Is Feeling Bad About My Sin the Same as Repentance?

No. An unrepentant person can feel bad or sorry about doing something sinful, but there will be no lasting change. Consider the abusive husband that cries and tells his wife he is sorry after abusing her in a drunken rage. That sorrow only lasts until he gets drunk again, and the story is repeated. This is the sorrow of the world. Godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10) is that which galvanizes the sinner to change no matter what the price. When someone is under conviction of the Holy Spirit they might feel bad and even cry because they know they are living in sin. However, tears or feelings of regret are not sufficient. There must be sorrow of a godly sort due to the recognition of wrongdoing accompanied with a purpose never to return to that life of sin. This is the only kind of sorrow that will bring true repentance.

Repentance of Nineveh

When Jonah preached in Nineveh that the city would be overthrown in forty days, the people believed God and proclaimed a fast. No living being in the city, neither man nor beast, ate food or drank water. Man and beast were covered with sackcloth in a sign of contrition and repentance. God spared the city! (Jonah 3:4-10).

The Goodness of God

Despisest thou the riches of his [God’s] goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? —Romans 2:4

There is no way to escape the judgment of God, for it is certain that “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10) and give an account of how we lived life. However, the Lord in His infinite mercy is prolonging time that more people may be saved from the power of sin and have opportunity to prepare for eternity. God’s mercy is extended to the worst of evildoers, and His love reaches to the most despised of society. He has compassion on the vilest of sinners, and He cares for the ostracized and rejected.

So many are despising the goodness of God by ignoring His love and longsuffering and refusing to accept the beautiful plan of salvation. Indeed, it is the goodness of God that leads people to a condition of repentance. When one’s eyes are opened to the great love of God and to the gift of eternal life, it softens the heart and creates a desire to embrace all that God has provided.

We do not deserve kindness, longsuffering, or mercy because we have all been in a state of rebellion against God. It is in that state of rejecting God that He so often manifests His love by helping the sinner during difficult times of life.  When the storms come like a tornado, wreaking havoc, God once again demonstrates His care. When people’s actions cry out for judgment due to the harm and pain they cause others around them, God offers mercy and is longsuffering. He delays His judgment and withholds punishment with infinite kindness. The riches of His goodness are revealed time and time again to fallen mankind.

Why is God so longsuffering? Why is He so good to people when they do not deserve it? Because it is His goodness that will lead people to repentance (Romans 2:4). His goodness and love draw people and encourage them to turn around. It leads people to forsake wrong and cling to those things that please the Lord.

The door of mercy is open and forgiveness awaits the repentant heart. Praise God for His goodness! ■