What Is Godly Grief?

Queen Elizabeth once said “Grief is the price we pay for love.” And that is true, in part, but not the whole picture. In fact, I’m convinced in our modern world of therapy and “positive thinking” we run the risk of falling into the false notion that we should never “feel” bad or sad. And that mistaken way of thinking always leads to disaster as we never learn how to grieve well. We don’t avoid grief; that’s not possible. We just do it so badly that it harms us instead of leading us to joy, as good grief always does!

Look at our Lesson today in 2 Corinthians 7:1-10:

Brethren, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.

Open your hearts to us; we have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. I have great confidence in you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. With all our affliction, I am overjoyed.

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest but we were afflicted at every turn –fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it (though I did regret it), for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 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 and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.

Paul tries to help these Corinthians to see there are two types of grief: Good Grief – the grief that leads to real repentance; and Bad Grief – the grief that makes me more insular, isolated, and trapped in the death spiral of my own selfishness. The key difference is in how we accept correction! And that depends on who we truly love – God or ourselves! Paul sees the Corinthians grieving over his correction of them and grief always implies a loss, but sometimes loss, while painful, is necessary!

The Good Grief flowed from the folks who heard the counsel of St. Paul and repented of their errors. The Bad Grief was revealed in the hearts and actions of those too stubborn to repent. St. Paul says the Bad Grief leads to death.

But that’s the way of any correction we humans face. If we choose to hear the correction of our thoughts, actions, and attitudes as “medicine” to heal us then we wisely embrace the correction and are spiritually healed. We are humble enough to entertain the thought that we just may be wrong and in need of repentance. That attitude of humility sets us free to actually deal with the spiritual illnesses that handicap our everyday lives, wound our relationships, cloud our judgement, and retard our growth! Good Grief leads to “metania” and that is much more than mere sorrow for wrong actions or words. True “metania” (repentance) means a taking to heart and mind wisdom that leads to a corrected pattern of life!

The other option St. Paul warns us about is “worldly grief” and that’s the grief that can’t see past the effects the loss has on a person. I’m unhappy because of this loss or this correction and that makes me sad, so things must be bad! It is a self focused grief that leads to the slavery of selfishness and that turned inward attitude leads to a death of sorts, the death of the possibility of joy or healing.

Today, do you know how to have “godly grief” or is your life stuck in a “worldly grief” that leaves your life paralysed by pain? Good Grief will always lead to healing and wholeness and that is always the result of a lifestyle of repentance that isn’t gripped by shame, but energized by love. Let the Faith teach you how to Grieve well and be Orthodox on Purpose.

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