I’m re-reading the book The Shack in anticipation of the movie coming out next month on what has to be the ten year anniversary of the book. I’ve read the book two or three times, but not in almost a decade. The last time I would have read it, the girls were probably somewhere around 12 and 9 years old. In the book, the main character, Mack, has a daughter who is kidnapped and murdered and must confront his relationship with God in light of this tragic event. The book takes on all of the big questions, including the biggest- theodicy- how could an all powerful and all loving God allow the absolute worst- the death of a child?
Those years ago when I read the book, I could related to Mack, as a man with several young children. Now, I related all the more, as a grieving father. After Missy’s death, Mack falls into The Great Sadness. I had no idea at the time how well the author described this feeling that settles in on a grieving parent, a feeling we wear like a lead lined overcoat weighing us down.
The book is pretty traditionally Christian and features, the Trinity, prominently. In standard Christian fare, God tells Mack this world is not as designed. Something happened when Adam disobeyed that screwed up the whole world. The pain and the separation were not planned, and therefore I assume, not necessary. However, God is working to redeem the world. The idea of divine providence (not the words) are also a prominent theme of the book. God is working for everyone’s highest good, even through all of the brokenness.
Mack struggles with this concept because Mack is enduring the ultimate pain. God tells Mack he would not suffer so if he could just trust. But, how do you trust someone who would allow what is most precious to you to be ripped from you? When I read the book the firsts time, both of my girls were still here, yet I didn’t get this divine providence concept and didn’t buy into it. I also didn’t trust God. I was attending a church at the time where a lot of people believed if you did the right things, including tithing and praying enough, God would make your life smooth sailing. Tithe and he’ll send more money back to you than you put in. Pray and he’d even find a parking space for you. I never believed any of that. I knew that, at any time, tragedy could strike and I did not trust the God who would allow that to happen.
Then, tragedy did strike. The worst. Shayna was taken, suddenly, in the middle of the night, without warning. And I had a decision to make. If I didn’t trust this capricious God before, how could i trust Him after? What I have found since that time is my view of the world has taken a shift. The pain isn’t a mistake. It’s an ordinary pain, even an necessary pain if we are going to live in a world with choices, real choices between doing good and doing evil and all of the consequences that brings along with it. There have to be opportunities to serve and to serve, someone has to be lacking something. God wasn’t surprised by the “turn” humanity took, it was part of the design.
And the pain, is it worth it? Mack, at the point I’m at in the book now, cannot imagine what could make his pain worth it. He’s still at the point where he doesn’t trust God. Ironically, I trust divine providence/God now more than I ever have. Trusting God doesn’t mean that I trust that nothing bad will ever happen, anyone who has spent a few years on this planet knows that’s bullshit. Trusting God means I trust that whatever happens, it’s ultimately going to work out and it’s ultimately going to be worth it. Not today, not tomorrow, and in my case, maybe not for 30 or 40 years (God forbid it’s that long), but it will be, one day.