As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt 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. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what earnestness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. 2 Corinthians 7:9 - 11 (ESV)
We all feel grief. We all fall short of some standard (real or imaginary). If grief has a purpose, let's at least make it good ... or better yet, godly! How do we handle grief? How do believers handle it in such a way as to honor God. How do we grow through it? The passage quoted above gives us good clues as to how to handle grief in a godly way by comparing it to the way the world handles grief. What we learn is: when we handle grief in a godly fashion, God uses it to mature and truly change us.
The purpose of grief
God allows us to experience grief for one reason: to lead us to repentance. Verse 10 makes it clear, godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation. The grief we experience reminds us of our desperate need for God. It's not some random event. It's not God putting the screws to us to remind us how awesome He is.
It's in our sin that we try to handle our grief on our own. How does that work out for us? Again, the end of verse 10 makes it pretty clear; it produces death. It's in our arrogance and pride that we try to control how we feel and how we respond. When we are honest with ourselves, we know we can't handle most things that come our way, and we when we try we respond ... badly.
We will focus on worldly grief in the next post and learn why it's so destructive. Then we will look at godly grief and see the benefits of handling things God's way.