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

On Love

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Brothers and sisters, I have a confession to make. I have not been loving all of you well.  This morning, as I read the words of our Savior in John 13:34-35, I found myself utterly convicted, for I have been incriminated in offering a stingy, self-serving version of love. I have repented to God; I now repent before all of you. Instead of living entirely for Him, I have been guilty of reserving some parts of life for myself.

I have not always been patient nor kind with you, my friends. Instead of sharing in your joy when some boon comes your way, I have often secretly harbored envy. From time to time, I have boasted of my meager successes in the spiritual realm and failed to credit God with what is truly His work and not my own. I have been guilty of conceit, of standing firmly for my own opinions rather than standing upon God’s truth alone. I have rudely interrupted you in our conversations. I have responded with irritation when I felt unwell or when my plans were diverted and have resented it when I have been inconvenienced.

Not since becoming a follower of Christ have I knowingly rejoiced in wrongdoing, but neither have I always rejoiced in the truth — especially when the truth was one that highlighted my own pride, discontent, or foolishness. I have not always borne all trials with a cheerful and simple faith in my God. I have not always believed the best in others; I have not always  trusted the goodness of God in difficult situations; nor have I endured well the mistreatment, whether genuine or perceived, of others.

In these ways, my sin is against you, my brothers, and against the world for not living a life that accentuates the immeasurable worth, purity, and plentiful provision of my God. However, these sins are most grievously cast against Him, for it is His name that is profaned and His glory that is masked by my failure to share with others the joy of His enduring and undeserved love.  When I complain, it is His rightful praise that is eclipsed by my grumblings.

Ultimately, while He is awakening with me a deeper, more genuine, and passionate love for my fellow believers, it is He Himself who lays claim to my most fervent zeal and adoration. For Him, I will lay down my life if required. I will not compromise the hard-and-fast truths my Savior died for nor disagree with Him on the definition of good or evil in the name of what the world passes off as “love” nor for fear of being branded as “hateful.”

I will love you, friends, whether you know the Lord or not, but I will not bend the truth to placate you. That is not love. I have no wish to share with you a feeble, twisted substitute or mollify you, but for us together to experience His infinite love that looks beyond what is comfortable or fashionable here and now to the eternal welfare of the soul.

In love, I hope that you will join me on this journey of prayerful and Spirit-led searching, of asking the Light of the world to shine into the darkest and most secret places of our hearts, and of agreeing to fling out the refuse when He lovingly exposes it. In love, I hope that we can learn truly to no longer live for ourselves, but for Him, to love one another as He has loved us, and by our lives to set an example of love, faith, and purity.  In love, let us live a life of worship and praise, joyfully proclaiming the steadfast love of our wondrous and merciful God!

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. . . What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. . .
Psalms 116:1-2, 12-13

 

Freedom in Forgiveness

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
Psalms 51:4

**I encourage you to read all of Psalm 51 today before reading further.**

The first time I truly grasped the sentiment penned by David in Psalm 51: 4 was also the first time I tasted the freedom that Christ died to provide.  But first, I experienced a heart-rending grief; the kind of grief that produced repentance, leading me to a salvation without regret (2 Cor. 7:10).

In all honestly, my heart was not crushed until I truly began to fathom Who God is and to love Him.  Naturally, I also had to understand what sin was before I could understand the need to repent. Still, until I truly revered Him, all my understanding of sin was merely intellectual assent. Not until my love for God caused me grief at the damage my sin (even the “tiny,” private ones) did between us did I experience the searing pain of a “broken and contrite heart.”  Once I did, I could share in David’s heart-felt plea: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” (Psalms 51:1).

If my sorrow over sin was crushing because of my love and appreciation for the mercy of God, how much more intense was the joy when I comprehended the forgiveness of God through the sacrifice of the Son! How much more passionately do I now worship Him and how ardent my praise and elation at  the undeserved pardon I have received now that He has made me aware of sin’s cost  — and of His own willingness to pay it!]

What a deterrent that has been to me in my struggles against sin, and how closely do I share David’s sorrow on those sad occasions when I again cloak my heart in deception and take up the deadly ways of the old, worldly self. How strongly I now desire to grow so close to my Lord that the temptations of this world appear stale and tasteless!

As if that priceless freedom from sin borne of a repentant heart wasn’t enough, I also found embedded within the concept a second, almost secret freedom; a freedom in my relationships to others. I found that I was able to forgive more freely not only because of the forgiveness that had been extended to me, but also because of the simple fact that the sin of others has nothing to do with me.

And that, my friends, is where this useful freedom lies. I learned that if sin can be committed against God alone, than I am free to allow God alone to deal with that sin. Even if I am hurt as a consequence, all I need to do is take my pain to God and allow Him to heal it.  I cannot claim retribution for sins committed against me for the simple fact that sin cannot be committed against me.

This does not mean I do not recognize sin: adultery is adultery whether it is in action or thought; lying is lying, thievery is thievery, and so on.   Nor does it mean that I am never hurt by others. However by understanding that if I am stolen from, the sin is actually committed against God, well…  I suppose I find it easier to let go of my grievance when I know that the transgressor is in far more just and stern hands that my own.

At such times,  I now feel sorrow for the transgressor;  now that I can take myself out of the equation, so to speak.  There is no sin which affects me that is worse than any I have committed and afflicted others by; I am a fellow transgressor. And so, instead of anger against a slight, when my mind is rightly focused on the God of my Salvation I find I am freed to pray that the person who hurt me will also experience the grief of their sin, the cleansing pain of repentance, and the joy of being restored to a right relationship with the Almighty God.

Then, perhaps, we can both lift up our voices in praise!