Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 7:2-16
“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. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment!” (2 Corinthians 7:9-11)
The Christian faith is full of paradoxes. What makes Paul happy? What makes us happy? See what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”. How do grief and mourning bring forth joy? And how are we meant to seek true joy anyway?
As Rev. Agus discussed in the first sermon of ‘The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification’ series, true happiness is found in holiness. The utmost joy one can experience is an intimate relationship and beholding of God and His glory. Walking and worshipping God is the highest and ultimately most fulfilling end to which we were created. Thus, holiness is the path to happiness because holiness is the means to a growing relationship with God.
To be holy means to be set apart. Only God is, in essence, holy. Yet, God longs to cultivate holiness in us to separate us from our previous life in sin and bring us to experience the glory of His ways. As such, to pursue holiness means to put off our sinful self, which displeases God and to put on obedience and trust in God’s standards.
Now, what about godly grief?
Godly grief means having a heart that mourns over our sin, leading to repentance. In the world, it is normal to rule grief out as negative emotions we should avoid. However, Jesus teaches us to mourn, and Paul rejoices for the Corinthians’ grief. Learning to have godly grief is something we must learn to cultivate. It means learning to see the sin in our own heart, in our communities, in our world, and have a crushed spirit that turns to repentance. In God’s wondrous ways, repentance always begins with such humility before God, a humility that acknowledges how much we have disobeyed and defiled God’s ways. If you read the Psalms or the book of Lamentations, you will see how godly men mourn before God in godly grief, by which God moulds a humble and penitent heart that returns to Him.
The paradoxical yet wondrous thing is that godly grief leads to repentance and holiness, cultivating true spiritual joy. God works through grief and humility to shape in us new hearts with new fears and longings and zeal. God changes our desires to love and treasure Him above all else. God makes us realise that sin and its consequences which are evident around us, are disgusting and agonising before Him. Through godly grief, God moulds us to be more like Him.
Let us ask God to cultivate godly grief in us so that we may learn to enjoy the truest joy in Him.
Lord, please cultivate in me godly grief. Forgive me, for I am clouded in my sins, unable to see the joys of Your glory. Please create in me a humble and repentant heart. Teach me to mourn over sin so that I may know the priceless glory of holiness. I want to know You and enjoy You, Lord. Forgive my sins and make me holy, that I may enjoy You. In Jesus’ name, amen.