Did you ever make a decision about something, a choice favoring one option above other options? And then someone reviewing such a choice wants to confirm it by asking you; ‘No regrets?’ Or maybe the question is in retrospect, concerning a choice that was made in the past, as if to say, ‘Would you make the same choice today? Do you “regret” the choice you made?’ Our successes and failures often cause us to reassess what we did or did not do to bring about such a result – to that person’s credit, it is a wise person who evaluates the results of the decisions of his or her life. But does simple evaluation really do anything? Or, is there something more to it than that?
When the result of our decisions yields good, positive things we often chalk it up to “good luck”, or, upon closer assessment, we might even give more credit to the choice than is actually due. The baseball pitcher who wins a couple games in a row decides he’s not going to change this pair of socks again. That’s superstition, I know, but the point is we think that whatever we did prior to the event is what caused the outcome. On the flip side, when bad things happen to us we immediately think, “What could I have done differently? Why, oh why, did I do that?! If I had it to do again, I would never do that again!” This is regret. It doesn’t have to be a tragic event. But the harsher the reality, the more likely you are to turn that “regret” into “change”.
One form of “regret” is “sorrow”. If you regret something to a high degree, it becomes “sorrow”. We can be sorrowful over a choice that we made, yet, if the same situation arose again, you very well might make the same choice. Much like the thief that gets caught in the act of robbery. He is most sorrowful as he’s being taken away to jail! But the question is, is he sorrowful that he chose to do what he did? Sorrowful enough that he is repentant of his actions and desires never to do the same again? Or, is he sorrowful that he got caught?
The Apostle Paul talks about two kinds of sorrow in 2 Corinthians 7; Godly sorrow, and worldly sorrow. What’s the difference? Worldly sorrow seeks to make no change. And so, it will lead to the same result…actually, the result, or penalty, escalates as the wrong continues without sorrow. It becomes easier and easier to do. The remorse becomes less and less, and eventually, either physically or spiritually, leads to death.
Godly sorrow is genuine contrition. You are sad, remorseful at your poor choice…to the extent that you are repentant. And, Paul continues, “repentance leads to salvation and leaves no regret…”
Jeroboam, king of the Northern kingdom of Israel, was given a great opportunity to lead Israel following God’s commands and following His direction. But, he chose instead to do things his own way, “building shrines on high places and appointing priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites.” 1 Kings 12:31. In 1 Kings 13 God sent a prophet from Judah to prophecy against his ungodly actions. Jeroboam was incensed at the prophet’s message “he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, “Seize him!” But the hand he stretched out shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back.” 13:4. Then it says he asked the man of God to, “Intercede with the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” I guess you would say Jeroboam was “sorrowful” for what he had done. But was he truly repentant?
The man of God (prophet) did, in fact, intercede with the Lord on Jeroboam’s behalf and his hand was restored. But like so many people today, his plea was heard by God but he did not change his ways.
1 Kings 13:33 Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways, but once more appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people. Anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated for the high places.
Jeroboam was only sorrowful for the moment…that he got caught. Had he expressed “Godly sorrow” that brings about repentance, it would have led to salvation and God’s favor.
2 Corinthians 7:10-11 10Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.
If you’re “sorrowful” without repentance, you’re just plain “sorry”!