Godly Grief versus Worldly Grief

By definition, grief or sorrow is “a feeling of sadness or grief caused especially by the loss of someone or something” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). It is something we have all experienced at one time or another.

Sorrow or grief is unavoidable and, in almost all circumstances, should not necessarily be avoided. The Bible teaches that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes 3:4. Paul wrote that we should “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15.

There is a grief that is morally neutral and is a part of God’s design for our lives. A wife dies… a husband grieves. It is a time for him to mourn. It is a mourning that leads to comfort. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4.

The Bible also makes a distinction between Godly grief and worldly sorrow that is not morally neutral. In 2 Corinthians 7:8-10, Paul wrote, “For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— 9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

In these verses, Paul wrote of his sorrow caused by his confrontational letter. However, he wrote that he did not regret it because it led to their repentance. Therefore, a Godly grief leads to repentance.

On the other hand, Paul wrote that “…the sorrow of the world produces death”. There is a certain kind of sorrow that is not morally neutral because it leads to death. In other words, worldly sorrow does not produce fruit. Instead it would cause the fig tree to die.

One way of looking at it is that Godly grief is a response to wrong actions, whereas, worldly sorrow is a response to wrong results. David grieved over his sinful actions with Bathsheba and repented (Psalm 51). Judas felt remorse over the results of his betrayal (Jesus’ death) and committed suicide (his literal death). Matthew 27:3-5.

Ungodly sorrow is about our plans not working out instead of seeking after God’s plan. Ungodly sorrow is about centering on what others think rather than what God thinks. Ungodly sorrow is about being earthbound and missing out on what the world has to offer rather than being heaven minded and missing out on what the Lord has to offer.

It is better to never avoid sorrow that is morally neutral because it will bring you comfort. However, it might be wise to reflect upon what is causing your sorrow and, if it has moral implications ask yourself the question… Is this a sorrow that is leading me to repentance and right kind of living or to death and wrong kind of living?

Something to think about…