I can count my many blessings and that is well worth doing as it stirs gratitude, which is very healthy for mind and spirit! But I have regrets – resolutions not kept, (can you even remember yours? Other than the New Testament in a year of course!), bad habits lingering, anger unconquered, Scriptures not memorised, opportunities not taken, trips to the gym not done.
Paul tells us the difference between godly regret and worldly regret. He argues that godly regret is good, because it produces repentance and leads to salvation. Let us unpack that. Worldly regret is feeling sorry because you have been caught and feel humiliated, or feeling sorry because of punishment. It’s a prideful regret of making a fool of yourself. It comes from man or the devil. Godly regret/grief is vastly different because it produces different things – an eagerness for change. It is to sin what pain is to disease. It’s an awareness, a feeling of guilt that you have done something sinful – it comes from a God saturated heart. It’s that nudge from the Spirit to repent – to change mind and attitude, and thus sinful behaviour.
The Corinthians had gone from indifference of Paul’s presence to longing, v.7, from rejection of his authority to eagerness v11.
Godly regret is temporary and effective, “only for a while”, v.8, because it serves its purpose to change our mind and attitude and stop the sin. If regret lingers after you have repented, into a downheartedness and lasting shame, then it is not from the Spirit, but from the world or the devil. Godly grief leads to godly change (repentance) and proves that Christ is in us. That is what Paul means by it leading to salvation, v.10.
Comfort comes to all as we see people growing in Christ and dealing with issues the Spirit shines light on.
Like Paul, I have perfect confidence that we will all grow in Christ and grow in holiness, ready for that day when we are presented pure and blameless.