Tragedy – or Comedy?

Guest post from Glen

What is life: tragedy or comedy? I’m not asking whether life is a barrel of laughs (newsflash: it’s not!), I’m asking a more technical question. In literature, comedy and tragedy are not about the laughs-to-calamities ratio, it’s about the shape of the story. In particular it’s about the ending. A tragedy is shaped like a frown: it travels up to the heights then tumbles down to the depths. A comedy is a smile: down into danger then up to a happily ever after.

If your story ends with death, you’ve got a tragedy on your hands. If it ends with a wedding (and all 14 of Shakespeare’s comedies end with weddings), then it’s a comedy. So, no matter the humorous moments, Hamlet is a tragedy and no matter the trials and suffering, Midsummer Nights Dream is a comedy. Romeo and Juliet could have been a comedy, it was just one misunderstanding away from a happy ending. But, as it turned out, death had the last word. So tragedy it is.

Back to the original question then: what is life? Tragedy or comedy?

Tragedy surely. Our lives do not end with a wedding but with a funeral. We may climb up in the world but we tumble down to the grave. It’s a frown, a downer, a total tragedy. Unless…

Unless the Author enters in to give a twist to the tale. This is the beauty of the divine comedy. Jesus grabs hold of our story, enters our tragedy and rises to bring the happily ever after. Without him, there is no future for our lives, our bodies, our world. With him we can live a new way.

Jesus says in Mark 1:15: “Repent and believe the good news.” We used to believe in the tragedy. We used to climb up in the world, to grab all we could from our brief moment in the sun. Jesus says, ‘Stop it! Stop living the tragedy: embrace the comedy. There is good news — for you and all the world.”

What does it mean to embrace the comedy? It doesn’t mean that all will be roses. It doesn’t mean a laugh-a-minute. In fact it means that you will go in the opposite direction. Instead of selfishly climbing up in the world, you will pour yourself out in self-giving love. You will follow the way of Jesus into suffering and sacrifice but you will do it with the certain hope of resurrection glory.

So, friend, face reality. Life without Jesus is tragic. It might be an epic tragedy, a grand tale, a heroic adventure. But if it ends in death it’s hopeless. Now face Jesus. He has blasted a hole through the grave to pioneer a whole new way to live. Through the valley of the shadow of death and up into feasting joy, Jesus invites you into the comedy.

Therefore, repent and believe — change your outlook and embrace the comedy. There’s good news, you can renounce the grasping, ladder-climbing tragedy. Instead, with Jesus, you can serve, suffer and sacrifice and in the end, you will have the last laugh.

Get Glen’s book, Divine Comedy, here.

1 thought on “Tragedy – or Comedy?

  1. I love this embracing-the-comedy perspective. I can get so discouraged and overwhelmed in the middle of the darker chapters, but I know how this story ends. He has promised!

    Maybe its okay to move slowly or even have to be dragged along sometimes, because maybe I’m not the hero. Maybe I’m just one of those annoying characters that everyone really loves to hate, but I turn out okay after the long series of major disaster scenes…

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