Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. ~ 2 Corinthians 7:10
While on the family farm in my teens, it was custom each year during springtime and once again in the fall for a group of about five or more of us to herd (without horses) about 70 cows from the barn to the pasture.
As the crow flies it was about half of a mile journey that led through large open fields surrounded by rugged overgrown bush. Our final destination was a fenced, lush pasture organically grown by God himself to be the herd’s haven from late spring until early fall.
Now you have to understand that cows do not understand straight lines. Simply put, cows are not crows. What is half a mile by the crow is five plus miles by the cow! You could always count on one or more to veer off course leading to long, winded chases before bringing them back around.
I recall one spring this was exactly the case. A strong willed heifer ran away from the herd. While the others kept the herd on course, I went off after her across the vast open field until she continued right into the dense bush. The bush, as well as her fatigue slowed her down where I could get close enough to use a long stick to help persuade her back toward pasture. Though she didn’t like the pain, she yielded to the sting of the stick and it was for her very best interest.
When Paul wrote his second letter to the believers at Corinth many had veered away from God’s path. Paul pursued them with great intensity and endurance even in the dense bush of thick opposition. Paul’s motivation was not about vindicating himself from the fiery darts of false accusations. Nor was it his desire to use this as an opportunity to lash back in retribution toward these troublesome folks.
Paul simply loved the Corinthians too much not to pursue them. He knew that God loved them even more. They were too precious not to tell them the truth. Paul used the sting of rebuke to move these struggling believers to repentance and help them get back on track toward the destination God had for them.
At times we all are like wayward cows who must be corralled back to the path. Often times we get so strong willed and stubborn in our own way that the Lord has to use the sting of pain and sorrow to bring us back to His way rather than our own.
Sometimes it is in the form of a rebuke like in the Paul’s situation, other times God works through painful circumstances and sorrowful loss. These life stings whatever they might be can make us bitter or they can make us better. God wants them to make us better. This was especially Paul’s heart in his letter to the Corinthians.
Have you ever thought about the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow?
Worldly sorrow is where we allow our pain to lead us to self-pity. This is where our sorrow points us inward. Godly sorrow is where we allow our pain to lead us back to God. It is when sorrow points us upward. If we stay our own course in worldly sorrow it can lead to many regrets as we aren’t be able to think and act clearly nor seek out the divine help we need. But if we get back on God’s course in response to loving rebuke in godly sorrow it will lead to life and the grand destination God wants to take us to with no regrets.