Monthly Archives: September 2011

A Purposeful Pursuit

In my last blog, I was initially struck by 2 Corinthians 7:10, which articulates an invaluable and critical difference between godly and worldly grief.  This week, it’s verse 11 that has my attention. “For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment!  At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.”

The words in the second half of the verse are ultimately what laid on me the heaviest:  earnestness, eagerness, indignation, fear, longing, zeal, punishment.  I have gone after a variety of things in my life with this kind of passion.  I have pursued human love with earnestness.  I have pursued motherhood with eagerness.  I have pursued success with zeal.  I have pursued perfection with longing.  But God wants me to apply this same kind of passion to spiritual pursuits.  In order to prove myself innocent, as Scripture suggests I do, I need to also display an eagerness to change, a conviction to alter the very course of my path, an unrelenting pursuit for truth displayed in my life.  But have I done that?  Have I pursued transformation and spiritual restoration with the same indignation and zealousness that I have chased human pursuits?  To be truthful, most of the time I haven’t.  But what if I did?  What if we all did?  What if we took all the energy and lust with which we seek worldly results and redirected it towards spiritual ends?  Can you imagine?

A perfect example of the possibilities is found in 2 Samuel 12, when the prophet Nathan confronts King David about his infidelity with Bathsheba.  In that moment, as David begins to realize all that he has done and the impending consequences that are sure to come, I imagine that both worldly and godly grief were abundant in his spirit.  I suspect that, as his world came crashing down, his heart heaved with sorrow and guilt.  And in that moment, he had a choice.  One option was simply to lay down and die emotionally.  To surrender to his human sorrow and throw in the towel, so to speak.  Thankfully, he chose another response.  That response is found in Psalm 51, which he wrote after his conversation with Nathan.  The entire psalm is a call for repentance, forgiveness, and ultimately change.  In verse 3, David writes, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”   Verse 9 cries out for God’s forgiveness:  “Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.”  And in verse 17, David recognizes the changes that must take place in his very spirit as he declares, “ The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

There is no doubt that David took the better path.  When faced with both kinds of grief, he succumbed willingly and humbly to godly grief and let it take its course.  He followed it through to completion with earnestness, eagerness and indignation.  It is an extremely difficult undertaking.  It is so much easier to remain and wallow in worldly grief.  But as 2 Corinthians 7:11 promises, the indignation, earnestness and zeal that godly grief produces is well worth its cost.

I want to be like David.  I want to pursue repentance and transformation with all those wonderful nouns in 2 Corinthians.  I want to strive for heavenly results the way I strive for earthly results.  I want to be the picture of earnestness and eagerness.  I want to prove myself innocent before my God.

The right kind of grief

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”  2 Corinthians 7:10

I set out to read the beatitudes this morning, but as a result of some cross-referencing, I bumped into this passage and couldn’t get past it.  I have been spilling over with grief lately.  Grief over what could’ve been, grief over what should be , grief over what I am and what I am not.  Grief over loss, grief over confusion and misdirection.  Grief in every shape and form.  And while I have repeatedly cried out to God, He has remained distant and, it would seem, uncaring.  And so the grief has deteriorated into some sort of emotional death that needs to be dealt with and fought each day, often to no avail.

But this verse seems to clear up this mess with little hesitancy or mistake.  I believe that my grief over these past months has been worldly grief.  As I thought about the difference between godly grief and worldly grief, it occurred to me that perhaps godly grief is about our actions, our attitudes and our hearts, while worldly grief is a reflection and result of our circumstances.  Simply put, godly grief is a mourning or sadness provoked by the presence, or lack of, God in our lives and worldly grief comes about through our world and our conditions.

Admittedly, my world is hard right now.  There are situations and circumstances in my life that are producing a great deal of stress and strain.  And I have succumbed, over and over, to worldly grief.  And yet, in the midst of it all, I have failed to succumb to the only grief that is actually productive.  I have grieved my circumstances, but not my part in them or my response to them.  I have repeatedly come before the throne of God bemoaning my lot in life while my judgmental attitude and selfish heart rest squarely on my shoulders.  While there may be legitimate reasons for worldly grief, there is also ample cause for godly grief, which I have decidedly neglected.  It is time to change my pattern of grief.  It is time to stop examining and lamenting the ways I am a victim and start repenting of the ways I have contributed to my own hardened heart.  It is time to allow God to reveal to me the actual things that should be grieving my heart, which are, not coincidentally, the very same things that grieve His.