“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.” ~2 Corinthians 7:10 (NRSV).
Will Smith’s depiction of a torn-by-the-ghosts-of-past philanthropist of biological means in Seven Pounds (2008) highlights the fathoms of emotion, and the mental strength behind them, that remorse produces.
It is the common truth: remorse tempts and takes us all. It’s something good.
We will all experience remorse—which is a more worthy emotion than regret, for it wrangles with contrition toward atonement—and God has a purpose for it.
God’s Purpose for Remorse
Most people, who will be uninitiated, will be surprised to learn that God’s purpose for remorse is highly temporary.
The essential process of emotion in remorse is that of grief. Once grief is established, remorse has accomplished its duty—though it’s bound to recur. And grief truly is a process: it has a starting point, some touchstones in between, and it ends. Acceptance is reached.
God’s purpose in remorse is that grief would take its course, and that through it important concepts are learned, and perhaps relearned. Remorse merely initiates, and motivates, the process of grief.
But sometimes this process is stunted and the godly path of grieving is thwarted.
When ‘Worldly Grief’ Has Gripped Us
When regret and remorse diverge from the right path, careening from the spiritual mode of grieving, a complex series of damaging emotive states and arrangements is set up. These, if untended, can become destructive pathologies.
Perhaps we can only be reached at a place of worldly grief in proportion to the visitation of the rational mind. Logic and reason are the mental/emotional states we must appeal to. It’s no good trying to knock sense into the nonsensical mind—we must simply endure it.
But sensible times do come; even to those buried in their pathologies of grief-pitied remorse.
Everything is Forgivable
The catchall behind remorse is all sins are forgivable. There is no conditionality in this. God forgives all sin built in the bricks of later remorse, and all sinners are already forgiven. Still, acceptance of the fact is a process.
The difference is we must feel this forgiveness for it to become real to us.
The process through forgiveness is resplendent in grief: to deny for a time; to express anger; to plead and bargain; to enter the depths of depression; and, to finally find our way through to acceptance. Then there is salvation: the redemption of God.
How hard is it to describe the essential elements through forgiveness? It is impossible, perhaps, because it’s a miracle of God; one procured through a journey of grieving.
We will know forgiveness when the sting of regret and remorse is diminished to the state of healed reflection; this through the appropriation of grieving—a God-designed and God-anointed process.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.