You may think my title is paradoxical. Perhaps you’ve been fed a syrupy, gooey gospel that would not allow for the legitimacy of godly grief. I find the term comforting. It can be found in scripture—it is legitimate and the outcome of it is beautiful.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. –ESV
All we have known prior to our Christian experience is worldly grief. Something bad happens or we do something bad and it grieves us. It’s part of the fall. Each time, it wears us down a little more. Perhaps we bottle it up and it becomes etched on our hearts and forms an identity for us we never wanted. It produces a fragment of death within us each time, as the scripture indicates, until we are entangled in a web of it.
This being the case, it is natural for us to have a suspicion of grief in general and to pursue a life of complete happiness. However, as we enter the walk of Faith and go ever deeper in it, we hopefully soon discover the value of a different type of grief. A godly grief.
Perhaps we read the Word of God with new eyes some time, and seeing ourselves in light of its holy truth, we are grieved at what we see. Suddenly we appear as wretches where once we might have held a few (or many) lofty opinions of ourselves. Let the lofty opinions crash. Let’s get used to seeing ourselves in light of the Word of God.
Let’s allow it—especially at first—to grieve us with a godly grief that leads to repentance. Once we repent, the natural outcome is healing. After this process has occurred, don’t look back! If you do, it may produce worldly grief once more. We can do no more than earnestly repent and reconcile with others if necessary. If we repent and then seek ways to make up for what we have done by good works, we are calling God’s work incomplete.
However, sometimes the works that flow out of us are a good barometer to gauge whether we have truly repented or not. So with all of this being the case, let’s be open to receiving godly grief—it can lead to joy unspeakable.