The Shack – The Question of Suffering

I recently read a book called “The Shack”. It is a christian novel of fiction which provides the author with a scenario where he can expound some of his deeper and unique insights about how God in the form of the Trinity sees suffering in the lives of Christians.

It’s about a Christian man called “Mac” whose young daughter is abducted and murdered in a shack where the family are staying while they are camping in the forest.

Mac is naturally devastated by the death of his little daughter “Missy” and goes through a period of overwhelming grief and depression for the next few years.

One day he received a note in the mail from “Papa” (alias God) who invites him back to the shack to meet with him. Despite Mac’s puzzlement over the note he returns to the shack where he has a deep and revealing encounter with the Almighty God in the form of his three parts the Father Son and Holy Spirit.

I do not wish to give away the whole story, but I was reminded of some important concepts and discovered many new interesting insights about God’s perspective on the problem of pain in our world.  The following are some of these discoveries.

1. From my blog you have probably gathered that I am pretty much into social justice and maintaining human rights for all people especially the poor and destitute who cannot speak for themselves.  God does command us in his Word to look after the poor , widow, orphan and alien.  See  Exodus 22: 21-27,  Proverbs 21:13, 29:7.  Hence in the following paragraph I am not dealing with these issues.

In a spiritual sense however, in our relationship with God,  we as human beings and Christians do not really deserve anything from God.  We do not really have any “rights”  before God .  The reason is that we as human beings have all sinned or rebelled against God at different times in our lives.  That is, we have all decided to go our own way or go against his commands or direction for our lives.  Our rightful punishment for this is really death.   However because God is so full of love compassion and mercy he chose instead to take that punishment for us .  I hope you can see by this, that the only reason why we are still alive today and have become alive spiritually, is because of how merciful God is to us.  If not, our true and “just” status is that we all really deserve to be punished for our rebellion and rejection of God.  Hence when hard things happen to us, we do not really have any rights before God, like the right for God to insulate us from these things and from the suffering in this world.  We need to grieve over our loss or suffering.  But in one sense we do not have any “rights” to demand from God because our whole relationship with Him is based purely on his kindness,  mercy and grace, which we never really deserved in the first place.  Therefore it is helpful to learn to surrender any “rights” we think we have with God, when suffering comes upon us, and focus on the grace God is willing to bestow on us in all other respects.

2.  Submission to a person is about having a love and respect for them. 

3.  To evaluate whether something that happens in our lives is good or bad can be a subjective thing.  For instance,  to experience a great trauma could be classed initially as a “bad” thing .  However on the other hand it can be seen also as a “good” thing because it can :-

a) Help us turn to God so that we can discover his comfort,  unconditional love and power.  In discovering these things we can then experience a more full and enriching life for the future

b) It can strengthen our character and our ability to endure hardship.

c)  It can make us more compassionate to others who are hurting or suffering as well.

d)  We can learn how to comfort and minister to others going through similar circumstances, since we have walked in their shoes. 

A famous actress once said :-
” You can’t be brave if you’ve always had wonderful things happen to you ”

3.  As Mac interacts with the persons of the Trinity (God)  he goes through many aspects of the forgiveness process.

4.  When we truly forgive our biological fathers, we are more ready to see God as a male father figure,  not just a female mother figure.

5.  God does not do humiliation,  guilt or condemnation

6.  Unless people speak the truth about what they have done wrong to another, and change their mind and behaviour,  a relationship of trust is not possible.

7.  Every time you forgive,  the universe changes.  Every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes.  With every kindness,  service seen or unseen,  God’s purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again.

7.   Jesus does not look Swedish but more likely has brown curly hair, a beard and a big nose since he was originally Jewish. 

“The Shack” is a good read for those who are seeking some answers to the question of suffering in their own lives. It also gives a deeper insight into how the Father Son and Holy Spirit relate to each other within the Trinity.

Available from Koorong in West Ryde or The Word Bookstore in Pennant Hills.

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