How Can I Change? Godly sorrow

Part of the “How Can I Change?” series. See part one here

Godly Sorrow (2 Cor 7:8-11)

“8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 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.”


What is the passage saying?

1. There are two kinds of sorrow. Worldly sorrow and Godly sorrow

Only Godly sorrow leads on to change

Godly and worldly sorrow overlap at the beginning. Both feel a loss. Both are emotional. But the further you go the further they separate. Godly sorrow feels the pain of the consequences (Heb 12:7) but it points them toward God, not their own loss.

Worldly sorrow is focused on “I sinned” whereas godly sorrow is focused on “I sinned against God


How is it connected to grace?

  • Who has brought the Grace of God? Jesus, through his sacrifice.
  • What am I to focus on when I am sorrowful? My sin against a Holy and Loving God.
  • What does that motivate me to do? Repent and Obey


What will it look like in my life? (How does that actually help me change?)

Example: While they are out, you have directly disobeyed your parents by doing something they have told you is wrong. You know they will find out because of the evidence, someone else, because the principle is going to meet with them, etc. You legitimately feel sorrow. What does godly sorrow look like in this moment and how does it help you change AFTER you have already sinned?

Steps in Godly Sorrow:

  • Repentance (10) – to God and those you sinned against
  • Eagerness to clear yourselves (11) – you take measures not to sin again
  • Indignation (11) – you call what you did sin, and you recognize what that sin actually costs
  • Fear (11) – you view your sin in light of God’s holiness
  • Longing (7, 11) – you desire to do right and pray for strength to change
  • Zeal (7, 11) – you make a plan and consistent effort to root it out of your life
  • Punishment (11) – you take the punishment as an opportunity to grow in godliness (Heb 12:7)



  • What is the sinful pattern in your life that needs to change?
  • Would you say that godly sorrow has been present?
  • Which of the steps above need to be taken right now?
  • Read Ps 51 and then write out a prayer to God.


“Sanctification, therefore, will be marked by penitence more than perfection.” (DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, 139).


More Reading:

DeYoung, Kevin. “That All May See Your Progress.” In The Hole In Our Holiness: Filling the Bap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2012.

Lambert, Heath. “Using Sorrow to Fight Pornography (ch 2).” In Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Whitney, Donald S. “Do You Still Grieve Over Sin?” In Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health. 1St Edition. NavPress, 2001.