Godly sorrow is feeling sorry that you offended God and feeling the same way about the sin as he does; this kind of sorrow leads to true repentance.
Godly sorrow and confession lead to repentance. Today we’ll be talking about what godly sorrow is and its close relation to true repentance. First, let’s define what repentance is again, this time, from the Strong’s Greek dictionary.
to think differently or afterward, that is, reconsider, morally to feel compunction, which is, a sting of conscience (guilt, remorse, regret that prevents or follows the doing of something bad) or a pang of doubt aroused by wrongdoing or the prospect of wrongdoing (Strong’s Greek Dictionary – G3340).
Notice the word usage in this definition: Sting. Pang. Guilt.
So, while my first definition of repentance was about how we think about sin, this part of repentance is about how we feel about sin. Repentance is both how we think about sin and how we feel about it.
When we experience guilt and conviction this is what we call “godly sorrow.” Let’s see an example of godly sorrow found in a letter to the Corinthians:
8 I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while.
9 Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way.
10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.
11 Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right. (2 Cor 7:8-11 NLT)
While rebuke and correction can be painful, it’s for our good because God loves us (Proverbs 3:12). If we want to please him, the initial sting of correction will lead to repentance. Notice all the things that resulted from the Corinthians godly sorrow:
- indignation for the sin
- they took their sin seriously; they were “alarmed”
- they had a readiness to punish the wrong
- they did everything necessary to make things right
Godly sorrow leads to repentance but it first starts with feeling sorry that you offended God. Godly sorrow is feeling the same way about sin as God does. God despises sin; it’s nasty, filthy, annoying, intolerable, and angering. God can’t be in the presence of sin. Godly sorrow will lead to the same emotions about sin.
When we have godly sorrow we resist temptation, and if failure comes, we’ll quickly bounce back up and eventually win. Godly sorrow always leads to repentance.
Examine yourself: how do you feel about your sins? Are you truly repentant?
Contrarily, unrepentant people don’t struggle with sin. They’re comfortable with sin. They’re comfortable with lying, racism, disrespect, manipulation, fornication, stealing, etc. They don’t lose sleep when they sin. It doesn’t bother them. They just keep doing it and making excuses for it.
There’s no guilt about it (perhaps shame, but no real guilt); no godly sorrow. If they have any sorrow, it’s “worldly sorrow.”
Worldly sorrow can look like self-abuse, demeaning one’s self because of failure, feeling guilty to the point of depression and suicide; but never resulting in repentance; this is why Paul says this kind of sorrow leads to death.
These people may not be sorry that they sinned against God, or if they hurt others. They may not even believe their behavior is truly sin in the eyes of God.
Worldly sorrow is rooted in pride—they’re sorry because they can’t live up to the distorted view of themselves. It’s all about them when it should be about reconciling with the God they suppose to love, and accepting the fact that they’re weak and can’t meet God’s standards without yielding to his Holy Spirit.
Let’s have godly sorrow and draw power from the Holy Spirit to overcome sin.