2 Corinthians 7:2-16
Godly Grief Produces Life
Paul here recounts the letter which he wrote to them “out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears” (2:4). He had regretted writing it; no doubt, he was anxious about its reception among the Corinthians, especially after that “painful visit” (2:1). But now Paul rejoices that though his letter grieved them, it only did so for a while; and he rejoices not that they were grieved per se, but that their grief led them to repentance. And then he makes a statement that truly separates the righteous from the wicked, the godly from the worldly: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
There are two kinds of grief in the world—godly and worldly—and they work two very different results. Worldly grief may manifest itself in sorrow for things lost—wealth, possessions, even family members and loved ones. Such sorrow, though perhaps understandable, does not seek God’s will and way in it or God’s redemptive purposes through it, but only focuses on the worldly value lost. God makes no difference in the loss, and so it is simply lost to no earthly or heavenly good. And since the matters of this world are all that matter to such a one, the grief is all-consuming. Or, as in the case with Judas, it might be a worldly grief that rejects God. Such a person does not see that God could forgive him, that he is too sinful and thus beyond redemption. Such an attitude has an appearance of humility about it but is really an inverted form of arrogance. It despairs of God’s grace and power to forgive and as such is the conviction of an unbeliever.
Like these Corinthians, Peter shows the way to godly grief and repentance. He denied his Lord, not once, not twice, but three times! He even endured that look from Jesus at the moment of his third denial. Of course he went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:61-62)! And what of David—adultery and murder, no less! And the baby’s life was taken because of his sin. But what does David do when it is all over: “He went into the house of the Lord and worshiped” (2 Samuel 12:20). These two men show what godly grief looks like, for they grieved unto life, not death. They were humble enough not only to confess their sin and feel the horrible ache of it, but to also believe that God was big enough to forgive and cleanse away even their sin. David still reaped consequences for his sin later in life (2 Samuel 15-18), but he bore up under those consequences manfully. So grieve over sin as well you should, but grieve unto life by repenting and receiving our Lord’s forgiveness