2 Corinthians 7: Godly Sadness

If I did make you sad by my letter, I don’t regret it; and, if I did regret it, it was because I saw that I made you sad for a while by what I had written.  Anyway, I’m celebrating now, not because you were saddened, but because your sadness brought you to repentance.  It was sadness from God, you see, and it did you no harm at all on our account; because God’s way of sadness is designed to produce a repentance which leads to salvation, and there is nothing to regret there!  But the world’s way of sadness produces death. (7:8-10)

We don’t like sadness in our culture.  Life is supposed to be happy all of the time.  Nothing but butterflies and rainbows.

Of course, you can’t have rainbows without rain clouds and butterflies emerge from a strenuous battle with a cocoon.

I am afraid that this “happy-all-the-time” mentality has seeped into American Christianity too.  We expect God to smooth every road before us.  Life with Jesus is supposed to be a charmed life.  Surely, hard times are punishment.  And those who bring hard words of correction are not welcomed people at all.

At some point prior to 2 Corinthians, Paul has written a “sad letter” to this church.  This description doesn’t really fit the tone of 1 Corinthians, so many scholars think Paul is referring to another, lost letter to the Corinthians.  Clearly, Paul had hard things to say.  Things the church did not want to hear.  Things that made them ashamed of themselves.  Those are uncomfortable letters to write and conversations to have, and Paul confesses he regretted having to write such a letter.  Yet, the sadness the letter produced was exactly what the Corinthians needed.  It woke them up and they acknowledged in repentance that Paul was right.  A momentary spate of sadness created a wholesale change of direction.  Truly, “there is nothing to regret there!”

This sort of godly sadness is absolutely necessary, and it reminds us that not all we greet as bad is necessarily so.  Godly sadness created changes and results in salvation and redemption of that which is lost, broken and dying in our lives.  Godly sadness is what makes rainbows and butterflies possible.  There is always hope underlying the sadness.

There is a worldly sadness that is rightly undesirable.  Worldly sadness is nothing but rain and there are no silver linings.  Worldly sadness sweeps the cocoon away in a torrent and butterflies never emerge.  Worldly sadness offers nothing but death.  Hope is nowhere to be found.

When was a rebuke the most appropriate word you have ever received?  

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3 thoughts on “2 Corinthians 7: Godly Sadness

  1. Melanie

    I get the privilege of interviewing prospective students and their parents. On question we ask is about the goals parents have for their children. The most frequent response is “to be happy.” The parents often go on to say that they don’t want their children to have to struggle. They want their children to have an easier life than they have had–a “better” life, they say.

    I often counsel parents not to smooth out the bumps in the road for their children, not to bail them out, to allow children to experience the natural consequences of their decisions–to take their lumps, if you will. The life lessons that come with the bumps are invaluable.

    I love it that Paul corrected these people, they obeyed, and then he rejoiced with them. He didn’t sugar-coat what he said. He didn’t look the other way or make excuses for them. His message had to be direct to accomplish what these people needed.

    Sometimes I feel pressured to keep everyone happy, and happy-all-the-time unfortunately comes at the expense of what’s best in the long run.

  2. “You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss.”

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