Good grief! What comes to mind when we hear this statement? I think of the Peanuts cartoon and Charlie Brown. I see Lucy sitting there holding the football enticing Chuck to come running at full speed to kick it clear to the moon. At the last-minute, Lucy pulls it away causing Charlie Brown to sail through the air and land painfully on his back and he says: “Good grief!” So, what is the meaning of Good Grief? Some dictionary’s top definitions of Good Grief are: unbelievable, shocking, something that is hard to imagine, surprise or alarm that seems to happen on a potentially recurring basis. The human condition (sinful nature) can produce the same responses; unbelievable, shocking, alarming, hard to imagine and happens on a recurring basis.
Here in 2 Corinthians, Paul introduces two types of griefs: Godly and Worldly. In 2 Corinthians 7 it says: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10-ESV). Godly grief is characterized by repentance and comes from God. Worldly grief comes by losing the world’s approval and living to regain it, which brings destruction and judgement. I remember David Paul Tripp saying in a discussion on Theology Refresh that the gospel is first bad news before it is good news. The eyes of our heart must first be opened to realize we have a condition; we are dead in our sins and need a savior. After we come to faith in Christ, this Godly grief continues to work in us as believers revealing areas of sin to bring about repentance (change) to make us more Christ-like (Hebrews 12:1-12 ESV). The Lord disciplines, as a father, the ones he loves to bring about needed change. The older I get, the more I see this change is needed in my own life.
In 2 Corinthians 7, even though Paul and his apostolic team are suffering great affliction, they are exceedingly joyful (verses 4-5)! Paul is not rejoicing that his letter caused the Corinthian church to grieve, because that’s what was needed to bring about repentance. Paul is rejoicing that the Corinthians have experienced godly grief and have repented. Repentance puts us back into a right relationship with the Father and with each other. Paul has a father’s heart and even refers to himself as a father to the Corinthian church through the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:15). The gospel is powerful! Look how the gospel changed the Corinthian church. They were once idolatrous people given to much sexual impurity and sacrificing to idols. Now they are being commended (boasted) by Paul and Titus (vs 13-16). “For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point, you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter” (2 Corinthians 7:11-ESV).
During the Christmas season and when we see for the hundredth time It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas and we hear the words “Good Grief”, we’ll think back to 2 Corinthians 7 and remember that we as believers have been infected with Godly grief! How do we know? Because our response to being convicted of our sin through the Holy Spirit’s work is repentance. The definition of repentance is “turning away” from or a change of mind and attitude towards our sin. As the church, we need to realize that we are to steward the gospel well and stay on track with the message. So maybe when something goes wrong we should say Godly Grief!
Excellent article Barry. A timely reminder
My son was just asking me the other day about the statement, “Good grief!” “How can grief be good?” he asked. Now I can tell him!