It’s human nature to assign blame when tragedy occurs, and Mack, lead character in The Shack, is no different. The bestselling book addresses the issues of loving, judging others, accepting God, and healing. The Shack is a shocking thriller turned heart-wrencher about the healing of God’s love for his children.
Mackenzie Phillips takes his children for a camping trip without his wife Nan, who works as a nurse and enjoys helping others. While she is at work, Mack takes the children to Wallowa Lake State Park. He and his family enjoy fun times with couples and their children, sharing food and personal beliefs throughout their days there. One day, Mack is challenged to save his son when the boat he’s in flips over. Mack saves both his son and the young girl he is with. While doing so, Missy, his young daughter disappears from the shore where Mack left her.
Missy’s disappearance launches a search as the families frantically seek to find her. The park rangers become involved. When it appears Missy is nowhere to be found, the search expands beyond park grounds. The story takes a turn for the worst when the FBI calls to gather information about the girl. They discover that she has been taken by a serial killer whose marker is leaving a ladybug pin with the specific number of his victim.
Missy’s death ushers in the period called The Great Sadness, Mack’s name for the feeling deep in his chest that defines the pain he feels and the separation of his emotions. The family is at a loss, the children are emotionally withdrawn, and it seems as though Papa, the name Nan gave God love ago, is no longer present.
Then one day Mack receives a letter, apparently from God, asking him to pay a visit. Mack thinks it’s a joke. He thinks perhaps the serial killer is planning to be there and takes certain items and a gun for his solo trip. When he arrives at the lonely shack where Missy was killed, the thriller becomes a surreal story about Mack’s visit with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Papa takes the form of a motherly black woman. Jesus is a less than attractive male. And Sarayu is a wonderfully beautiful female. Mack meets the Trinity and embarks on a journey of healing. All preconceived notions are challenged by the actual meeting with these individuals, and Mack must admit he is guilty of putting them in boxes as he imagines them to be. This leads them to challenge him as a judger of men. If he has judged God as unworthy of loving his children because he allowed Missy to die, then he has assumed the work of the creator. Mack is challenged to choose which of his children will stay alive and which will spend eternity in hell.
The Shack is an amazing novel that upends notions people hold about a God who can love all his children no matter what they do here on Earth. The author poses the question of whether it is man’s job to decide the good or bad of a human being. And the author also challenges human thought about the supreme being’s love and capability. Read The Shack to learn more about yourself, forgiveness and your purpose here.