Is life a comedy or a tragedy?


Jesus’ died willingly, purposefully, and the Father raised Him wondrously. Encouragement, no matter our current circumstances, flows from those first Easter’s truths. Because of God’s startling plan that first Easter, we can experience a radically altered  understanding of our own life’s trajectory. We can be fortified by the unexpected answer to a unique question — a question forever affected  by Jesus’ resurrection. Here’s the question:

What is life, a comedy or a tragedy?

I love Glen Scrivener’s  answer: “…’Comedy’ and ‘tragedy’ have particular meanings. In literature, ‘comedy’ and ‘tragedy’ refer to the shape of a story, not so much its content or even its tone.

Shakespeare’s tragedies, for instance, were full of jokes…Tragedies can have jokes, and comedies can have heartache…Tragedies contain joy, comedies contain pain, but the distinguishing mark of each is the ending. At the end of a Shakespearean tragedy the bodies are piled up on the stage. At the end of a Shakespearean comedy—in all 14 of them, in fact—there is a wedding. Or four.

To help fix it in your mind, think of it this way: a comedy is shaped like a smile. You go down then up—descending into darkness before rising up to joy. A tragedy, on the other hand, is shaped like a frown—up then down. You climb to prosperity then tumble into the pit.

So then, now that we’ve clarified the question, let me ask it again: What is life, a tragedy or a comedy? … Tragedy, surely!

…Life is a tragedy, and this dismal tale is sold to us in every magazine and paperback: The thousand books you must read before you die; The ten must-see destinations for your bucket list. E00E4BDD-C31F-4533-80CF-53A8AA9454D3The shape of the story is up then down and the advertisers are primed to sell you the uppiest up that money can buy because the down really is a downer. The photos are glossy, but they mask an unutterable tragedy. Life, according to the wisdom of the age, is about enjoying our brief “moment in the sun.” We clamber upward, grab for ourselves all the achievements, experiences, and pleasures that we can and then, so soon, we are “over the hill” and the grave awaits. It’s up then down. The frowny face. The tragedy.

Then—against all odds and in distinction to all competitors—the Bible dares to tell a different story. It actually has the audacity to be a comedy. The tale it tells holds out dazzling and eternal hope for us.

76108192-44C7-42F7-8278-20C90D2243EBWhile the religions of the East speak of dissolving into the ocean of being, and while Islam and the Christian cults portray an otherworldly future, the Bible promises resurrection. 142CAF36-B0B7-43ED-96C9-F7F81A3C8063This is different. It’s about these bodies and this world raised up. It’s this life laid hold of and turned around, like the plot twist in a classic comedy. Resurrection is about the author doing something joyous with our story—this one, the one we’re in—taking us through the valley of the shadow and out into a happily ever after, complete with a wedding (Rev. 19:6–9). Without Jesus, life ends with a funeral. With him, there is a never-ending wedding feast.

The Bible is a comedy, and it all centers on Easter.”

(From What’s So Funny About Easter? by Glen Scrivener)


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when you really want to change


“The gospel, if it is really believed, removes neediness – the need to be constantly respected, appreciated, and well regarded; the need to have everything in your life go well; the need to have power over others. All of these great, deep needs continue to control you only because the concept of the glorious God delighting in you with all His being is just that – a concept and nothing more. Our hearts don’t believe it, so they operate in default mode … if you want to really change, you must let the gospel teach you – that is to train, discipline, coach you – over a period of time. You must let the gospel argue with you. You must let the gospel sink down deeply into your heart, until it changes your motivation and views and attitudes.” (Tim Keller)

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

II Timothy 3:16-17


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The Lord is my shepherd


The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord



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God’s goodness comes in floods


“With the Lord the calf is always the fatted calf; the robe is always the best robe; the joy is unspeakable, and the peace passes understanding. There is no grudging in God’s goodness. He does not measure His goodness by drops like a druggist filling a prescription. It comes to us in floods.” (Haddon Robinson, in Trusting the Shepherd: Insights from Psalm 23)

“…my cup overflows…”

(Psalm 23:5)


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Copper and his sock habit

IMG_7602Copper’s growing up. His bark has lowered an octave and his legs are lengthening. His exuberance and assorted eccentricities also multiply daily. Copper’s just plain funny.

He runs like a speeding rocket right before bedtime – around and around and around the house. Like a bullet racing in circles. (We guess he’s helping himself use up the last of his day’s energy!)

He gallops with a tennis ball in his mouth when he’s happy. And he prances, like a trotting show horse, as he busily travels from one window’s venue to another. Copper gallops and trots like a horse.

He also canters.

The sound his puppy paws make as he canters can be heard from across the house. And cantering means one thing:

Copper has stolen a sock.

He has a thing for socks. Dirty ones are the best. My son’s dirty socks are the most best.

Copper goes on a dirty-sock search early each morning. But here’s the thing. When he finds a sock, he immediately feels guilty. Thus begins the morning canter. He clips along with legs straight and sock hanging from his mouth. And he whines. Whine. Canter. Whine. Canter. It’s as if he’s calling out, “Please catch me! Relieve me of my sinful sock habit!”IMG_7603 He seems to want his sin to be discovered by the ones in the house who hold the power to relieve him of his burden. He wants to be found out. In fact, he’ll stop the cantering, give a sigh, and then lie with the sock in front of him if we don’t come quickly. The sock lays there, sort of tempting him, but just out of mouth’s reach. If we delay too long, he begins a frantic search, cantering and whining the whole while, for a place to bury his sinful sock (under a sofa pillow, usually). I used to think he was hiding evidence. I now think he’s trying to hide the tempting sock-morsel from his own eyes.

He so much wants a helper, a rescuer, a burden-lifter.

Do you hear (yes, an inadequate analogy, but still), the poignant lesson for us all in Copper’s attitude toward his sinful sock habit? He somehow, in his small puppy brain, remembers he’s done wrong. But instead of defending his need for socks, or blaming me (the Great Sock Keeper), he wants to be saved from himself. He doesn’t run away and hide. He doesn’t snarl when we arrive to take his beloved sock. He relinquishes his early morning prize with a sort of puppy gratitude:

  • He calls out. He cries for help from the One able to rescue him. In his puppy way, he confesses.
  • He’s not too embarrassed, or too prideful, to ask for rescue over and over, day after day.
  • He trusts my wisdom about his need or lack of need for socks more than he trusts his own.
  • And this: Copper wants an unbroken, unhindered relationship with me. He wants to please me and trust me more than he trusts his own abilities to choose well. He knows he’s missing some of the smarts needed to conquer this habit on his own.

IMG_7609I love that Copper calls out. And I love that he immediately wants to crawl up in my lap after his bad deed: He knows he needs me more than he needs socks. I love that he trusts me to still love him as he asks for forgiveness.

In his puppy way, God uses him to teach us a lot about our own sin and the right way to handle our sinful habits. No denial. No defensiveness. No blame. Just a humble crying out. A poignant need for rescue admitted. A trust in His wisdom, and a fervent desire for reconnection through promised forgiveness.

Call to the Lord. He hears your cantering! No sinful habit is too great! He delights to rescue, and what joy you’ll experience when your disobedience is forgiven and your sin is put out of sight! Climb into His arms. He loves you with an everlasting love and He delights to forgive!

This is what God says about His faithful love and ready relief for you in distress, and about the joy you crave when your disobedience weighs heavy on your heart. Hear His words:

“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!”

“Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt…”

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

(Psalm 4:1, 32:1-2; Jeremiah 31:3)


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very valuable people or accidental by-products?

I have a friend named Jean. She’s 84, and she’s delightful. Yesterday, we were leaving a women’s retreat, and with happy exuberance, she told me, “There were 100 women here this weekend, and when I arrived I already knew 70 of them! My plan was to find and meet the 30 I didn’t know. And now, by the end of the weekend, I’ve met and spent time talking with 15 new women! I only wish I could have gotten to know those last 15!”

To Jean, people are very valuable. To her, meeting and loving 15 new humans is a joyful privilege. Jean loves as the Lord has loved her (I John 4:19). For Jean, people are not accidental by-products.

Driving away from the weekend where she’d valued so highly the lives of women in front of her, I kept thinking of C.S. Lewis’s words:

Questioner: Materialists and some astronomers suggest that the solar planetary system and life as we know it was brought about by an accidental stellar collision. What is the Christian view of this theory?

C.S. Lewis: If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. IMG_6735If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents — the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and some astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts — i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.” (C. S. Lewis from a question/answer panel on “Answers to Questions on Christianity” as later recorded in God in the Dock)

Listening to details of Jean’s weekend quest — seeking out and discovering women, young and old, who she was sure were each very valuable — delighted my own heart. No accidental by-products there! And hearing her name the names of new women she was honored to now call friends, I wondered if those women had any idea how incredibly valuable they really are. Both to Jean, and to the Lord who created them:

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.”

“The sum of your word is truth…my heart stands in awe of your words.”

(Psalm 139:13-16 and 119:160-161)


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how could the end be happy?


“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.” (Samwise Gamgee, when all good appears lost, in The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien)


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then sings my soul!


Breathtaking sunsets


Misty Mountains


Azure waters


Luminescence dancing about forest floors


Falls crashing among Icelandic green


Skies burning with purple and golden orange


Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!


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make your last lap a flat out sprint


“Runners in a distance race … always try to keep something in reserve for a final sprint. And my contention is that, so far as our bodily health allows, we should aim to be found running the last lap of the race of our Christian life, as we would say, flat out. The final sprint, so I urge, should be a sprint indeed.” (J.I. Packer, at 91 years old)

Lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and run your race with endurance. Flat out, ’til your last breath, run the race set before you! As you run, look to Jesus. Follow Him! He’s the founder and perfecter of your faith.

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” 

(Hebrews 12:1-2 paraphrased, I Cor. 9:25)


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We’re not called to comfortable


I don’t like moments when my carefully orchestrated ease is threatened. I don’t like news that jars, or having to operate outside my bubble of comfort. I don’t like it when another person’s decision, or an unexpected circumstance, causes more work for me, or trouble for me, or threatens to snatch away my enjoyable moment.

I can feel anger rising within toward the person who causes me discomfort. I want to flee from the anxiety their news brings. They’ve breached my carefully constructed wall of ease.

Then, God, in His mercy, reminds me to pray. I ask Him to show me His good design in the situation, and He brings to mind this truth:

 Jesus doesn’t call us to comfortable.

I need reminding of that every single day. Francis Schaeffer said it so well, speaking of our modern world: We seek idols of “personal peace and affluence.” We worship comfort. We crave ease.

  • We want earthly comfort/pleasure/ease more than we want to trust God’s comfort.
  • We don’t want stress, or any sort of a less-than-perfect life, so we withdraw into our own carefully constructed and controlled  worlds of comfort.
  • In our quest to circumvent pain and avoid fear, we chase pleasure through diversion.
  • We crave calm and security. We hate being interrupted during planned moments of peace.
  • We default toward: “Lord, I’ll follow you under these circumstances … can’t I just have what I want? If I can have this certain pleasure/experience/quality of life, I’ll be happy. Life will be good.”

But the heart set on comfort beats in all ways counter to the way of Jesus.

So we need to ask ourselves tough questions: Where do I turn (when I don’t turn to God) for comfort and hope and fear-alleviation? When is my anger revealing that my idol of comfort is being messed with?

Walls broken down

Know this: The Lord won’t allow you to cling to  false gods of comfort. He loves you more than you love you. In His kindness, He pursues you. He means to break the bonds by which you’ve enslaved yourself. He breaks down your walls of comfort — for your good! He wants you to know His true joy! He calls you to a more wonderful way:

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

This way is not the way of accumulation and diversion. He calls us higher. He calls us to:

His way is the way through the narrow gate. Toward pleasures forevermore. Toward fullness of joy! Toward the path on which we flourish deep within. Toward His presence.

O Father, when we bow to gods of comfort, please reveal our lesser, life-strangling choices! Stop us! Convict us! Give us hearts that recognize, and are mortified at, our turnings to personal peace and affluence. O Father, please, turn us to You.


Painting: Les Osselets (The Game of Knucklebones) by Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, 1734



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when choice fruit is produced in the shade


“If God has called you to really be like Jesus in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put on you such demands of obedience that He will not allow you to follow other Christians; and in many ways He will seem to let other good people do things that He will not let you do. Other Christians and ministers who seem to be very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires and work schemes to carry out their schemes; but you cannot do it; and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent. Others may brag on themselves, on their work, on their success, on their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any of these things, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, and that is a helpless dependence on Him, that He may have the privilege (the right) of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury. The Lord will let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden away in obscurity, because He wants some choice fragrant fruit for His coming glory which can only be produced in the shade. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it, but He will let you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing, and then to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work you have done, and this will make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings or for wasting your time, over which other Christians never seem distressed. So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in His dealings with you. He may take you at your word and if you absolutely sell yourself to be His slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other people say and do many things which He will not let you say or do.

Settle it forever that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not deal with others. Now when you are so possessed with the Living God, that you are in your secret heart pleased and delighted over the peculiar, private, jealous guardianship of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.”

(A Meditation on the Way of the Crucified, by Hudson Taylor, quoted in the biography, Hudson Taylor and China’s Open Century: It Is Not Death To Die, by A.J. Broomhall)

Image: Mountaintops near Guilin, China


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humble yourself by casting your anxiety


“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:6-7)

“What does it mean to be humble? It means, when you’ve made a mistake, admitting it and saying you’re sorry. It means, when you are weak or sick or inadequate for a task, not being too proud to ask for help. It means doing some ordinary jobs and spending time with ordinary people and being indifferent to accolades.

In other words, in all its forms humility is the risk of losing face. Humility is the risk of not being noticed, not being appreciated, not being praised, and not being rewarded. Lowliness runs the obvious risk of being looked down on.

And being looked down on is painful. Being unnoticed and unappreciated is painful. Losing face is painful. Being made little of is painful. And therefore humility causes anxiety. And the command to be humble under God and to be clothed with humility toward each other makes us anxious…

If we are going to have the courage of humility and the boldness of lowliness, someone is going to have to take our anxiety away…The secret of humility is being able to cast your anxiety on God…before you can put yourself humbly under God’s mighty hand, you have to put your anxiety confidently in God’s mighty hand.

The humility Peter commands under God’s hand is the peaceful, confident humility that comes because we have cast our anxiety on God with the confidence that he cares for us…humbled and lowly under the mighty hand of an infinitely holy and powerful God, and confident and peaceful because that very God cares for us and carries our anxiety. Before you bow down and step under him, cast the burden of your anxiety on him!”

 But what does casting mean?

“The people of Peter’s day would have understood that if you have a garment on and you want a [donkey] to carry it for you, you “cast” the garment on the animal. In this way you don’t carry it anymore. It’s on the animal not on you. The donkey works for you and lifts your load.

…God is willing to carry your anxieties the same way a donkey carries your baggage. One of the greatest things about the God of the Bible is that he commands us to let him work for us before commanding us to work for him…God wants to be a burden bearer because it demonstrates his power and puts him in a class by himself among the so-called gods of the universe. “No one has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him.” So throw the garments of your anxiety onto him. He wants to carry it.”

How though, specifically, do I cast?

“How do you practically make the anxiety transfer from your back to God’s back? The answer is: trust that he cares for you. Believe this promise. Trust him. It’s a matter of practical trust.

That promise…is connected to a command and the promise is meant to show you how to obey the command. The command is, “Cast your anxiety on God.” The promise is, “God cares for you.” That means, he cares about the thing that has you worrying. He wants to be trusted for that…Lay a specific anxiety on God. Trust him specifically that he cares about that. Believe that he is God. His purposes cannot be thwarted.

When it says that he cares, it means he will not stand by and let things develop without his influence. It means he will act. He will work. Not always the way we would. He’s God. He sees a thousand connections we don’t see…”Cast your anxiety on God by trusting that he cares for you.” (John Piper, Anxieties: To Be Cast Not Carried. Read or listen to the whole message here.)


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a truly humble woman


A truly humble woman is aware of her ignorance and weakness, of her lack of power and wisdom, as compared to God. She knows she is subject to God and that He is the sovereign Lord and King over all. She is willing to submit to His reign in her life, and she earnestly seeks a humble spirit. She wants to live daily with a deep and abiding sense of her comparative smallness before God, and she works to be humble toward Him and other people. She distrusts herself. She confesses her lack before her Lord. She relies on God, and renounces all glory except glory from Him. She yields herself wholeheartedly to His will and His service. She avoids “aspiring, ambitious, ostentatious, assuming, arrogant, scornful, stubborn, willful, leveling, self-justifying behavior; and strives for more and more of the humble spirit that Christ manifested while He was on earth.” (First sentences paraphrased, and the last directly quoted, from Jonathan Edwards)

“He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.”

(Psalm 25:9)

Painting: Altere Frau In Der Bibel Lesend (Older Woman Reading Her Bible) by Albert Anker, 1904


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lessons (about pride) from walks with a dog


“Supposing you are taking a dog on a lead through a turnstile or past a post. You know what happens (apart from his usual ceremonies in passing a post!). He tries to go to the wrong side and gets his head looped round the post. You see that he can’t do it, and therefore pull him back. You pull him back because you want to enable him to go forward. He wants exactly the same thing—namely to go forward: for that very reason he resists your pull back, or, if he is an obedient dog, yields to it reluctantly as a matter of duty which seems to him to be quite in opposition to his own will: though in fact it is only by yielding to you that he will ever succeed in getting where he wants.” (C.S. Lewis, written in a letter to a friend)

“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is good for you
and leads you along the paths you should follow.”

“In their hearts human beings plan their lives.
But the Lord decides where their steps will take them.”

(Isaiah 48:17, Proverbs 16:9)




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conceit gradually peeling off

books in church

“When I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to the churches and Gospel Halls . . . I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.” (C.S. Lewis answering questions about Christianity, recorded in God in the Dock)


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