For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to
salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2
Worldly Sorrow Leads to Death
In the letter that
Paul wrote to the Church
of Corinth he mentioned
two kinds of sorrows—worldly sorrows and godly sorrow, and the origin of these
two are vastly different. Worldly sorrow comes from the world but godly sorrow
is of God, which leads to salvation. But the conclusion of worldly sorrow is
So is it good for
Christians to have sorrows? On our spiritual journey, it is inevitable that we
will encounter both kinds of sorrows. However, we must avoid sorrows that
enchain us to worldly burdens. And we must embrace the sorrows that are of
God—sorrows that incline us toward divine goodness and away from wrong, which
will improve our spirituality.
When God first
created Adam and Eve, they lived in the sinless place that was the garden of Eden. God spent a lot of time with Adam and Eve
and it was probably the most complete and perfect existence filled with peace
and joy. But their curiosity and lust led them to disobey God’s command by
eating from the tree that God specifically forbade them to take fruit. Their
costly mistake exposed their shameful nakedness and caused them to go into
hiding in great fear of the Lord.
It came to pass
that the Lord arrived at Eden
in search for the couple and He called out, “Where are you?” The all-knowing
God had no need to search for them, but He gave them a chance to repent and to
come out from their shame.
God opened a door
for Adam to get out of his troubles: “Have you eaten from the tree I commanded
you not to eat from?” God did not convict him right away but asked him whether
he did something that the Lord had told him not to do. If Adam felt sorrowful
towards his own sin and repented at that moment, God probably would have responded
to him differently.
But Adam showed no
sign of remorse for his earlier actions. Instead, he blamed the woman that God
put in the garden with him as the cause of his predicaments. “Today, I ate from
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because it was the doing of that
woman, whom You designed.” Here lies a very serious
problem—Adam was bold enough to go against God’s instruction but felt no need
to own up to his wrongdoings.
God also gave Eve
a second chance: “What is it that you have done?” In reality, God already knew
what she did, but He opened a way for her to admit to her mistakes, to feel
sorrowful of her actions and to repent. But she firmly took her stance before
she looked within herself. “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”
Since these were
the best confessions they could offer, God cursed them and from then on, Adam
and Eve suffered from a different a kind of sorrow that was not of God but of
the world, which came from the consequences of sin and led to their spiritual
death. And this sorrow also condemns us today because it results from our
stubbornness to repent for our mistakes, until finally, we lose God’s abidance
completely and the anguish overflows.
This was not the
intent of God’s creation. He does not want us to be consumed with the sorrows
of this world. Instead, He wants all of us to live peaceably and with joy. But
we often refuse to feel somber towards our own sins and we painfully burden
ourselves with sorrows that lead to death.
Godly Sorrow Leads to Repentance
You sorrowed in a godly manner… (2 Cor 7:11)
Paul described the
progress of the Church
of Corinth, which we
should all embrace as our own personal progress.
Though there were
many eloquent members in the Church
of Corinth, there were
also many problems among them. One major issue was the disharmony and divisions
among the believers, who identified themselves to belong to either Paul or
Apollos or Christ. Paul wrote and called them unspiritual infants.
Even though the
church was filled with talent, chaos abounded because of the lack of order.
Though they had knowledge, they stained themselves with their idolatrous ways.
Over time, their sins fermented like yeast and ruined the believers.
The church is the
body of Christ and Christ is the head of church. He is in heaven but His body
is on earth. So the body of Christ is the same as the head in heaven. When
there is sin in the church, Christ in heaven is sorrowful because His body is
stained. This grieves the heart of God, whose sorrow also came into Paul’s
And what is the
heart of God? There are many manifestations of having the heart of God, and one
of them is having sorrow towards sin. So Paul wrote this letter and warned the
Corinthians to change their ways. If they didn’t change, then he would come
with whips and rebuke. Paul had the authority because God was with him. Not
only did he have stern words for the believers, his words came with God’s power
and justice. And when they received the letter, they felt exceedingly contrite
(2 Cor 7:8).
Paul said that he
at first regretted writing the letter because he felt that its content was
harsh. He had no intentions to hurt them but to instruct them with love and
truth. But when Paul saw that the Corinthians were
immediately inflicted with sorrow, he was glad and no longer regretful of his
When we examine
the mistakes of Adam and Eve, we see that the consequences of their sin lasted
an entire lifetime. But the sorrow of the Corinthians was instant and temporary
because it led them to repentance, and so Paul was glad of their response to
There were so many
problems in Corinth
and the faith of the believers was dwindling, but they were able to rise up
from their backsliding. And that turning point was when they received Paul’s
letter and when their spirituality took flight.
society, there are believers who never feel the need for regret and are
complacent with themselves. I have a great personality, I don’t slander, I do
not wrong others, and I live harmoniously with everyone. In this case, there is
no apparent reason for sorrow. But if we want to elevate our spirituality, we
must experience godly sorrow.
How come I still
cannot change myself despite having believed so many years? How come I can
never have self-control to turn off this sinful television program? Why do I
waste so much of my precious time on useless activities? How come I’ve done
nothing for God all these years while He loves me so much?
When we are
compelled by His love and He lives in us, we often feel the guilt of owing much
to the Lord. This is the sorrow we identify with because we see ourselves
plainly and realize how much we come short of all that our Lord Jesus Christ
has done for us. If we feel this, our spirituality will start to grow and
improve, and the results of such sorrow are good and edifying for us.
The Blessings of Godly Sorrow
In the book of
Revelation, John wrote to the seven churches, one of which was the Church of Laodicea. This church felt that they had
everything and was not in need of anything, and that was the reason why they
couldn’t grow. They felt that they were pious but they were oblivious to their
spiritual maladies. So to God, they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and
should be reason enough for the Laodiceans to feel godly sorrow, but they were
ignorant and couldn’t improve themselves. So John wrote them a letter and
revealed their true spiritual condition with the hope that they would change.
Otherwise, if they continued being lukewarm, God would spit them out. Therefore,
having godly sorrow motivates and calls us to improve upon our spirituality.
The Lord wants
every one of us to feel godly sorrow towards our own weaknesses, and He
teaches: “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted” (Mt 5:4).
This is the second beatitude, and the mourning mentioned here comes from the
first: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
Those who are
humble are the ones who are poor in spirit, for they feel they are short of
God’s expectations. If we feel poor in spirit we will open our hearts and
receive God’s words, and we can also accept the suggestions and criticisms of
If we are humble
in heart, God’s spirit will fill us when we pray. When His spirit moves us and
His words enter into our hearts, His light will penetrate deeply. That is the
moment that our sins are revealed and we realize that we are not much better
than the Pharisees.
On the surface, we
look to be God-fearing and humble, but deep down we have so many sinful
thoughts. Once these sins emerge and are revealed, we will begin to understand
this mourning. So this is actually how God sees me—I’m actually like this.
Once we have such
a lowly heart and feel the need to repent and change ourselves, we will become
one who is very gentle. That is why those who mourn are also meek, because we
will rebuke ourselves and feel the heart of repentance. Those who are strong
and stubborn often lack this mournful heart.
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
Luke 8 records the prayers of two
people. One of them was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Looking at
the Pharisee, the first thing he did was to count what sins he did not do,
which was why he felt he was better than others. He then counted all his
accomplishments—he fasted twice a week and gave a tenth of all that he
received. From these things, he was obviously better than the tax collector.
But let’s look at how the tax
collector prayed. He stood at a distance, unwilling to look up at the heavens,
and he asked for mercy for the sinner in him. He knew all the sins he had done
and he knew that among the people he robbed were widowers. He rebuked himself
How did God view these two men?
Towards the tax collector, who
mourned with godly sorrow, God justified and showed mercy. God accepted him and
He was willing to elevate such a person. If a person deems himself as righteous
and thinks of himself as flawless and belittles the sinners, he is nothing
before God. Those who are humbled will be exalted, and those who are exalted
will be humbled.
“For thus says the High and Lofty
One—I dwell in the high and holy place” (Isa 57:15a). God is the one who is
high and holy, and He has thousands of angels praising Him and glorifying Him.
Compared to God we are merely tiny particles of dust.
But such a holy and majestic God
is willing to abide with lowly people like ourselves, and what is the condition
for His abidance? He wants us to be contrite and lowly in spirit. Having a
sorrowful heart is a manifestation of being humble and lowly, and God wants to
revive the spirit of such an individual.
When David broke three of the Ten
Commandments, he thought no one knew of his wrongdoing. So God told the prophet
Nathan to reveal David to his own sins, and David was grief-stricken by his
mistakes. His heartfelt repentance can be found in Psalm 51.
David also knew that God could
not be bribed with offering (Ps 51:16-17). Just because we offer Him some money
or objects doesn’t mean that our sins are immediately atoned for. Does God, who
created the heavens and the earth and owns everything, need what little things
we can offer?
What does God want, then? He
wants our hearts; specifically, He wants a heart that recognizes
unrighteousness and a heart of repentance. If we have this mournful heart and
we repent, God will forgive us because He wants to accept us.
When David was younger, he
experienced the joy and sweetness of God’s abidance, but he lost that closeness
with God because of his sins, which daily rebuked his conscience. He also
wanted to revive his spirituality and he asked God, “Create in me a pure heart
O God…” (Ps 51:10).
David beseeched the Lord because
he wanted to live a favorable life in God’s eyes, and he needed to have a pure
heart and steadfast spirit to do so—neither of which comes easily to any
person. For we carry the sinful nature of the flesh, and even if we want to do good it will be hard because the flesh is weak. It is not
until we receive God’s help will our hearts be pure and our spirit steadfast.
David asked God to not forsake
him and to allow him to be before the Lord, “[R]estore
to me the joy of Your salvation” (Ps 51:12). David
also knew very clearly the lifestyle of a sinner (Ps 51:13), but he determined
that he will teach transgressors and turn other sinners back to God, so that
they can experience the joy of the Lord.
This is the good result of the
one who has godly sorrows. We should not hide our sins, and the best and right
way is to come before God to repent with mourning.
The Bible also tells us the story
of a man named Lot and the cities Sodom and Gomorrah. The people in
these cities committed great sins that were violent and adulterous, so God
burned the cities into ashes so they can be a living testimony and reminder for
the generations to come. In fact, many cities around us today are probably
equivalent or worse than Sodom and Gomorrah.
God is looking for people like Lot, whom He called righteous, and when God finds such a
person he wants to save them. Lot was one who
was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men. When he saw the wickedness
of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah he felt sorrowful towards them. When
you see the sins of another, do you grow numb and desensitized by their ways?
Lot was often tormented by the sins of the people of Sodom
and Gomorrah (2
Pet 2:8). Living among them, Lot was beset in
his righteous soul.
What does it mean to have a
righteous soul? Part of having a righteous soul is to have a pure and sinless
conscience. Everyone has a conscience but how come some people are not aware of
sin? If a mirror is covered with dust, how can we see our reflection through
it? If our conscience is covered by sin we will not realize our wickedness and
our conscience is useless.
Today, how can we have a
righteous soul? We must have our conscience cleansed by the power of the Holy
Spirit. If a person commits sin and doesn’t admit or refuse to admit then this
is very dangerous, because his conscience is dead and the fate of such a man is
Long for a Higher Spirituality
Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up
from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He
called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side;
and the Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of
the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it. To
the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; do
not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young men,
maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.” So they began
with the elders who were before the temple. (Ezek 9:3-6)
Here mentions that
God’s glory is about to depart from Jerusalem
because the sins of the people living there were more frightening than the sins
of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah. Their hearts were so stone cold
that there was no understanding of right and wrong, and no godly sorrow for
their own sins.
persecuted and killed all the prophets that God sent to warn them to turn back
from their ways. This was the final straw, after which God’s anger poured down
But before the
great destruction, God sent angels into the city to put marks on the foreheads
of those who grieved and lamented over the detestable works and deeds of the
people. The killing started with those without a mark, and the angels began
with the unmarked elders because they were the ones who led the people away
from God to worship idols. So they were the first to face punishment and
Each one of us
needs to take these as warning for ourselves. The way of salvation has been
opened for us and every day that we live in this wicked and crooked generation,
we are susceptible to the wielding and manipulations of Satan. Temptations and
opportunities to sin will come from every side, so we must remain alert and
pursue after spiritual growth.
We must mourn with
godly sorrow at the sinfulness of this society and keep ourselves somber. We
must also fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit and thirst for it to empower us.
If we see the degeneration of those around us, then we must sigh and grieve for
them and pray to God. And if we have been seduced by sin, we must return to the
Lord in all lowliness, confess to Him and cry for His mercy.
Whatever the state
or condition of our relationship with God, we must long for a higher
spirituality and look to the Lord to give us the joy of His salvation. Only by
returning to God will our faith be renewed, and we can once again receive His
blessings and taste the sweetness of being close to Him. Then when we are
strong we can pray for others, teach them, and turn sinners back to the Lord.
May the Lord
empower us and give us strength.