It seems like a heavy subject for children’s ministry, grief. The Bible identifies two types of grief, Godly grief and worldly grief. Usually I think of grief only as the loss of someone, but children rarely deal with death at the same frequency as adults, so what kind of grief can children experience and how can we as parents identify it for what it is and pray and lead them through it?
Godly grief = Grief coming from God, characterized by repentance or remorse. Grief caused by having lost God’s approval and the consequent resolve to reverse one’s conduct and live for God. (ESV Study Bible)
Worldly grief = Grief that comes from the world, remorse brought about by losing the world’s approval, leads to a resolve to regain that approval and this produces death, or divine judgement. (ESV Study Bible)
In 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 Paul says, “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
So remorse that either leads to LIFE or remorse that leads to DEATH. I rarely think of remorse as being productive, probably because I allow myself to deal with too much worldly grief. But there is grief that is good because it causes us much gain, it causes us to repent and leads to salvation! What a win for our children… sorrow leads to Jesus.
When a child begins to understand sin they cannot always verbalize it. Maybe they cannot say they are under conviction (church term) but they are grieving and sad, ashamed, even angry at times. Can we as parents identify it as Godly grief? Is there a possibility that the Lord is drawing them to Him by exposing their heart to the knowledge they need forgiveness, they want to be right with God?
A child who knows Jesus as Savior, perhaps ensnared by some sin or feeling of guilt that overwhelms to the point you see a change in behavior, that Godly grief is LIFE! It will be a cause for rejoicing. God is refusing to let DEATH strangle and suffocate them. God is breathing into them LIFE support to rescue them from sin.
What of those attitudes and outbursts and sudden changes in our young children that take us aback and make us wonder where that little angel suddenly disappeared to. Worldly grief causes us to strive for things in obsessive and damaging behaviors. Worldly grief, according to Paul, does not lead to comfort or rejoicing. No! Just an endless pursuit to gain the world’s approval. Do our children grieve over friends that are worldly? Are they demanding of hobbies or entertainment?
When we see grief in our children, I pray that we can recognize it for what is is. And lead them towards LIFE. Perhaps if we can pray for more genuine Godly grief we can put aside the death and destruction that follows the desire to gain approval from the world. Perhaps we can deal more with LIFE than DEATH with our children. We have an opportunity to promote repentance in children when we recognize the grief they are laboring under.