The Difference Between Worldly and Godly Grief

4 Jun

Here’s a helpful post on Kevin DeYoung’s blog about how one can go about distinguishing between godly grief and worldly grief.  But first, here is how he defines the two terms, as according to 2 Corinthians 7:8-13.

Once we hate sin we are more inclined to run away from it. Grief, you notice, is not the same as repentance. Most people think grief equals repentance. They feel really bad about something, therefore they are repentant.  But notice in verse 9 (2 Corinthians 7:9) that godly grief leads to repentance.

There is an eternal difference between regret and repentance.  Regret feels bad about past sins.  Repentance turns away from past sins. Most of us are content with regret.  We just want to feel bad for awhile, have a good cry, enjoy the cathartic experience, bewail our sin and how selfish/stupid/sorry we are.  But we don’t really want to change. We don’t really want to live different than we have been.

Godly grief produces true repentance, which leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). Instead of obsessing over regrets and feeling bad due to the opinions of others, godly grief mourns for sin, turns from sin, and finds forgiveness for sin in Christ.

Now, here’s a helpful description of how we can go about distinguishing godly grief from worldly grief:

Here’s one way to distinguish between worldly grief and godly grief: one mobilizes you into action and the other immobilizes you.

  • Godly grief is a fruitful and effective emotion.  We are not meant to wallow in this grief.  It is supposed to spur us to action, to change, to make right our wrongs, to be zealous for good works, to run from sin and start walking in the opposite direction.
  • But worldly grief makes you idle and stagnant.  You don’t change.  You don’t grow.  You don’t fight against the deeds of the flesh.  Instead you ruminate on your mistakes and obsess about what people’s opinions and ponder what might have been.  If you feel sorry for your sin you will be moved to action not to wallow in it week after week, year after year.  Do you want to feel bad or do you want to change?

Some of us, truth be told, would rather feel bad. It’s easier than being changed.

Here’s the link to the rest of the article.


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