(2 Corinthians 7:5-11)
One of the guarantees of this life is that there will be troubles. We will suffer afflictions that cause us to grieve that are both internally and externally generated. External events can cause us grief, such as the loss of a loved one, and we can cause grief within ourselves through stress, worry and anxiety.
But there are two types of grief as we see explained in this section of scripture. There is worldly grief and there is a godly grief, and the outcomes of each of these is quite different.
Likewise, in Christ we have a comfort that is not available to the unbelievers of this world. People who are suffering seek comfort because they want the suffering to cease. But the comfort that comes through the knowledge of Jesus Christ goes deeper than any comfort that the world can give.
Grief and Godly Grief
Grief is the outcome caused by loss. It can be the loss of anything that is important to us. It may be the loss of a loved one, a pet, a job, an opportunity, a friendship, or any other loss that is important in the mind of the one who loses it.
But there are two types of grief, especially when the loss relates to sin.
Worldly grief will drive a person down into the depths of despair from which there appears no way to recover. Psychologists and other health professionals have made careers from studying the process of grief and the outcomes, but even so they recognise that sometimes people never come out of their states of grief.
Some people who have had great losses in things like disasters go through the stages of grief and get stuck in the process of grieving. They never come out and it affects their whole lives. They die within and can find no way to return to the living world as they remain in misery. Some fall so far and so hard that they commit suicide, believing that is the only way out.
However, for those in Christ there is a different process. In Christ, especially where sin may have occurred, there can be a different grief: a Godly grief.
Godly grief does not end in sorrow but instead leads a person to repentance and the desire to overcome. They do not wallow in sorrow, but are sorry and seek out the Lord to restore them through repenting of the issue.
In disaster situations that cause grief, Christians also understand that there is a future. They know that in Christ there is a time of restoration and refreshing that is coming and all is not lost. And so they are lifted up out of grief as they repent and seek the Lord.
So what is the difference between these two types of grief?
Worldly grief centres the mind of the person on themselves. They go into themselves and cannot find a way forward. But Godly grief is centred on Christ and looks to the Lord for resolution.
The normal response to those who are suffering grief is to offer comfort. The aim is that the person grieving will be comforted and be able to get through the problem they are suffering.
Again there are two types of comfort, that which is from a worldly perspective and a comfort focused on God.
There is a level of comfort (using that term loosely) that people offer that is no comfort at all. So many times we hear people say to those who are suffering to “just get over it.” This is no help at all because for some people the ability to work through suffering and grief is a slow and lengthy process. It is especially difficult for unbelievers because they have no-one to turn to who truly understands and can guide them through the turbulent waters of grieving.
But in Christ, a Christian has the comfort of Jesus Christ. They have the power of prayer to go to the Lord and seek comfort. They have the support of like-minded Christians who can also lift the sufferer up in prayer and seek the best for them.
The comfort of Christ is not just about getting over the situation. God’s comfort is future focused and looks forward in Christ to a better time. It recognises that the person is suffering and also offers spiritual as well as physical support. The Christian knows and understands that whatever happens in this world is only temporary and that the true life we are working towards is the eternal life we have promised through Jesus Christ. And knowing this, we take comfort because a better life awaits.
In the end, we will all suffer grief in this life. But we do not have to remain in grief if we look to Christ. We can and will go through suffering, but again, in Christ we have the guarantee that we will not only get through it, but come out stronger on the other side. All we need to do is remember to look to Jesus in all things and put all of our issues in His hands.
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