Last night I had the pleasure of watching the movie premiere of "The Shack", which is based on William Paul Young's novel of the same name.
"The Shack" tells the story of a fictional father, named Mack, who is struggling with the brutal murder of his young daughter, Missy, while on a family camping trip. One touching moment in the movie was the night before her murder when Missy asks Mack to pray with her to Papa. Papa is the family's affectionate name for God the Father.
While the family is a church going Christian family and has the strong support of their church community, Mack is very angry with God and his older daughter, Kate, blames herself for the tragic death of Missy.
While the rest of the family is away Mack receives a mysterious invitation to the Shack in which his daughter was killed and it was signed Papa.
He decided to make the trip and spends a fictional weekend with the Trinity. While there was considerable artistic license taken in portraying the Trinity, the story of the weekend teaches some very important lessons.
One of the lessons is that God is a loving God who is pained by human suffering. That there are times we must go through pain in order to grow and become the person God intends for us to be. There is a scene were God the Father is encouraging Mack to forgive Missy's murderer. You can see how this is obviously painfully for Mack. This was, however, very necessary for his own healing and for him to eventually help his older daughter, Kate, free herself for the guilt she felt over Missy's death.
We also learn that we can accomplish things with Jesus walking beside us that we could never accomplish on our own and that the Holy Spirit is there to guide us. We are also shown examples of free will, reconciliation and that Heaven is a beautiful place in which there is no pain, no suffering and no words that mean goodbye.
After the fictional weekend, we see a miraculous change in Mack's life and how he is able to help Kate release herself from the blame that she carries for Missy's death. This change results in the family once again being joyful and using their joy in the face of tragedy to glorify God.
The key to enjoying this movie and getting the most out of it is to realize that it is a work of Christian fiction and not a theological work that claims biblically accuracy. Those who have read my reviews in the past know that I have been critical of other movies that stray from the truth of the Bible. The distinction is that those movies attempted to present themselves as an accurate portrayal of biblical stories. The Shack makes no such attempt. It is a fictional movie with an inspiring message.
In my view this movie was well done with wonderful acting and tells a compelling story of grief and healing. It demonstrates how healing can be used to glorify God.
Some have criticized the movie as suggesting that it ignored the wrath of God. I did not see it that way. While talk of hell and damnation were missing, I didn't take that as a suggestion that hell does not exist. Rather that it was omitted because it was not consistent with the story's message of love, forgiveness, redemption and healing. There are other platforms where the discussion of God's wrath would be appropriate, this in my opinion, was not such a platform.
What I particularly liked was that The Shack emphasizes the Trinity. While there is considerable artistic license taken with the portrayal of the Trinity, which some might take issue with, I am pleased that the Trinity was not ignored. I was also pleased that the movie acknowledged that the Trinity is three in one, an important theological concept which is easily misunderstood. In my next blog post I will discuss the Trinity for those who wish a deeper discussion of this important theological concept.
My bottom line take away from this movie is similar to the take away I got after reading the Book of Job for the first time. God's knowledge is infinite, while ours is limited. There are times that we must be brought through pain to achieve what God has planned for us and which allows us to better glorify God.
I was also encouraged that our faith can not be based on what happens in the lifetime we have on earth. The ultimate blessings that God has planned for us, His children, occur in our eternal life, not in our earthly life.
Overall, I was very pleased with this movie and feel it will provide Christians with a great way to open up discussions regarding pain and suffering. It will also force those of us in ministry to be more prepared to discuss the difficult questions regarding why God allows pain and suffering.