READ: 2 Corinthians 7:8-13
The kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).
When I was younger, shame or guilt would often overwhelm me. The trigger could be an obvious area where I had failed, and I simply could not shake the gloom as I desperately sought forgiveness. Other times, I endured a suffocating fear that something was wrong or that I needed to confess something. I assumed this weighty guilt was the Spirit’s conviction as I sank deeper into despair.
I wish I’d encountered the message of 2 Corinthians much sooner, where Paul clearly distinguishes between two very different kinds of sorrow: godly sorrow and worldly sorrow (or, in modern terms, guilt and shame [or regret]). The “kind of sorrow God wants us to experience,” Paul writes, “leads us away from sin and results in salvation” (7:10). Whenever God pierces our heart, the heaviness we feel points out places of danger and leads us towards health and goodness. Then after we’ve heeded this wisdom, we’re free and relieved. “There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow,” Paul assures us (v.10).
In contrast, “worldly sorrow” has no intention to help us or transform us but only crushes our spirit and “results in . . . death” (v.10). Unlike worldly sorrow, the sadness God’s Spirit may bring exerts only so much force as necessary to clear out whatever threatens to harm us (v.11). False clouds of sorrow, however, devour our energy, our hope and our joy. Things like shame and oppressive guilt do not come from God and never yield life; they bury us.
The Spirit will certainly correct us, but this correction is kind and gentle—and leads to life. If what we feel is a sorrow that constricts and destroys, we can rest assured that what we’re experiencing doesn’t come from our good Father.
By Winn Collier