Good Grief!

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

As he hears some bad news, Charlie Brown exclaims, “Oh, good grief!” We often think of this as an oxymoron. Grief can’t possibly be good! It’s rather ironic that our culture views grief as a bad thing while it encourages grief over a lot of things. It is encouraged that we grieve over minimum wage, to grieve over what the White Man did to black people centuries ago during slavery (despite that America is long passed this), to grieve over what the government did to the indigenous peoples of America (which ironically looks toward the very party responsible for their massacre—the Democratic Party), and other nonsense. So, when we face something that’s actually worth grieving over, we’re overwhelmed.

When death and disaster occur, we are so grief stricken that we don’t know what to do. While all this is going on, we avoid grieving over our sin, which is the thing we should grieve the most. It is good to grieve over this because our sin alienates us from God. After all, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). We should grieve greatly over this because the end of our sin is death. But fear not! The Romans verse continues, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Godly grief is good grief, for it leads us to repentance. The Lutheran Confessions call this contrition—true, godly grief over our sin. Godly grief, or good grief, causes us to recognise our need for forgiveness—our need for Christ. By repentance we exercise faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

Worldly grief produces death because the world has no hope for a relief from their grief. Worldly grief abandons the person who grieves. Godly grief is guilt over sin, which this guilt leads to repentance as the sinner recognises the necessity for forgiveness in Christ, which leads to salvation because the repentance we perform is exercised by this faith gifted to us (Ephesians 2:8-9). As the Lutheran Confessions say:

Repentance consists of two parts: one is contrition or the terrors that strike the conscience when sin is recognised; the other is faith, which is brought to life by the gospel or absolution. This faith believes that sins are forgiven on account of Christ, consoles the conscience, and liberates it from terrors. (AC XII, 5-6)

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