Wednesday, April 6, 2011

good grief

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.
2 Corinthians 7:9

Often the design God has for us is that feeling bad is a good thing. It is the right response. It produces something we really need at the time. Such was the case with the Corinthian church. Upon reception of Paul's first letter, the church was upset and hurt and grieving. It was not over the attitude of Paul or because unkindness was shown them. It was because of recognition of their own sin. This was a grief over sin that led to repentance from sin. In the specifics of the Corinthian church, it meant that they began to confront the immorality they had been tolerating in their midst (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 for the details). They had become a divisive, bickering, immoral bunch. And after careful and loving confrontation, they recognized their wrongness and turned back to Christ. There they found forgiveness. Their grieve over their sins led them to a good place again.

One of the consequences of living in a "feel good" culture today is that it short circuits the beautiful work of repentance. It works against this kind of godly sorrow. We medicate, adjudicate, pay for therapy, or just plain ignore any difficult feelings that emerge from our sinful choices, attitudes, or actions. Having trouble sleeping, tossing and turning over the pain in your relationships? Take Ambien. That's better... Are those relationships getting strained? Just end them. A Facebook "defriending" is just a mouse click away... we are not far from doing that in real life. Worried about your mountain of debt? Go buy the latest and greatest on credit... retail therapy will pull you back. Consumed with an anxiety over the out of control issues in your life? At $150 an hour, your therapist will listen to you... or there is always Oprah's book of the month.

We seldom look at these issues as necessary consequences meant to bring us back. We treat the turmoil in our hearts as the problem. We medicate the symptom rather than get at the root problem. And in so doing, we are missing out on the process God designed to help us change and grow. We should feel where we are hurting and let the Word of God and the Holy Spirit of God probe into our hearts to determine why that pain is so strong. God calls us to get to the heart of the matter, the root of our wrongs, and there to repent and turn to what He shows us is the right way.

Godly sorrow can be good thing because it can get us to the heart of our real issues. And we can emerge from the other side of just such a struggle as a better person, a more Christ-like example, and an example that God can use to help others who need to do the same thing. That is what happened to the Corinthian church. Their repentance serves as a vivid model for what I need to always be ready to do in my own heart when the sorrow and pains of life get my attention.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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