2 Corinthians 7:9-10
9 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. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (ESV)
Paul is writing to a church here…that is important to remember. Repentance must be a part of spiritual maturity. It is an integral part of the daily walk of the believer. It is a time when we are forced to come face to face with our failures and fall onto the strength of God’s forgiveness. If we don’t allow repentance to be a perpetual part of us the obvious implication is that we no longer have need of the cross…this is a dangerous place to be.
But Paul talks about a subtle danger in the life of repentance in this passage. Basically he acknowledges the junky way that we feel when we are under conviction, like our spirit just ate horrible Thai food…you could three-letter-acronym it like this: P.D.G.: “post disobedience guilt”. He calls this feeling “sorrow”. Paul goes on to say there are two types of P.D.G. but you only find out which you suffered from in hind-sight.
First there is “godly sorrow”. This is the process: sin – conviction – confession – repentance. Godly grief is marked by a recognition of wrong and a cognizant commitment to turning away from the action of rebellion.
Second is “worldly sorrow”. This phenomenon is marked by a lack of action in the wake of the guilt. Basically, the P.D.G. leads nowhere.
In his book I Surrender, Patrick Morely writes that the church’s integrity problem is in the misconception “that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior.” He goes on to say, “It is revival without reformation, without repentance.” – Charles Swindoll
And in the thought process Paul is simply playing out the obvious at the end. If you have guilt from “bad” behavior and you have no hope for reconciling the guilt or hope for a heart change that will lead to decision changes then the guilt turns into an emotional / spiritual cancer in our souls. Worldly sorrow has nowhere to go but the grave. Godly sorrow knows Someone who has already taken that guilt to the grave…and then came back victorious.
It could be boiled down in this way: worldly sorrow paralyzes the soul and brings atrophy to the spirit; godly sorrow is marked by movement…running to the cross and to the throne of grace, then finding vicarious strength to continue the process of salvation / sanctification.