Throwback Thursday: Godly Grief, 2013

Just for kicks, I thought I’d repost something from about three years ago. Today, I am thankful for painful moments of discipline like this that later on truly do bring a harvest of peace for those who have been trained by it.

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a 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.
2 Corinthians  7:9-10

Oh, how much time I have wasted in my past with worldly grief! At one point in my life before Christ, I was consumed by it. I felt an enormous weight of guilt and shame for things I had done, but rather than driving me away from the deeds that perpetuated such feelings, I felt too powerless and too stained to escape from them. I had grief, but it was a hideously twisted thing that merely poisoned my days and stunted my reason.

There is another aspect of the worldly grief that I have seen (and probably exhibited at times)–the false grief that says, “I’m sorry,” and yet does not cease the action that prompted the somewhat automatic, empty response. This is not true grief, not brokenness, but just an expected reaction meant to soothe the one wronged without any genuine concern or desire for reconciliation. This worldly grief is a smokescreen; a facade to hide something mean and ignoble behind.

Then there is the Godly grief–the grief I experienced when I first truly began to understand the weight of what Jesus did. This is the grief that was heavier even than my crushing burden of shame and guilt–weightier because I finally understood that my worldly shame was self-directed (shame because I had shamed myself) whereas my new, Godly grief was due to the fact that I would treat so heinously the One who forgave the unforgivable in me.

The full realization of this is tremendous, for it is paradoxically as simple as “Jesus died in my stead,” and yet infinitely more grave and far-reaching. It embodies an understanding of His holiness; the power and glory He willingly laid aside; the fact that it was not our recalcitrance that prompted His great act of rescue, but rather our stubborn, self-willed refusal to obey–the fact that we were hopelessly doomed to die without intervention, so steeped were we in sin.

How many of us will not only forgive someone who has hurt us willingly, but will go out of our way to recompense the damages made to ourselves on their behalf–paying for their crime and exonerating them of all guilt even as they continue to cause us injury? It is incredibly humbling for me to realize that is precisely what Jesus did for me. But not just for me; it is what He calls me to do for others.

Through meditation and reflection on His goodness, holiness, and reality, He has produced within me a Godly grief–a genuine sorrow that I once chose to sin against One who epitomizes grace, forgiveness, and selfless sacrifice  — as well as constantly exposing deeper and more subtle areas where I am not completely surrendered to Him.

     Today, I find myself sorrowful over the many times I have stopped serving someone because I felt that I was taken advantage of by them. Even if I have been taken advantage of and my sense of being used is legitimate, so what? Have I not taken abundant advantage of the totally undeserved grace and mercy that God extended to me through Christ? Why, then, do I think myself so important that I should not be taken advantage of?

     This revelation does produce a sorrow in me–not a dragging burden of guilt nor a lip-service expression of apology but a keen and true grief; grief not that I have slighted another but that I have been as guilty as the indebted servant in Matthew 18:22-35. I have gratefully accepted the mercy of my Master, yet I have been stingy in extending such mercy to others. I am grieved that I would treat the gifts of such an honorable and compassionate King in such a detestable way. The grief is truly Godly grief, for it is grief that I would dare to esteem so lightly the inconceivable affections of the Ever-Existent One.

This is merely one area in which God is working on me–one of many, I assure you, for Godly grief has began to permeate my life. I have experienced those things which Paul wrote about: the indignation, zeal, eagerness to clear myself, and I have felt the sting of punishment from which I have, in actuality, been spared–the sting that comes of knowing that One undeserving  has borne the lash in my stead.

It is a spur that will not allow me to rest in sin once I am aware of it; a goad to prompt me to continue to press forward, for allowing Him to change me is the least I can do in return for His astonishing sacrifice. I can never earn it, but I can feel forever the depth of my debt and a passionate depth of gratitude that prompts me to an ever-increasing desire to do His will. I can never repay, but I can certainly live my life in such a way to honor His gift.

This repentance-producing grief  is a grief, piercing and poignant, yet it is not the type of sorrow that weighs down and destroys. It is the pain of necessary surgery that ushers in a more complete healing, the ache of strenuous exercise which leads to greater fitness, the pangs of labor which leads to the exhilaration of birth. It is not a sorrow leading to death, but to an overflow of life and gladness. It is the bitter night before the the joyous dawn.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:10-11

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