Godly Grief

Posted on June 6, 2013 | 28 comments

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. – 2 Corinthians 7:10

As Paul is writing to the Corinthian church, he distinguishes between two types of grief – or sorrow depending upon what translation you are enjoying – godly and worldly. Each is a different experience of the spiritual life.

Worldly grief is the sorrow produced by not getting what we want. It is experiencing the failure of our attempt to create wholeness apart from God. Worldly grief is a product of a false self deprived of a needed source of value and thus we have our shame uncovered.

Godly grief is quite the opposite. It is grief of the soul, for having created the false self and believed the lies that draw our attention away from God’s truth. Godly grief is an acknowledgement of our brokenness and our inability to produce wholeness apart from God.

There is a lot to this contrast of worldly grief versus godly grief that Paul brings forth. Here are a few implications for our spiritual lives in Christ.

Worldly grief looks outward while godly grief looks inward.

Worldly grief from comparison (see What Comparison Does) used to gain a sense of significance. In the standards of the world, my answers to the identity questions “what do I do?”, “what do I have?”, and “what do people think of me?” must be better than your answers. So, whatever foundation my identity is based on (appearance, wealth, relationship, etc.), I must continually look outward to know my place.

Godly grief is a product of examining our own self (see Afraid to Examine Ourselves). In our weakness we are thrust into the arms of Jesus. Accepting His truth about who we are and what we are created to be. Our sense of significance – our identity – is found in Christ.

Worldly grief regrets while godly grief repents.

As worldly grief looks backward, it longs for missed opportunities and second chances. Hindsight is 20/20, or so the saying goes, and the false self sees missed opportunities as missed chances for increased security, control, and acceptance.

Godly grief looks forward to restoration. Jesus is not a standard of behavior to be imitated, but a picture of our restored image, of what God intended for us. As we look to Jesus, the one compelled by godly grief surrenders to the Author of Life. Because our identity is gifted to us and is unchanging in Christ, repenting from our sins does not detract from our value.

Worldly grief resents while godly grief forgives.

Because another’s success means the false self has further to climb, worldly grief is one of resentment. It covets and quarrels, wanting more to maintain significance.

Because brokenness is a universal human reality, godly grief is able to forgive. Even more, godly grief is able to receive forgiveness. Understanding that it was never God’s intent that we maintain our own righteousness, but come under His covering.

This latter point is particularly tricky because the old lies and comfortable protective strategies do  fight against us.

Finally, worldly grief produces death while godly grief produces freedom.

Death is produced by striving. Continuing to try harder and harder to seek the wholeness apart from God that the world promises. It is desolate, lonely, and longing to rest. Ultimately, an identity outside of Christ produces a life that God does not know.

Godly grief results in freedom from the standards of the world. Identity – sense of self, source of significance and value – secure in Christ.

Truth sets you free by overcoming the lies that bind. Choosing to trust.

What other contrasts between worldly and godly grief do you experience?

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  1. grief comes in so many shades and sizes as we move through this life. thankfully, He doesn’t change and is oh-so-present for us through it all …

  2. Oh, that we could all learn to walk in Godly grief!! Loved all of your bullet points. Excellent post!

  3. Stopping by through FMF. This summer marks the second anniversary of my grandma’s passing, grief is anguishing and I praise Jesus for his comfort! Did you follow the word prompt though? I didn’t see the connection with the word “fall.” Nonetheless, keep writing about the Lord! He is worthy!

  4. I am so thankful you were back again this week to link up with us at One Sharendipity Place. I wanted so much to feature you last week. I’m certain you will be featured this week, for we want others to learn about your site!

    God bless, sue

    • Thank you so much for your kindness!

  5. And godly grief is honest and transparent and worldly grief is “poor me!” Thanks so much for linking up to the “Making Your Home Sing Monday” linky party today! 🙂

  6. Death versus freedom. Those are such huge differences indeed. I want freedom! Godly grief is the way to go. Thanks for sharing these.

  7. I’m so glad you compared these, Scott. I think it is easy to believe that you are experiencing and expressing “Godly Grief” when you are actually experiencing and expressing “Worldly Grief.” But you’ve made it clear that there is a vast difference between the two. God is working on me and getting me closer to a regular expression of “Godly Grief,” but I still have a long way to go! Thanks for your great insight, as always!

  8. worldly grief is just making us sin more, godly grief is obeying God and He commands me to love and serve without any conditions. Set your eyes on the Lord and receive everything He has already given you. Then rejoice and be glad for this is the day that the Lord hath made!

    Visiting you from the Happy Wives Club Link Up.

  9. Yes, godly grief and repentance are like two sides of the same coin! It leads us to admitting that we cannot; only our lord Jesus can. This is a truly humbling, yet so rewarding experience when we can stop pretending.
    Great post, thanks.

  10. Yes, I’m filled with grief nearly every day… mostly b/c I see the direction the world is going and even how the Christians are making un-godly choices. Not that I’m perfect, but God prods and pokes me until I pay attention to HIS Word and HIS heart… not the heart of the cultural world. ALSO, however, am filled with joy, b/c of HIM!

  11. When my father passed away, everyone at the funeral was amazed that none of his 6 children cried. Not that we weren’t sad, or didn’t miss him, but he taught us to celebrate life on the other side and to send a person you love Home with joy. Just a few months later, our grandmother died and so many expected us to fall apart. But again, we were just grateful for the full life she got a chance to live here and we celebrated her transition from here to the next life.

  12. Just wanted you to know that we loved this post and are going to be featuring it this weekend at ONE Sharendipity PL.
    Have a great week!

    • Thanks so much! Can’t wait to stop by.

  13. Amazing post and insight! Thank you so much for linking up with my blog. I do the Counting Our Blessing link up every Tuesday, so please come by and link up again. I know my readers will be totally blessed by your blog and your thoughts.

    Many blessings – Julie

  14. Great post! Godly sorrow always results in us being drawn to God. It is a sorrow that does not harm us in any way but brings life through His grace & forgiveness. Thank you for sharing this.I visited from A Wise Woman.

  15. “Worldly grief resents while godly grief forgives.”
    This is huge.

  16. What a beautifully honest post. I am sure I’ll be back to read it again,it will be a great reminder..

  17. Thanks for Linking up at Thrilling Thursday again Scott! I love that you connected grief to identity . . . I don’t think I’d thought of it that way before. My Contrast: Godly grief aches over the things that break God’s heart- seeing it from God’s perspective causes humility unto repentance and a willingness to submit to his plan from that point forward- forgiveness and obedience to his will. Worldly grief sees only our own perspective- it adversely effects me. What I lose with no trust that God has the future and my back- so it produces scheming to advance myself in the world apart from trusting Jesus or it produces the opposite end of no trust in Jesus- depression that gives up and wallows in self pity. Either direction produces a person dead in their trespasses and sins and a person who stinks of death to others around them and to God. Godly produces a person who is filled with life- life others drink in like roses and is a sweet smelling savor to God.

    • Well said! Thank you for adding value to this post.

  18. This is an excellent teaching – I’ll be sharing it. Have a blessed day 🙂

  19. Hi – found you from Katherine’s Thursday Favorite Things. I have never heard the word Godly Grief. Thank you for sharing theses truths . I am bookmarking this so I can have it as a resource and intend to follow your blog.

    • Thank you so much. I hope to hear from you again. God bless.

  20. Good points! Thanks for linking up to Thrive @ Home. 🙂

  21. I’d never really stopped to think about the differences before. Thanks for this.

  22. This is EXCELLENT! Truly a perspective we all need to consider! Thank you! I am featuring this on the link up at Walking Redeemed!


  1. Wednesday Link Party - [...] consistently pumps out extraordinary inspiration and encouragement!  This post entitled, Godly Grief, is absolutely no [...]
  2. One Sharendipity Place ~ Link-up #6 | One Sharendipity Place - [...] 5.) Choosing To Trust is another blog I’ve wanted to highlight! https://choosetotrust.com/2013/06/godly-grief/#.UbkLRLQaOR4 [...]

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