Some Reflections on The Shack
Have you ever read a book and become so overwhelmed by the story that you forgot where reality ended and fiction began? Recently I had the great pain and pleasure of reading The Shack, by William P. Young. This is one of those books where my life became woven into the very fabric of the life of the main character. His pain became my pain, his loss became my loss, and his joy became my joy. Now I want to be careful here because I know what it is like to have someone build something up too much to where it is impossible to meet your expectations. I am not trying to do that, I am simply giving you my take on this book and sharing with you what God did in my heart through this fictional story.
The book tackles one of the most troubling issues that all people struggle with, the question of how an all loving and powerful God can allow evil to infect the world. Thankfully I have been blessed to never have experienced a great amount of evil in my life personally. Don’t get me wrong, I have experienced the loss of loved ones who have passed away and the daily trials of sickness, financial burden, and stress, but I have never experienced the gut wrenching experience of losing a child to a freak accident, or the murder of a loved one, or any other horrendous act of evil that we read about in the media. The author takes you through the intense anxiety and pain of what it would be like to live through the abduction of a young child and then guides you down the difficult road of reconciliation. He touches on such topics as forgiveness, the nature of God, predestination and fee will, the problem of evil, and God’s immense favor and love for every human being.
This book caused me to ask some serious questions about what the Christian life is all about. I don’t know what your experience is, but my observation is that many Christians spend so much of there time trying to gain something they already have. We are constantly trying to meet our need of love, significance, self worth, and value through our careers, our spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, our children, our natural abilities and dare I say it religion. The list could go on and on. To the extent that our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are being met in the daily circumstances listed above determines how “happy” we are. The problem is that we are already completely loved, accepted, and valued. We are greatly significant because we are children of the King. Now you may be thinking, great another typical church answer. If this is your response then may I suggest that you are suffering from a bit of an identity crises? So many of us live our lives working as hard as we can because we think that if we do then God will love us more. Now I know this is not something we will come right out and say, after all this goes against our theology of salvation by faith. But for many of us this is our experience. After all, what is one of the most successful tools used in churches to modify people’s behavior; guilt and manipulation. Our understanding is, we are saved by faith, but we are sanctified by our works. In other words, the cross was good enough for a one way ticket into heaven, but the rest of life is up to us to try to earn God’s love and acceptance. If we work hard enough at doing the “right” things than God will take notice and love us and bless our lives. However I don’t think this is the case.
My understanding of what the author was saying is that God’ greatest goal for our lives is for us to intimately know and love Him. John 17:3 says that eternal life is knowing Christ Jesus. We are not to spend our lives working for God; the truth is He doesn’t need us to do anything. Now I am not saying that works are unimportant in the believer’s life, quite the contrary. What I am saying is that first we have to know who we are before He can accomplish anything in our lives. The whole idea of “What would Jesus Do” had good intentions, but the concept is wrong. God knows we can not be like Jesus on our own, He never intended for us to be. This is why He gave us His Holy Spirit, to live THROUGH us. Christ is now our life and we need to understand what it means to die to ourselves and to our flesh and to allow His life to pour out of us. This is what discipleship is all about.
I have been in the ministry now for three years and I must admit I already feel like I am on the road to burnout. However the biblical and theological truths offered in this book helped to show me that the Christian life is not about doing, it is about being and in order to do anything I first have to know who I am. This book is a great illustration and story which accurately represents Biblical truths and is done in a beautifully creative way. I don’t know where you are in your walk with Jesus Christ right now, nor do I know your views on the Christian life, but no matter where you are, I think that you can benefit from reading this wonderful story, not as a replacement to God’s word, but as a refreshingly creative look at the beautiful nature of our Triune God and His purpose for His children.
If you are dealing with the tough questions of why God allows evil to happen in our world, or if you have experienced a great evil in your life than I think this book could be a great resource and help to you. If you have any unbelieving friends or friends who have some questions about God then you may want to buy them a copy to read. Or if you are just looking for a good book to read, then I highly recommend this one to you. Again I am not trying to build it up too much, I am merely giving you my thoughts and opinion. If anything I have written here sparks any questions please feel free to contact me (Mark), I would love to hear your thoughts.
Books affect us all in different ways; And people have had various responses to The Shack. I have not read the book myself, but I want to thank Mark for letting us in on the way it affected him.
Labels: Cultural Observations