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Godly Sorrow or Worldly Sorrow?

November 30, 2017 | by: Mike Law | 0 Comments

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Brothers & Sisters,

             The bad news has been relentless. Evil deeds have been discovered, and apologies have been issued. I don’t know about you, but I have found myself disheartened by the sad and unrelenting stories day after day. As a Christian, I know that sadly what we are seeing unfold in such a public manner is not actually new. These sins have been committed from nearly the beginning of time. What is new is that the news of these sins can now be sent around the world for millions of eyeballs and ears to see and hear in less than a second.

            As I’ve read them or heard them, I’ve been saddened by the public “apologies” that have been issued, mostly because they hardly seem like meaningful or clear confessions of guilt and contrition. Rarely have the words “I was wrong” been uttered. More often, we hear “I’m sorry they experienced that,” or “I’m sorry that I did that.” The latter is certainly better than the former, but what kind of sorrow are we looking at? Is it a godly sorrow or a worldly sorrow? “I was wrong” is a clear admission of guilt, but “I’m sorry” can often be a shallow expression of feelings. 

          This is where I must watch my own heart, because if I am not careful I will commit the sin of the Pharisee, when I need to remember that I am a poor sinner like the publican (Luke 18:11-13). You must watch your heart too. Whenever we are disheartened by a weak apology, we should probably pause and reflect on our own most recent apology by asking ourselves the following questions: Did I clearly confess my sin and guilt?  Did I say I was wrong? Is my sorrow a worldly sorrow or a godly sorrow?

          The men of the church have been reading through a useful book by Heath Lambert entitled Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace.  In the second chapter of the book, Lambert helps us sort through whether or not our sorrow over sin is worldly or godly in light of 2 Corinthians 7:8-11. “The focus of worldly sorrow,” the author writes, “is the world.  People experiencing worldly sorrow are distressed because they are losing (or fear losing) things the world has to offer” (p. 34). Godly sorrow, on the other hand, is focused on God.  “Godly sorrow is pained over the break in relationship with God. It is heartbroken that God has been grieved and offended. The tears of godly sorrow flow from the sadness that God’s loving and holy law has been broken” (p. 35). 

         How do we know if our hearts are filled with godly sorrow or worldly sorrow? Two things might provide clarity and a path toward answering that question. First, consider your confession. Is your confession open, honest, and one which fully accepts responsibility regardless of the temporal consequences?  Secondly, consider your comfort. Is Jesus enough for you? When you openly, honestly, and fully confess your sin is your only hope the mercy and grace of Jesus? Is his unfailing and unwavering love enough?

        All of the bad news in this world (and in our own hearts and lives) will one day come to an end, all because of the conquering power of Jesus Christ. As we are sure to be confronted by the abominable sins of others, let us honestly remember the monstrosity of our own sin against God, and let us remember in the words of Samuel Stennett that Jesus “saw me plunged in deep distress, and flew to my relief; for me he bore the shameful cross, and carried all my grief.”        

Warmly in Christ,


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