For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow. But sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death.
—2 Corinthians 7:10
Godly sorrow for sin is often confused with regret. Tears and remorse are no true indication that a person has truly repented of sin. He may be crying simply because he got caught, not because he is genuinely repentant! The real test of repentance is evidenced by submission, actions that show one has submitted to the authority of another.
After challenging the Corinthian believers to discipline a brother who had fallen into immorality, Paul commended them on their response to his instructions. He said, “Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish the wrongdoer. You showed that you have done everything you could to make things right” (2 Corinthians 7:11).
Worldly sorrow is simply regret. It produces blaming others, emotional shows, dodging of facts, half-confessions (“If I’ve done anything wrong . . .”), and insincere promises to change. Godly sorrow, on the other hand, assumes responsibility, faces the facts, admits the wrong, and makes it right.
The Corinthians demonstrated true godly sorrow. They were alarmed over their sin, desirous to right the wrong, eager to address the issue, and ready to make things right. In a word, they submitted themselves to Paul’s authority and were willing to take the necessary steps to right their wrong. Such action, not emotional regret, indicates godly sorrow.