A recent show I watched had a story line about a man who fixed things for very significant people. He was going to be forced to go into hiding to protect his family, especially his young daughter. Sitting across the table from his wife he made a confession. He had always wanted to be on the other side of the velvet rope, the place where the important people were. But once he got there, he realized he had nothing in common with them, whether it was interests, convictions, or things they were willing to do or give up for what they wanted; in essence he realized he had almost nothing in common with them.
He told her that in the process of getting to the other side of that rope, he had sacrificed the things that had been important to him: wife, daughter, a good family life, his own morals and aspirations. He had given up what was good about himself and his life for something that was a shadow, a mirage. That realization was now compounded by the fact the man who directed him was threatening his family to keep him in line. Looking across the table at his wife, he was heartbroken. In essence, he felt the grief and remorse all sinners feel that haven’t totally seared their conscience. Sitting there, he had a choice, a rare moment when his life could go in two different directions: godly or worldly. His solution illustrated the problem Paul points out in 2nd Corinthians 7:10-11
“For godly grief and the pain God is permitted to direct, produce a repentance that leads and contributes to salvation and deliverance from evil, and it never brings regret; but worldly grief (the hopeless sorrow that is characteristic of the pagan world) is deadly [breeding and ending in death].”
Having made his choice, he left to attempt to kill the one who was threatening his family, a choice that would lead to death, not just of his body because he would be tracked down eventually, but of his soul. He chose worldly grief.
What is so obvious in the stories we see today is the utter bareness of the core of the people in them. Without God they really have nothing in the end, only the tatters of a life slipping through their fingers, a life that leads to regret and hopeless sorrow.
I will eternally thank my Father in Heaven that I feel godly grief for my sin and failure, a pain that leads me to repentance, not vengeance and retribution, however expressed. It is the fundamental Christian difference that separates us from those who have rejected God.
That for me is the foundation of Lent, making the choice that leads to repentance and life, not the one deluged by regret that leads to death. Reader, never give into regret; embrace repentance and the life God is offering.