anathema to the world. Most people seek to avoid sorrow like it was the Black Plague. Many seek to drown sorrow with stimulants such as alcohol, drugs, busyness, work, music, revelry, therapists, and even medication. Sorrow is considered counterproductive to life and happiness therefore it is deemed a condition to be avoided at all costs.
Yet, Paul speaks of sorrow that is according to the will of God. He speaks of a type of sorrow that produces repentance without regret leading to salvation. Contrastingly he identifies a sorrow that should be avoided, worldly sorrow which leads to death. It may be the death of hope or dreams. It could result in physical death but assuredly produces spiritual death. The mantra of much of the world and many in the church is, “If it makes me sad, it must be bad!”
Can there be a benefit in sorrow? It is clear from the text we have chosen the answer is, Yes! Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthian church identifying issues and problems in the body and it initially caused them sorrow, yet he declared he did not regret it. Why? Why would make other people unhappy and sorrowful not produce a sense of guilt or regret in the one causing that pain? Simply, it brought them to repentance and that was the purpose of God. He could rejoice in their temporary sorrow because it led them to the light and freedom.
What is repentance? One of the most common definitions is a change of mind. That is a literal, etymological definition of the Greed word for repentance: meta (change) and neo (to think). But it is far more than an intellectual activity or simply a condition of the mind. It involves a change of the heart. The mind that is to be changed is the inner consciousness of the whole person. Frequently the Bible uses the heart and the mind interchangeably.
Repentance begins with a recognition of the sin and in that it involves the intellect. The truly repentant person is moved by their sin and broken hearted. It is more than having the mindset, “Oh, I broke the law of God again. Sorry, God. So glad you are gracious!” No, no, ten thousand times no! If one is truly repentant, they are broken hearted because they have missed the mark and failed God in that matter. They are broken hearted that they disappointed the Creator. They are sorrowful that they have not lived up to the purposes of God. That leads them to repentance and reception of God’s Grace and the rejoicing of being forgiven. They then set their goal and heart to not sin again.
Worldly sorrow, on the other hand, is not usually beneficial. Those who genuinely repent will have sorrow over their sin. Some equate sorrow and tears with repentance. Sadly, there are times when the tears and sorrow or from the shame or embarrassment of being exposed and the fear of punishment not because they failed God. Worldly sorrow is fundamentally self-centered. It is rooted in the pain that their sin causes to themselves rather than the offense and the dishonor it brings to God.
Some who have worldly sorrow are frequently defensive about their sin. They attempt to excuse it or justify it or lessen it. Godly sorrow will always cause a person to own their sin and offer no excuses. One example in the Bible of worldly sorrow is Judas. He felt remorse for betraying Jesus, returned the thirty pieces of silver, and confessed, “I have sinned betraying innocent blood.”
At that juncture, the actions of Judas are virtually indistinguishable from genuine repentance. He confessed his sin, felt remorse over it, and changed his course. But his next acts reveal that he was following worldly not godly sorrow. He went to the chief priests and elders and they refused to take back the money. He threw the money into the temple and left. Then, he did something that revealed his sorrow did not lead to genuine repentance and salvation. He went and hanged himself.
If Judas had been mourning over the offenses he had committed against the Son of God and his grief was God-centered his response would have been much different. He had walked with Jesus for three years. He knew that he could find forgiveness and restoration in Christ. He knew that Jesus had come to die for liars and traitors just like him. He knew that forgiveness was available to whosoever would abandon their sin and place their faith and trust in Jesus.
That does not appear to be his concern. His grief looks as though it was fundamentally self-centered. He could not bear his shame, the humiliation, and embarrassment for having betrayed Jesus. Rather than swallowing his pride and going to Jesus for forgiveness, he sought to atone for his sin through his suicide. Worldly sorrow produced death.
If you have sinned, we all have, then allow the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to your heart, own your sin and repent. If you do, God has promised to forgive you and promised He would reject no person that came in genuine repentance.
God bless you as you enjoy this day in Jesus!