I wrote an article a while back about the four types of people most likely to see a Christian movie. The thing about The Shack is that, while those four groups of people will see it, I believe it is broader reaching than that. As a book it certainly was a cultural phenomenon in that it reached far beyond the normal Christian circles. The movie, therefore, is already starting with a fan base far beyond the normal Christian market. Beyond that, its subject matter also invites a broader audience. The movie centers around an encounter a grieving father has with the triune Godhead after the abduction and murder of his youngest daughter. It tackles head on, tenderly, intimately, the problem of pain in the world—quite probably the number one question/objection to faith that I hear many non-Christians (and Christians alike) wrestle with. Why would a good, sovereign God allow pain in the world?
Years ago, Shepherd Project Ministries did extensive work creating resources for people regarding the book which are just as potent today for the movie as they were for the book.
- Book Summary (think Cliff notes version)
- Building Bridges with The Shack (how to use The Shack as a tool to reach others)
- A Review of The Shack (What’s good about it. Why it’s been criticized. Is it theologically sound?)
- The Shack and the problem of evil
- Some other recommended links
I highly recommend you read the Review as well as the Problem of Evil articles as they will equip you to clearly speak into the theological aspects (and they do so in an easy to read and understand fashion). As before with the book, I suspect the movie will resurrect many of the discussions about the theological soundness of the book. And certainly, you could hardly discuss the movie at all without a discussion of the problem of evil in the world. So, it doesn’t hurt to be equipped for those discussions!
As there is so much information already available on The Shack, I will focus this article on a few of the poignant lessons in the movie. Know, however, that the power of the story is that its truths are couched in parables, metaphors and visuals—no list of lessons will quite touch you the way seeing the story play out will.
- Sometimes we have a hard time relating to God as a Father because we’ve been hurt by our fathers, and sometimes we need God as a Father.
- Sometimes we feel that God is silent. We feel He leads us somewhere and then doesn’t show and/or abandons us. Our perception, however, is not necessarily reality. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” Hebrews 11:6.
- Sometimes the only way to heal is to go back to our place of woundedness, the place where we got stuck. It can seem cruel to us to have to face that pain, but it’s God’s love that takes us there, so that we can heal.
- We may want a quick fix to our pain, but as Papa told Mack, “There’s no easy fix… It takes a bit of time and relationship.”
- Just because bad things happen to us, it doesn’t mean God left us. As Papa explained, “No Mack, you misunderstand the mystery… Don’t ever think what cost my son didn’t cost me, too. [As Papa revealed the nail scars in his own arms.] Love always leaves a mark. I never left Him. I never left you. I never left Missy.”
- Jesus point out to Mack, “When all you see is your pain, you lose sight of me.”
- Mack thought he wouldn’t be free until his circumstances changed, but Papa reminded him that it’s not our circumstances that set us free but Truth…and Jesus is the Truth. Therefore, Jesus, not a change in our circumstances, will set us free.
- “Birds are created to fly. You, on the other hand, were created to be loved. Living unloved is like clipping a bird’s wings.”
- Even if you can’t see it, you are in the center of God’s love and purpose.
- “Dreams are important. They can be a way of opening a window, letting the bad air out.”
- God doesn’t punish the people who disappoint him. Sin is its own punishment.
- The flaw in our thinking, often, as we try to make sense of our world and our pain is that we don’t think God is good.
- If something is to be planted, the ground has to be prepared. This involves tearing up the soil and getting rid of any old roots. Sometimes when our lives are being torn up, it’s just proof that God is making room to plant something beautiful.
- In the garden, the flowers were beautiful, but they had to be cut down to make room for something better. We see two things here – first off, there can be too much of a good thing. Even good things need to be trimmed and kept in balance and order at times. Second off, the good can be in the way of something better. When God cuts down something good in your life, it may not be that He’s trying to take away something good, but only that He is freeing you up to receive something better. It may not be His judgement but rather His love and generosity at work.
- Mack judged a poisonous root evil because it could kill him. Sarayu pointed out, however, that that root, when combined with another plant, had great healing properties. (The same could be said of Paul—he was murderous, until combined with the loving power of God.) Sometimes we judge things evil because we don’t know what good they may become when combined with the love of God. God can work all things (including all people) to good…Romans 8:28.
- God loves his children, even when they are in rebellion. He desires that none should perish.
- We are often in judgement of both God and man, thinking we could do a better job. When giving the job, however, Mack realized it wasn’t one he wanted. Only God can judge.
- Forgiveness is a process.
- We can get lost in our own sadness so much that we aren’t able to help others through theirs.