The Holy Bible clearly explains there are different kinds of sorrow. It is important that we understand the right kind of sorrow, which leads to repentance, change of heart and mind. We read in 2Corinth 7:10 “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death which means spiritual death, physical death and eternal death in hell.”

Most of us would say, “I’m sorry,” to a person when we accidentally do something wrong. Most of us would show sorrow when we hear the sad news about the death of a person of our loved one, and we would really feel for that person. In both cases, being sorry can truly be from the heart. But, even so, is this the kind of sorrow God is looking for when it comes to repentance? We read in Proverbs 15:13, “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken”. A cheerful countenance is simply an outward expression of being happy. It’s a reaction to an inward physical emotion. The spirit can be broken by the sorrow of the heart. The heart of a man describes the mind and the thinking of a person.

So the Bible clearly teaches us that there is a sorrow that is according to the will of God. What does this sorrow look like? Well it first produces repentance, which leads to salvation. Repentance is the act by which we realize we have offended a Holy and Righteous God so we turn from our sins, begging God for forgiveness and we turn to Him and His ways. Repentance is always focused on our sin’s offensive attack on God and our desire to make that right. That focus is what separates godly sorrow from worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow is repentance over sin, repentance over offending and hurting God. Worldly sorrow is focused on us, it is feeling guilty because we got caught by cheating someone, by killing someone, by not doing the right thing to someone, by betraying someone, because someone is going to think less of us or differently than the image we want to cast of ourselves. It is a sorrow that is focused totally on our hurt, on how we have been offended and not treated fairly. Godly sorrow however ignores the offense of self and instead focuses on how God has been offended. Godly sorrow leads us to such a strong desire to make our sin right and to receive forgiveness from God that we commit to salvation with no regrets. forsaking self and our old way of life quickly without any regrets and choose to follow Christ, because we have realized just how horrible our offense against God was and horrible His justice against that sin will be, the good news is that Jesus Christ received that horrible punishment on the cross for me, for you and for all the people of this world (John 1:29).

What are the qualities of godly sorrow?

“It’s important to note that while regret is an aspect of true repentance, the emotion of sorrow in and of itself is not repentance. Godly sorrow leads to a change in our thinking, our actions and our lives. It puts us in the right attitude so we can repent. Worldly sorrow is concerned more with the punishment or consequences. Godly sorrow is concerned more with the willingness to change our life.

If a child is doing something wrong and a parent corrects him, the child may experience regret because of hurt feelings or because he could not do what he wanted to do. It’s not until we have the right kind of sorrow that we can begin to see that what we are doing is truly wrong. Having a right kind of sorrow will lead a person to a changed heart. God can then grant that person repentance.

Why does worldly sorrow produce death?

When a person has sinned and is suffering the consequences of his decisions, he may experience a natural, worldly sorrow. For instance, if a person drinks too much alcohol and is arrested for driving under the influence, and then wakes up in jail, he may be distressed or embarrassed. He may wish he wasn’t dealing with the discomfort of a hangover or be troubled that he endangered the lives of others. But then he may turn around and do the same thing again the next weekend. Once he is out of jail, no longer experiencing physical discomfort, he may give little thought to what he did. This kind of regret is temporary—it doesn’t lead to a change in thinking or behaviour!

In a spiritual sense, if a person does not repent of sin, then he is still living in sin, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The penalty of sin—death—is still over him; and his worldly, temporary sorrow will not lead him to lasting change. We read in Luke 16:22 onwards the rich man lived the way he wanted not the way God wanted. The result of his ungodly life led him to spiritual death when he was alive (Isa 59:2), then physical death (Rev 14:13), then death in hell (Rev 20:14-15).

Godly sorrow will lead to a new heart

God warned Israel in Ezekiel 18:30-31, Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,’ says the Lord GOD. ‘Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions, which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?’

God wanted a “new heart” in the people of Israel. He wanted to see them change and follow Him. He desires the same for you and me today. However, humanity is not prone to have godly sorrow. Jesus said, “What comes out of a man that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:20-23). These are the natural tendencies of man or “the works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21). But when a person experiences godly sorrow, leading him to repentance and change, then God can give His Holy Spirit to the person. This creates a new heart that can begin to produce the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). In case of prodigal son we read in Luke 15:11 onwards, Godly sorrow led him to repentance, confession and a change in thinking and his behaviour which helped him to get back all his lost blessings.

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a bright future,

I always thought I was a very good person and whatever I did is all good, but one day as I was in my room at about 3.00pm in the afternoon Jesus appeared before me, I was shocked and surprised no words to tell or talk at that moment Jesus anointed me with His Holy Spirit and asked me to read the Holy Bible, it was a great wonderful and Divine encounter with Jesus which I never expected in my life to happen, after completing reading the Bible within 19 days I came to know that I was the worst sinner in this world and Godly sorrow totally changed my life. As I already mentioned that salvation changes our attitude towards sin and it is made even clearer to me after I experienced salvation. I just did not think sin is wrong because it is written in the Bible, nor I developed a hatred for sin. Even as we continue to struggle in our lives and commit sins we are to find ourselves hating those sins by the help of the Holy Spirit, not keeping them around as pet sins, small sins, and natural sins etc SIN is SIN weather big or small. We are to hate sin because God hates sin, because it is that very sin, the specific one that we just committed that called the King of Heaven to come down and die on a cross. It is our sin that killed the Son of God Lord Jesus Christ and therefore any friendship with sin is simply treason against our Heavenly father the High King.

The first fruit or evidence that one has experienced and responded to godly sorrow over sin is earnestness in the life of one who believes in Jesus. Earnestness simply means to eagerly and aggressively pursue righteousness. It is a total change of attitude about sin. No longer is it seen as something that is justifiable or acceptable but rather our desire is to stay as far away from it as possible and to make every effort to purse righteousness. Our hearts desire is not to see how close to sin we can get without crossing the line but how close to Christ we can get. A person that has truly experienced the godly sorrow that leads to repentance and salvation has a genuine desire to grow in personal righteousness and to be more and more melded into the image of Christ. The person who has experienced godly sorrow instead wants that sin cleansed from his life, he wants it as far gone as the east is from the west and the only way to do that is to bring it before God and repent of it. St Monica’s son Augustine became St Augustine because of godly sorrow; Judas hanged himself by betraying Jesus because of worldly sorrow.

The result of godly sorrow is a changed heart, and it will lead us to a new life—and eventually eternal life. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation”(2 Corinthians 7:10).

Dr. Jayaanand