I have been in counseling situations lately that reminded me that I only had one seminary course in counseling.  I don’t believe I gave any bad advice, it was biblical for sure.  But I was maybe a bit bolder than what the average counselor has been instructed to be.

As people have sat weeping in my office over their lives crumbling before their eyes, I’ve been told all the right things.  They told me they were to blame for their family’s situation.  They each said they had sinned and knew that they had not honored God.  Apparently broken, these individuals could barely hold it together.

Often times, I have said something that gets abrupt reactions.  Here’s the shocking statement:

“You obviously are broken.  But quite honestly, I don’t know if you are broken because you transgressed against a holy God or if you are broken because you got caught.”

There’s a difference in being sorry that you sinned and sorry that you got caught. 

You can imagine the looks I get.  I don’t apologize for that statement.  It’s always a better sign if the transgressor comes clean on his or her own.  Unfortunately, oftentimes, I meet with someone after he or she has been caught in the act.  And at that point, with the consequences of their actions pummeling them upon the head and shoulders, I don’t know if I can truly believe their brokenness just yet.

Time will tell.

There is a difference between godly grief and worldly grief.  

Here’s what Paul said about it:

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. -2 Cor. 7:10 (NASB)

Worldly grief is sorry it got caught.  Godly grief is sorry it transgressed against a holy God.  Just feeling bad about past mistakes isn’t enough.  Guilt doesn’t accomplish anything.  If you truly possess godly grief, you will want to repent (turn around) and do something about your mistakes.

Maybe you are overwhelmed with your situation right now.  I pray that your grief is based upon godly reasons and not worldly reasons, because if it’s not, you will find yourself in the same situation very soon.

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.