In an earlier post, I asked you to think about biblical stories of godly sorrow. You’ll remember that godly sorrow can be defined as grieving over another’s sin and desiring their repentance. It most often includes giving grace and mercy to the person who doesn’t deserve it. They have hurt us. Or they have sinned and the consequences ripple into other people’s lives, especially our own. We want to hammer back in some way to force them to see their sin. We might even dream of them admitting they are wrong and tearfully asking for our forgiveness. We want to be vindicated.
But that’s not godly sorrow and when we respond with godly sorrow we are being like Jesus who gives grace and mercy when we don’t deserve it. Obviously, salvation only comes when we repent and acknowledge our sin. But God does so many loving things for us that we don’t deserve and He grieves over our sin because He knows it’s not good for us.
So besides God, who else in the Bible expressed godly sorrow? One example is David. Remember the story? King Saul had been pursuing David and had every intention of killing him. Saul felt threatened by David and nothing would dissuade him from wanting to harm David. In I Samuel 24, David and his men were in a cave and guess who comes into the dark recesses of the cave to “relieve himself.” Talk about a perfect opportunity. Even David’s men encouraged him to kill Saul saying it’s was God’s open door for revenge. But David only cut off a piece of Saul’s robe and refused to harm God’s anointed. David trusted that God would take care of his call to the Kingship in God’s timing. Such trust!
When Saul realizes what happened, he says to David, “You are more righteous than I; for you have dealt well with me, while I have dealt wickedly with you. You have declared today that you have done good to me, that the LORD delivered me into your hand and yet you did not kill me.” (verses 17-18 NASB).
In this case, David was acknowledged as righteous although it was short-lived. Saul quickly turned from his repentance and again sought to kill David. But David’s godly sorrow and resulting grace and mercy are a good example for us. Even when it seems the “perfect opportunity” for revenge is handed to us, the Lord says in Romans 12:19 to not take revenge. When we have godly sorrow, we trust like David did, that God will do the work if the other person will cooperate with Him.
Another example is Jesus in dealing with the Pharisees who didn’t want Him to heal the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:1-6). Verse 5 says, “After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’” Jesus had godly sorrow. Oh, how He longed for them to resist their picky ways which left out God’s grace.
How about Ruth? Naomi, her mother-in-law, was a pitifully depressed person. Although Ruth wasn’t being sinned against by Naomi, certainly Ruth would have liked to be around a cheerful person who wasn’t self-absorbed and requiring so much care. In our fleshly ways, it would be easy to say to such a person, “Just stop it! You’re making me depressed! Start thinking about my needs for once!”
But Ruth didn’t require anything from Naomi that Naomi couldn’t give. She clung to her and identified with her–Naomi’s God would be Ruth’s God, even though Naomi wasn’t representing her God very well. Ruth was gracious and loving. She served Naomi by working and bringing in the bacon after they reached Bethlehem. And in time, Ruth was honored and Naomi rose out of her depression. Ruth must have been sad that Naomi was sad but she didn’t respond in frustration.
I’m sure there are other examples. Those are the obvious ones. I don’t know about you but these examples challenge me to grieve over another’s sin for it is hurting them. I can choose to love them well by not taking personally their lack of trust in God. It’s really all about God, not me! And He is better at moving in their hearts than me. I think I’ll let Him. Wanna join me?