Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. – 2 Corinthians 7:8-10
Paul, in his second letter to the church in Corinth expressed a mixture of regret over his reprimand of the church in his previous letter. As Paul does many times, he had heard about rampant sin that was going on in the church at that time, and responded by sending a letter, directly calling out specific sins that were taking place in the church. Thankfully, we see a resolution to these reprimands here in the second letter to the Corinthian church. Paul is overjoyed by the results of his reprimand, but not because the Corinthians felt sorrow, but because that sorrow led them to repent, humbling themselves before God, admitting their sin, and seeking redemption and wholeness before God.
Here in this passage, we see two different types of sorrow used by Paul. The first is a worldly sorrow that brings death. This is a sorrow that does not lead to repentance. This is a sorrow that is not sorrow as God intended it. To put it simply, this is sorrow that is more akin to a shame that the sin has been discovered, rather than a deep sadness over one’s own sinful actions. Of course this sorrow only brings death! For those who feel only this worldly sorrow, there is no sense of understanding that all we do is either glorifying to God in our obedience or dishonoring of God in our disobedience. They live in a way where they bear no responsibility for their own actions because they have disregarded the God who rules and reigns over the entire universe.
Yet, we see a Godly sorrow in this passage as well. This sorrow, although still deeply painful, brings us to repentance. The difference here is that for those who become sorrowful in a Godly way, they have kept God at the forefront of their mind. They recognize that every decision they make is living in a way that either subjects themselves to the authority and love of God, or lives in open rebellion to His desires for our lives. This is a sorrow we must desire to have. It is only in this sorrow that we are drawn to repentance that forgives and redeems through Christ Jesus.
Action Step: Read Lamentations 3:40. Pray that God would reveal the depths of your heart, bringing you to a greater sense of spiritual awareness and to a deep Godly sorrow over anything living within you that is not of Him.