A Tale of Two Responses: Worldy Grief vs. Godly Grief

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

Our response when we are confronted with our transgressions reveals whether we have worldly grief or godly grief. John the Baptist exhorted the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). That is, turn from your sin and do the things which reflect a repentant heart. Thomas Watson writes, “Repentance is a grace of God’s Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed.”


Not long ago my husband and I had a weekend that would make for great reading in parenting books. Multiple children required discipline for sinning against someone else, but the contrasting responses from two of our children in particular clearly displayed biblical truth.

The weekend looked like this: One child faced the consequences of speaking unkind words and name-calling: When your words are not sweet, you deserve no treat (no sweets of any kind for the rest of that day). His brother had faced the same exact consequence the previous day, but the stakes were higher on this day—there were two parties to attend where the sweets would be plentiful. When he realized he was attending two parties and could have no sweets, he became angry. Instead of repenting, he justified his unkind words toward his sibling. He compared his offense with the one his brother committed the day before, arguing that his consequences were unfair because his brother only missed dessert for one day, he was missing dessert at two parties. There was no remorse for his unkind words and no consideration for the sibling he hurt. I grieved over the condition of his heart.

The following day, another child broke a friend’s toy. He was prodded by other friends to pull the head off of a toy and he acquiesced. When I sat him down to talk about what happened, I explained that following Jesus means doing the right thing even if others are encouraging you to do what you know is wrong. I explained that he sinned against God because was not loving his neighbor as God commands and he was not being an example of Christ. His countenance fell with those words. There was a change in his demeanor brought about by the Spirit. He quietly said, “When I did it, I didn’t think about that. I’m so sorry. I don’t want to sin against God.” He displayed a soft heart that desired to honor the Lord. His consequence was that he would have to help pay to replace the toy. I told him the cost of the replacement was $21; he could give $10 or $15 from his piggy bank. I would let him decide what he felt was appropriate. He ran to his room and came back with $20—everything he had.

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