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Psalm 107:13 – THEN they cried out

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“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble…,” Psalm 107:13.

According to 2 Corinthians 7:10, we cry out to God from one of two kinds of grief: “…godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. ”  Godly grief produces repentance without regret.  Worldly grief produces only death.  Trained counselors, and those who would minister to those in prison, must be able to distinguish between the two.

When I was first arrested, I cried out to God.  But I didn’t cry out because I’d sinned against a holy God or because of the people I’d harmed.  I was upset because of all that I’d lost—a new career, my fiancé, the kids, a home, a chance at a family life I’d never known, etc.  I was scared because I’d lost my freedom, and was facing the possibility of losing it for the rest of my life.  I cried out because I believed He was the only one who could stop me from losing everything and going to prison.

Many people, young and old alike, grieve when they get caught.  When you ask a person why they are upset, what comes out of their mouth first is usually a good indication of what’s really in their heart (Luke 6:45).  Do they express sadness over what they fear they will lose, have lost or other consequences?  Or, is the focus of their words the God against whom they have sinned and their need of Him?

What about their life?  How they respond to your counsel also provides evidence as to what kind of grief your counselee is experiencing.  Matthew 18:15-20 makes it clear that obedience to God’s Word provides the surest, objective evidence that you are dealing with a brother—a believer—and, thus, that their grief is godly.  The Corinthian passage says the same: godly grief leads to repentance.  It’s as simple as cause and effect.

But who or what makes one person’s grief to differ from another?  Why is it that some merely lick their wounds while others experience real change?  It is The Holy Spirit who makes all the difference in the world, and Paul makes this distinction clear in 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5, 9: “4…we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…. ”  How does Paul say he knows the Thessalonians are loved and chosen by God?  How does he know the gospel came to them in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in word only?  They repented and “turned to God from idols,” v.9.  What a person says and how they are responding to the Word is a fair indicator of which type of grief they are experiencing.  But worldly grief can serve a purpose in the plan of God.

The purpose of the law and its consequences is to show us our need for a savior.  Few things do that better than real loss.  Psalm 107:13 doesn’t really tell us what about their “trouble” was, um, the most troubling.  It simply says they cried out to Him “in their trouble. ”  From the context, we know that they are “in afflictions and irons,” they are depressed (“bowed their hearts down with hard labor”) and there is “none to help. ”  We’ve already discussed that crying out over the mere loss of possessions doesn’t quite rise to the level of “godly grief. ”  But I think that “none to help” says more than those three little words let on.

Real loss, and an awareness that nothing and no one can save us or solve our problems, is often the means God uses to show us our need of Him.  I constantly tell the men I teach that the gospel begins where self-confidence ends, and I think this is yet another way to tell the difference between worldly grief and godly grief.  Is the person still showing signs of trusting in/relying upon his or her own wisdom and way of solving problems or have they come to the end of themselves?  Crying over spilled milk (or whatever) merely for the loss of it is an example of worldly grief.  But grieving with an awareness of our sin, trusting in Christ alone for salvation, and never regretting what was or is lost to gain more of Him (see Mark 10:29-30) is godly.

Posted on November 27, 2011