The Beauty of Sorrow

The Beauty of Sorrow

David is a man who came to understand his own sinfulness before God. You know the story: staying home when he should have been out in the field with his troops; the rooftop voyeurism; the seduction and adultery; the murderous cover-up.

It all reads like a Greek tragedy.

Eventually, the prophet Nathan led the king to an awful self-awareness – and that awful self-awareness led the king to wonder about God.

How could God possibly put up with Him? Why would God care about him at all? In fact, why would He be mindful of any of Adam’s sinful sons?

Have you ever felt unworthy of God’s love? Have you ever looked up to the sky and asked, ‘How could You ever love a sinner like me? How can it be true that I am – with my long history of sin and ongoing offenses against You – the object of your affection?’

Psalm 8 is a Psalm that exalts the Creator and describes the beauty of His creative work. It appears to have been inserted toward the end of David’s troubled life. It reveals a man who is mature and reflective.

1 O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babies and infants,

you have established strength because of your foes,

to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,

and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;

you have put all things under his feet,

all sheep and oxen,

and also the beasts of the field,

the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,

whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Failure is humbling. It puts us in our place. It reminds us of our need for God’s mercy. And that’s precisely what it did for David. We can feel the power of his contrition when we read the Psalms he wrote after his fall with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah.

Read them for yourself. In Psalm 32 and 51, the king pours out his heart before God in gut-wrenching sorrow for his sins. He begins Psalm 51 by pleading for God’s mercy:

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

Psalm 86 too:

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,

for I am poor and needy.

Preserve my life, for I am godly;

save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.

Be gracious to me, O Lord,

for to you do I cry all the day.

This ‘godly’ sorrow is a good thing: it leads us to deliverance from slavery to sin. Godly sorrow draws us nearer to God; worldly sorrow (feeling-sorry-for-myself sorrow) is utterly fruitless). “For,” as Paul says, “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 Corinthians 7:10, NASB).

And in David’s penitential Psalms we see the good fruit of repentance. It led him – and us through him – to a clearer picture of the unfathomable mercy of God! Notice how David’s awareness of his own sinfulness highlights the beauty of God’s mercy in the following passages.

Psalm 86:3-7:

Be gracious to me, O Lord,

for to you do I cry all the day.

Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,

abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;

listen to my plea for grace.

In the day of my trouble I call upon you,

for you answer me.

Psalm 86:12-13:

12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,

and I will glorify your name forever.

13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;

you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

Psalm 86:15-16a:

15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me …

There’s the beauty of sorrow done right! Godly sorrow turns us to God and helps us to see Him as He truly is: merciful, gracious, overflowing with love and forgiveness, yet Holy! Holy! Holy!

Is it any wonder then that David exclaimed, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it!” (Psalm 139:5-6)

Too wonderful indeed!


To consider

  • Hebrews 12:11 says that “no discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (HCSB). I think that’s true of sorrow too.

Have you ever been trained by failures?

Have you ever been delivered by godly sorrow?

Does contrition have a part in your spiritual life?

  • What was the value of contrition in David’s life.

Do you see how his acknowledgement of his own failures accrued to the glory of God?

Look for both in his post-Uriah Psalms (32, 51, 86, etc).

  • Consider also that true godly sorrow is not guilt.

What’s the difference between the two?

Why is guilt not a proper biblical response to sin while godly sorrow is?

  • 2 Corinthians 7:10 NASB says, “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.”

What do you think is the difference between the “sorrow that is according to the will of God” and “the sorrow of the world”?

What does Paul mean by saying that one produces “repentance without regret,” while the other produces “death.”

What kind of death does the latter produce?


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  1. I love the account of Joseph’s confrontation with his brothers after the death of his father. They are working up a sweat thinking that their brother, the vizier, is going to vaporize them now that dad has passed—after dropping him into a cistern and selling him into slavery, don’t they deserve it? But Joseph shocks them all with an affirmation of God’s sovereignty and grace—But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. God uses even our greatest failings in His perfect plan—in the meantime, we can understand the value of humility and our moment by moment dependence on Him. I think God uses our failings to make sure we don’t become odious self righteous believers—the kind the world loves to hate—unbelievers point to those folks and say those Christians are nothing but holier than thou hypocrites—for me, it’s my darn mouth…I can be cruising at 30000 feet and then make a mess of things with a careless remark—the Holy Spirit has a full time job guarding my lips…

    • Kathryn Boisvert : January 23, 2018 at 1:03 pm

      Thank you for bringing up the story to my memory Michele! I too love that story. Years ago the kids had these wonderful Bible movies and went every time I got to the same part in the story of Joseph where he forgives his family and says exactly what you quoted I always had tears come to my eyes. Because I know that I’m not worthy of his forgiveness or anyone else’s either when I sin against someone or against God! Joseph did it so beautifully! we would do well to model after him ( after God !)

    • Amen

  2. To me the one thing that separates worldly sorrow and Godly sorrow is hope. With worldly sorrow it’s a downward spiral into depression and chains, but Godly sorrow is an upward spiral to freesome and peace with a god.

  3. Sorry autocorrect on my phone “freedom and peace with God” is what I tried to write 😉

  4. Anne Brassard : January 23, 2018 at 7:59 am

    The first thing that popped in to my mind is that worldly sorrow makes me think about being caught and feeling guilty and shamed in the flesh, and that perhaps without being caught there would absolutely be no desire for repentance. But Godly sorrow comes from a place much deeper, in our spirit, knowing that we have disappointed our God who loves us enough to forgive us, who loves us enough to give us that opportunity to repent, that longing to make things right with him. I have this verse taped to my bathroom mirror and every morning it is my praise and plea to Him….”Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8. This connects me to my Father, that I would discern immediately any behavior,thought, word that would not please him and that I would feel that Godly sorrow. Believe me, I have felt much worldly sorrow in the course of my life and have not desired to repent of the behavior that caused it. But now it’s all different. When I long to draw nearer to God, I also naturally (or supernaturally! ) long to do the things that will not cause any Godly sorrow.

    • Kathryn Boisvert : January 23, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      You make an excellent point Anne. None of us are stranger to hope that we don’t get found out. I’m reading a fabulous book by Jeff Vanderstelt called Gospel Fluency. He was talking about dealing with his children when they sinned. And he was saying that children and adults need to discern that “the way out is to repent turn back to God and faith and receive grace forgiveness reconciliation and then restoration. Here’s the thing when” we think that the consequences or sin is going to motivate people to change we just end up teaching them how to sin in other ways. If we don’t lead them to repent and believe in God and the work of Jesus we are only leading them to look elsewhere for their salvation trust in someone or something more than God’s word and work.”

  5. Kathryn Boisvert : January 23, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    The sorrow of the world produce a spiritual death. Oh yes when God has shown me that I have done wrong repeatedly although He’s ender hearted, the consequences of that show me that I need to find out what’s wrong inside my heart to produce better fruit. David’s words in the Psalms are so beautiful because they do indeed highlight the Lord has been gracious good and merciful in spite of his sin. There are numerous numerous far too numerous to mention times that I have felt unworthy of God’s forgiveness and love and faithfulness toward me. I often find myself weeping in gratitude because of his great love! Before I was saved I had a habit of saying : “this is too good to be true I know it’s going to end.” Do you know? what I never find myself saying that about God ever! I know that his love and word will never end they will never change everything on earth will fade away but his Word will never fade away, amen!

  6. Thank you all for sharing your heartfelt feelings & experiences. Blessings upon blessings to hear stories that help me realize I am not alone. Hugs to all

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