For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. -- 2 Corinthians 7:10
Monday, October 6, 2014
I suppose this is obvious to most people, but I was always puzzled by it. What’s wrong with “worldly grief”? Partly because I have had such a blessed existence compared to other people – not because I am better but because I would probably shatter like a wine glass under real pressure – I associate grief with death. The only thing that ever really grieved me was when someone died or when we lost a pet.
It finally dawned on me over the years that grief is not exclusively grieving over a lost loved one. We may call it by other names like sorrow and heartache or broken-heartedness. We feel bad when we are rejected, when we fail, when a relationship falls apart, or an opportunity is lost. That’s understandable. Sometimes, though, it can devolve into self-pity and other destructive ways of thinking. Worldly grief can become focused on self-justification and self-validation. It can become hopelessness and depression as the boil of anger and hurt declines to a slow, relentless simmer.
Rather than being an inducement to change, worldly grief can easily become an excuse to continue on a path of caustic self-indulgence, making up for what we feel we have lost. Conversely, we may decide to punish ourselves (consciously or not) for our perceived failings – not by embracing positive and healthy discipline, but by increasingly bad choices leading to diminished self-worth in a deadly downward spiral. Sometimes we destroy our physical health on this path. I often wonder how much sickness and disease can be traced back to an open, festering wound of grief.
When I get caught in the undertow of sorrow, I am not willing to see the situation from any perspective other than that of my personal pain and longing. I cannot accept that my loss and hurt might be a result of God’s greater plan. Nor am I willing to offer it to Him and allow Him to redeem my pain and turn it into a blessing.
In stark contrast, godly grief is anguish that leads us to changing our minds. We are able to accept and acknowledge our part in what has gone wrong. Rather than closing ourselves off, we open up to the Lord, asking forgiveness as needed and making restitution where appropriate and possible. We can assent to the will of God, bow to His infinitely greater wisdom, and receive hope. Holy Spirit-inspired sorrow leads to transformation. It may not happen overnight, but it is happening. Experienced from the divine perspective, grief can illuminate the knots and kinks in our thinking that interrupt our connection to the mind of Christ.