What is the difference between sorrow and despair?
Most people don’t know the difference. The difference is hope. Sorrow is a state we pass through. Despair is a place we make a home in. We should do the former and avoid the latter as much as possible. If we claim the name of Jesus, we have been born again to a living hope. This means that we should not despair, even when we might feel there are reasons to. We have to reorient our minds and hearts to hold onto the promises of God in Christ.
As Christians, sorrow is a critical part of our lives. There are three reasons for this.
1. Godly sorrow brings about repentance.
Paul says that the byproduct of godly sorrow is repentance. If we are going to be faithful Christians, then we must live a life that is in line with our repentance. We are not constantly repenting for salvation, but for a lack of obedience.
Salvation is a gift, one that can never be revoked. However, our obedience is constantly being challenged. We have to strive for deeper and lasting obedience every day.
2. Godly sorrow cultivates compassion.
When we have been transformed by the grace of God, we are given a new heart. With this new heart, we are called to see the world through new eyes. It is in this new “seeing” that we become aware of God’s love for his creation. Compassion is a something we have to work at. It does not come naturally to most of us because we are instinctively selfish.
Our sorrow over our sin helps us to see the needs of others in theirs. As our sensitivity to this reality increases, so will our compassion. Compassion is the sacrifice we make to enter into the sorrow of others. It will be costly and it may even hurt.
3. Godly sorrow promotes a humble spirit.
Repentance and compassion are two vital fruits of godly sorrow. But, this last one is key to continued growth in the purposes of God for our lives. Humility is difficult, not because we don’t want it. Humility is difficult because we don’t often like what we get.
Humility many times looks like being taken advantage of. Humility often times looks like being a pushover. Humility many times looks like being old-fashioned. But, humility does not seek to be right all the time or to defeat others. Humility is a disposition of the inner spirit, that no longers seeks or finds satisfaction in what the world champions.
When we understand the nature of our sin through repentance; and when we see the state of affairs of the world with compassion, then we can live in humility. The first two create the conditions for humility to flourish in our lives.
Surrender to God in repentance.
See the world with the love of God in compassion.
Live humbly before God.