“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” — 2 Corinthians 7:10
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of “worldly sorrow” among professing Christians. Sometimes men in jail have cried and made a commitment to Jesus, only to go back to their old ways soon after their release. I’ve known of couples facing the tragedy of a broken home who have tearfully confessed their wrongs and asked God to help them. Their conduct changed for a few months, but gradually they reverted to their former ways. These people apparently never truly repented. Their sorrow for sin was totally self-centered.
The sorrow we feel when we suffer the consequences of our sins is an accurate barometer of our spiritual condition. If we, like King Saul, feel bad about our sin only because of the humiliation and pain it is bringing us, we can conclude that we are not in close touch with God. On the other hand, if we are distressed primarily because we feel we’ve let God down or caused Him grief, we can be encouraged that we have the right kind of sorrow.
Do we feel bad about our sins only when they’ve gotten us in trouble? This is what Paul called the “sorrow of the world.” Or do we grieve even over our sinful thoughts, things only known to God? Repentance not only says, “I’m sorry,” but “I’m through!” This is the “godly sorrow” that leads to repentance and the fullest experience of God’s salvation.