for even if i made you grieve 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. 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.  for Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. [2 corinthians 7:8-10]
i am often struck by the utter messiness of life and relationships, but i shouldn’t be. my relationships with my wife, children, friends, parents etc. are marked with deep and abiding joys, but also by deep mourning and pain. we are promised that the relationships we have in our lives will be marked with conflict. paul experiences this as he calls the corinthians to repentance in his first letter–he has a pang of momentary regret because he does not want to see them suffer, but knows that suffering is for their good. when conflict comes in our own relationships, when we are rebuked (or rebuke others) for our sin and rejection of God, we have two (and only two) paths.
path one: the way of the world.
this is the path that i choose naturally, this is the path that i have been conditioned to–it is the path that says–
“i’ll stand my ground”
“i’ll protect myself”
“i have every right”
“i’ve earned this”
“i deserve this”
“i am in control”
“leave me alone”
and if i do feel grief, a worldly grief, it says
“i am worthless”
“no one loves me”
“i will earn my way back myself”
“i will run from God”
“i am god”
this path is the way of satan, who wants us dead to our life in Jesus Christ, who wants us to live to ourselves and to this empty world. the grief that causes us to either dig in and fight or wallow in our shame will certainly lead to death. the consequences are very real, and very serious.
but we have to kill our desire to run down that path. there is a better way to respond to those who call us to repentance—
path two: the way of the lamb
this is the path of humility, the way of open-handedness, openly receiving correction and it says
“‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ [luke 18:13]
“search me, o God, and know my heart! try me and know my thoughts! and see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” [psalm 139:23-24]
“i believe; help my unbelief!” [mark 9:24]
“we have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. only please deliver us this day.” [judges 10:15]
“i have sinned against the Lord” [2 samuel 12:13]
the way of the lamb is the way of meekness, the way of lowliness, the way of weakness. the way of the lamb is a contrite heart, seeking the will of God, knowing that only the blood of Christ can reconcile us to God. God does not abandon us in our grief–he gives us assurance of our position in Christ, and thus comforts our broken heart.
the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, o God, you will not despise. [psalm 51:17]
let me be gripped for the desire to find comfort in you alone–to repent of my sin and to find myself firmly in the presence of my Father! without regret, without shame! send others to point out my idols, to call me back to you!
give me boldness and gentleness so i will call to others to repent, and point them to the cross of Christ alone for their hope, so that the grief that they would experience would be Godly grief, leading to repentance and salvation in your glorious presence!
~ conor eastman