Why Everyone Should See the Shack

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Why everyone should see The Shack

I was asleep to the ocean of pain in my own life, and The Shack woke me up.  My traditional upbringing rarely equipped me with models that adequately handled the pain in a healing way. Consequently truths about God were impressed on me that left me uncertain about a God that seemed far more interested in right behavior than relationship and a deep connection with Him. I was trained in biblical academics at some of the finest institutions, but I doubted God’s goodness, and I had invisible walls between myself and God. The pain of my experience clouded my mind and most importantly my heart.

What do we do with our pain in the face of a God we have been told through traditions is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving but allows so much pain and feelings of injustice? These are the questions The Shack addresses through a fictional story designed to help us see and know a very real side of God and relationships that are so desperately needed in our pain.

When the book, The Shack, was released there was a buzz, often negative but also some positive about its story. Theologians, bloggers, and spiritual people all weighed in on its so-called “heresy and flaws.”  My wife, Lisa, hosted a book discussion and several women read and digested the book deeply. It was, as of today, the largest gathering she has hosted. Why? It wasn’t because they were riding a wave of “pop-culture-heresy,” but because The Shack touched and addressed some of the deepest and most profound questions about our spiritual lives. And it provides an imaginative, yet accurate, story of how to understand God and process our pain.

To understand The Shack we have to consider its genre and purpose. Although it might be fair to say the story leaves out and challenges some classically held views on God and His nature, what it does present is a corrective balance through a picture of real aspects of God that bring healing and hope. The Shack presents, through imaginative storytelling, the power of a God that loves deeply and knows everything – far beyond our limited and quite judgmental vantage points. It highlights God’s profound wisdom in the face of our so often rash and inept ways of handling evil and the ocean of pain it brings. The Shack demonstrates a God that enters into our pain, handles evil in a far bigger and more glorious way than we my dream, and brings the wisdom of His grace and forgiveness to our hearts. Rather than focusing on wrath and punishment, we see in The Shack a real side of God and his immeasurable wisdom. In The Shack we see a glimpse of God’s truth and gracious love woven into a fictional story to bring help, hope, and healing to our broken hearts.

In the recent release of the film, The Shack, it has yet again stirred up a buzz. I’ve read several blogs and articles condemning the film as “heresy,” yet many of these articles miss the main point. We are designed for relationship with God and each other – His image bearers. Our brokenness, pain, and limited perspective cloud our ability to trust Him and His vast and patient love. We know that God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience leads us to healing through repentance and forgiveness (Romans 2:4), and that the depths of His loving and wise ways are beyond our limited imaginations and responses to pain (Romans 11:33-36). The Shack helps us enter into a deeper spiritual world and divine perspective that better define wisdom and forgiveness.

To be sure The Shack doesn’t cover all the aspects of God’s nature, and due to its genre it mainly highlights element so often missing in our thoughts about God. Christians need to watch the film and read the book with open eyes to discern what is missing, but I believe to also receive the elements that it was intended to present. If we receive The Shack this way, we just might find the God that is really there, really does have answers, really does provide help, hope, and healing for the pain and evil in our hearts.

For these reasons and so many more, I think everyone should see The Shack.

Unjust Suffering with Purpose

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The story of Joseph inspires us about the fulfillment of God’s purposes to save and do good for His people. Yet at the same time it challenges our idea of what that process will look and feel like in our lives. We often believe our story should be an ever increasing journey of joy; each day with less pain and challenges, but this is not the case. Recently several people shared a picture that sums this pattern better than 1000 words:12717941_1973814622842861_4940173371820713140_n

Many of us have experience untold loss and pain that leaves us reeling and questioning God’s goodness and possibly His mission and purpose. Like Joseph, in our younger years we believe He gave us a vision of greatness but our present circumstances appear to have dashed these dreams we thought with certainty were given by God. Is this really an accurate view? The story of Joseph speaks today about our lives in its testimony of the greater purposes of God through our pain and plan for our good.

Joseph’s story highlights and outlines brightly how God actually works through suffering, especially unjust suffering, to reveal hope. Imagine yourself in Joseph’s sandals. His brothers kidnap him, sell him into slavery, fake his death so that they can cover their tracks and ensure no one will be the wiser to go rescue him! Then when Joseph makes a brief recovery by rising to a position of honor in Potiphar’s house he is falsely accused of adultery and sexual assault only to be thrown in prison without trial. How must Joseph have felt to see a glimmer of success only to be quickly pushed back into the ash heap of prison, left to rot in the dungeon of rejection and defamation of his hard-earned reputation. Even in prison Joseph sought to serve God by interpreting the dreams of the cupbearer and baker only to be abandoned yet again! this is the place many of us find ourselves: forgotten by those in favor and suffering unjustly for things we do not feel we deserve. We feel utterly forgotten by former friends, so-called “church family,” and perhaps we even may feel abandoned by God. When we feel the pain of rejection, abandonment, false accusations, and the humiliation of loss does that mean our mission and purpose is also lost? Maybe we say to ourself, “God’s mission and purpose for me is over. Perhaps I misread His earlier goodness to me as delusions of grandeur or megalomaniac notions of greatness with a touch of naiveté in spiritual immaturity. Maybe I should give up and die.” Each of us can find ourself in this lonely and confusing place when the pain of unchangeable loss churns our hearts like the forces of breaking waves over our lives. Pushed down, disoriented, and hopeless we feel we can’t breathe and there exists no possible way to reach solid ground.

The good news is that if you are still reading you are alive, and that speaks to the present fact that God is not finished with you. Like Joseph, you will someday soon be raised up – stronger and more prepared for the next wave and wiser to accomplish the purpose and mission to which you have been called. We cannot give up.

Remember the Story. At just the right time and after the sufferings, you like Joseph, will be set on solid ground. Though many have done you wrong and left you for dead, God has not and will not. We see this in the end of Joseph’s story but most clearly we see this truth in Jesus. He is the one who suffered the ultimate unjust rejection, pain, and death on the cross. Jesus was left naked and bleeding on the cross, while being mocked and derided, only to be finally and completely abandoned by God Himself. Jesus’ mission was to finish the pattern that Joseph started, and secure for us the goodness of God’s permanent call and presence in our lives. Through the pattern of suffering Jesus was plunged into the depths of death only to be raised three days later. He was vindicated and victoriously raised for the defeat of not just death but all injustice. He secures your story through suffering, and He provides the pattern of how God’s purposes and mission will be known in you. Jesus, like Joseph, went through pain, not around it. Why do we think it would or should be any different for us? The challenge is the fact that it will not be different but the same, except that now we have in Jesus even greater hope.

What has happened to you that your heart cannot seem to take? Put it through the Story of Joseph leading you to Jesus. What unjust fires have left your imagined life in an ash heap that appears to be an eternal and irrecoverable tomb? Do not allow the desolate condition of your present circumstances dictate the vision, mission, and calling of God in your life. Jerry Sitter, in his book on suffering rightly states,” Your life does not consist of a succession of isolated events randomly strung together but rather a story with a purpose that [ you, like Joseph] do not see and will never entirely understand.  [Joseph says to his brothers] ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.'”

We must find ourselves in the real story of God’s goodness.  We must, in Jesus say, “I choose to believe and live in the fact that God is working out His ultimate purpose in my suffering and pain and is leading me toward a day of greater good.”