Nothing Wrong with Sorrow
Cyril of Alexandria, Pastor and Confessor
27 June 2018
Grief can be a debilitating power in our lives. The death of an only child can have a devastating effect in the family from which he is taken. Mother and father can be so overwhelmed by sorrow, that they neglect all their human duties toward family, church, and God. Those who are grieved can lose their sense of duty, and through grieving lose their job, alienate their spouse, and offend their family members. Some pull out their own hair or scratch and physically deface themselves as expressions of their sadness. While there may be ample cause for such acts of grieving, eventually we come to regret such extravagant sorrow. Such sorrow holds no benefit for those who are grieving, nor for those over whom we grieve. The most extravagant grief has not the power of resurrection. That remains in the hands of the Lord Christ, as also the call into His presence by death. Such radical expressions of grief do no good and we come to regret them.
 
There is one grief we should never come to regret. Our sorrow over sin is never to be regretted. Our sin is an offense and insult to God's majesty. This should cause us deep sorrow. This is such a serious offense that the writer to the Hebrews describes defection from the faith "crucifying once again the Son of God" (Heb 6:6). Even if our sin is inadvertent, it still is hurtful to others and to God, and should lead us to sorrow, for every sin could lead to defection from the faith. Nor are we talking about the sorrow of the child who gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar. The sorrow, which is true repentance, is never sorrow over being discovered in a crime. That is only regret, not true sorrow.
 
The Bible's teaching of repentance is that it is a gift from God. Those who repent truly trust the forgiveness of Christ by His blood and merit. When we repent the confidence to believe we are sinners is also the Spirit-given faith to believe that poor sinners like us are received into the gracious arms of Christ for the remission of all our sins. Godly sorrow is always a sorrow that is Christological. This is no surprise because all we believe is related to and oriented toward Christ. Every Christian teaching truly entails the person and work of Christ. What does not should not be believed. Sorrow over sin without trust in the Propitiator is not godly sorrow, but only fruitless grief, like scratching our face in sorrow despite Christ.
 
Christ comes to those who suffer because of their offenses and offers them freedom. Faith believes that offer. He has been pierced through because of our sorrows in His own body, long ago winning through to the salvation that sinners received by faith. He suffered sorrow when His Father rejected Him on the cross, and the hatred of His own people, who would not know Him. And all that we would not be overwhelmed by sorrow, but through godly sorrow lifted to His grace. There is nothing wrong with the right kind of sorrow. "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death" (2Co 7:10). 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"Paul is saying, 'I did regret before I saw the fruit and the gain. Now, however, I have no regret because of the great gain.' For such a thing is godly sorrow. Then he considers it, showing that sorrow is not in all cases a grievous thing, but only when it is worldly. And what is worldly? If you have sorrow because of money, reputation, over a deceased friend or relative, all these are worldly. Therefore, they also work death. For he that is in sorrow for reputation's sake feels envy and is sometimes driven to death. This was the sorrow that Cain sorrowed, and Esau. By this worldly sorrow Paul means the sorrow that harms those who sorrow.
 
"Only in respect to sin is sorrow a profitable thing. He who sorrows for loss of wealth does not repair that damage. He who sorrows for one who died raises not the dead to life again. He who sorrows over a sickness, not only is not made well but even aggravates the disease. He who sorrows over sin alone attains some advantage from his sorrow, for he makes his sins wane and disappear. For since the medicine has been prepared for sin, only in this case is it potent and displays its profitableness, but in the other cases it is even injurious. Yet someone may argue, 'Cain sorrowed because he was not accepted by God.' No, but rather because he saw his brother glorious in honor. For had Cain grieved because He was not accepted by God, it would have been right for him to emulate and rejoice with Abel. Instead, as it was, he grieved for his lack of glory, showing his worldly sorrow. Not so with David, nor Peter, nor any of the righteous. Therefore, they were accepted, when they were grieving either over their own sins or those of others.
 
"What is more oppressive than sorrow? Still when it is godly, it is better than worldly joy. For worldly joy indeed ends in nothing; but godly sorrow 'works repentance unto salvation, a salvation that brings no regret.' For what is admirable in worldly sorrow is that one who had thus sorrowed would repent. This is an outstanding characteristic of worldly sorrow. For what is more regretted than a son who dies? And what is a heavier grief than a death of this sort? However, a father who at the height of his grief cares for no one and who wildly beats himself, after a time repents because he has grieved too extravagantly. He realizes that he has not benefitted himself, but, through it, even added to his affliction. But godly sorrow is not like this.
 
"Godly sorrow possesses two advantages, that of not being condemned in what a man grieves over, and that this sorrow ends in salvation. Both of these advantages are not present in worldly sorrow. Worldly sorrow is unto harm and after those who have sorrowed vehemently condemn themselves, they bring forth the greatest sign of having done it unto harm. But godly sorrow is the reverse [of this]. Therefore, Paul said, 'it leads to salvation without regret.' For no one will condemn himself if he has sorrowed for sin, if he has mourned and afflicted himself. Paul did not need to offer from other sources the proof of what he said, nor to bring forth those in the old histories who, sorrowed, but he offered the Corinthians themselves and furnished his proof from what they had done; that along with praises he might both instruct them and thus win them back to himself."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on 2 Corinthians, 15.2
 2 Corinthians
7:8-16
  
If I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it- though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 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. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Therefore we are comforted.
 
And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. I rejoice, because I have perfect confidence in you. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus, lead me by Your Spirit to sorrow over sin, so that I might appropriate Your mercy with faith and confidence in Your grace. Rescue me from hard-heartedness by the hammer blows of Your law and free me from despair through Your Word of forgiveness. Send messengers endowed with that Word and the wisdom to speak peace when my heart is troubled, that I might have a godly sorrow. Amen.
 
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that the Lord Christ would be with him, granting him confidence in God's grace
 
For all who care for those who are gravely ill or in hospice care, that they might speak for Christ to those who will soon be taken from this life
 
For all police and all first responders, that they would find honor and productivity in their callings
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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