Good Grief


For Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.  2 Corinthians 7:10

This verse is in the context of Paul writing a letter and sending it in between 1 and 2 Corinthians.  It was a rebuke about them not properly dealing with a man who had slept with his stepmother, as referenced in 1 Corinthians 5.  That man, or perhaps a different one, began to question Paul’s authority as an apostle, stirring up doubt about his motives and saying that Paul didn’t keep his promise about coming to them sooner.

Paul acknowledged that his letter produced grief, but he was okay with that because it led them to repentance.  He wrote that there is a productive sorrow that we need to have in order to deal with our sin and wrong attitudes and to turn us in a different direction.  That is Godly grief.  But there is a worldly grief that we get caught up in at times, and its outcome only leads to death.  It doesn’t produce repentance or reconciliation.  It might produce revenge, blame shifting and ugly rifts.

We get mixed up sometimes about sin and about the stand that God tells us that we need to take.  For instance, in 1 Corinthians 5:11 Paul wrote for them “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother (fellow believer) if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not to even eat with such a one.”  It is echoed in other places, such as Ephesians 5.

That’s a hard line on sin, but the goal is to produce repentance so that the person’s spirit who is practicing sin may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5).  It is more loving to practice 1 Cor. 5:11 and to let God do His convicting and purifying work in that person’s life to bring about repentance, then it is to let that person continue in sin, reaping sin’s consequences and destruction.  You could call it tough love.

A friend once told me about a Christian friend who was engaged in sexual immorality.  The other believers practiced what Paul had directed, which was to have nothing to do with her until she repented.  But my friend told me how she kept being her friend because otherwise she wouldn’t have anyone left.  I countered, “So you feel like you can do a better job than God?”  She was shocked at my response, but I then explained how the others’ exclusion was to bring about repentance.

For those of you practicing sin that you ought not to be doing: stop it.  You may experience the pleasures of sin for a season, but the outcome is a death of some sort.  It puts a breach in your relationship with God.  You’re no good to either side–either the one that runs after God or the world’s side.  You will be filled with the guilt that comes from the conviction of sin that won’t stop until you make things right.  The worldly sorrow of being rebuked includes shifting blame, denying that there is a sin issue, or boo hoo’ing to everyone about how mistreated you are.

weep over sin.jpgJames 4:8-10 tells us to “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

Be wretched and weep over your sin.  Don’t trifle with it or explain it away.  Experience the Godly grief that leads to life.

*First photo from                                                                                                Second photo from


About Martha

I am an avid student of the Bible, having studied it diligently for over 40 years. More than that, I love Jesus and want to know Him and to show Him in my life. I am currently in the education field as an Elementary Principal, having degrees in School Counseling and Administration. I have a post graduate degree in Child and Adolescent Mental Health from Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. I have also gone to Bible school at the Columbia Graduate School of Bible and Missions (now Columbia Biblical Seminary) in Columbia, South Carolina and spent summers in youth ministry as well as five years as a youth director in a Baptist General Conference church. View all posts by Martha

2 responses to “Good Grief

  • Nickel Boy Graphics

    Enjoyed reading this post about the difference between “Godly grief” and “worldly grief.” The quote from Ron Smith was also good. It was good for me to read this and consider myself…Do I just bear the name of believer and while still being an idolator? (In Paul’s day, I imagine this as an actual “wood or metal idol sense” rather than the more broad sense of idolizing “wealth or celebrity”). Really appreciated this post!

    • Martha

      Thanks. Good question about being a believer and an idolater. Does God eventually deal with you if you are His–ala’ Hebrews 12 where it says that God disciplines those He lives?

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