“Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
II Corinthians 7:9-10 NKJV
In the passage in II Corinthians, Paul had written the church at Corinth, on some of things it had going on that inhibited its ability to represent Jesus. Being called out, they felt bad and had great sorrow. But Paul told them of the value of that sorrow and how it is far better than that of the world.
I knew worldy sorrow all too well.
I used to go through life as a purposeful amnesiac, pressing all the bad things I did into the back of my mind, so that I would not be bothered by the guilt and the shame. Though I tried to hide these things out of sight, they were still there, still affecting me as I tried to live life one fresh day at a time, only to see my efforts soiled by all the filth hidden, but not gone.
As a result of the accumulating weight of unforgotten and unforgiven sin, I found myself in a perpetual funk, mining the depths of melancholia. I walked about in darkness, finding no joy in anything. I was in constant sorrow, grieving a life of “what ifs” and loss. It was not a godly sorrow, but one that served to only enervate me, draining me, and sapping my strength to live.
I think back to that Resurrection Sunday in 1998, that day that Jesus drew me unto Himself, convicted me of my sins, and saved me. I remember walking the aisle at the church, feeling each step lighter than the last, as God began dealing with the amassed unforgotten sins trailing behind me.
In the days after salvation, I spent much time considering the life I had led, and the many evil things I had done. The evil one was ready to point his evil finger at me, accusing me and seeking to shed clouds of doubt on whether I had been saved or not. The sorrow I felt was different now, as it was mourning, mourning over what had been.
“Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4 NKJV
I mourned over my sinfulness, of the life lost, but I was finding comfort in life being restored, as the Lord filled me with the Holy Spirit.
Like chemotherapy killing cancer, God’s presence began to attack the sin in me and transform me from inside out. Unlike chemo, though, which causes damage as it works, God’s work in me made me stronger, and able to resist sin. He was making me new, as if I had never sinned.
Guilt and shame were replaced by conviction, and sorrow over past sin became power to not sin again. God had begun His work in me, changing me inside into the image of Jesus, taking a heart filled with poison, and changing it out for one filled with love. I have gone from a life filled with cursing to a life filled with blessing.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.”
Matthew 5:6-9 NKJV
Out of the sorrow, God brought miraculous transformation, one day at a time, one moment at a time.
The evil one still seeks to remind me of my sinful past, and the old man still tries to raise up a stink, as he stirs in the grave. I am far from perfect, as I live in a fallen world bent on keeping people trapped in sin. But, I rejoice in the presence of the Lord in my life, of the power I have through Him to resist temptation, of the reality that my sorrow now is such that it leads to repentance, and not guilt leading to death.
Brothers and sisters, let us go forth and use every opportunity to tell of the great salvation, of sin vanquished, of death defeated.
Let us also hold each other accountable. We all need to be called out and reminded from time to time. The sorrow we feel is but a minor blip on the screens of our lives, and leads us to better things through repentance.
The same is true of the things that come into our lives in these perilous times. There are many sorrows in the Christian life: sorrow over lost loved ones, of those who have rejected us, of relationships we damaged in the past that are not recoverable, and many others things now and to come. In Christ, that sorrow has purpose and blessing. Remember that all things work out for good, whether we can see it or not.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
Romans 8:28-30 NKJV
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