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  • Book Reviews

    A Return to "The Shack"–A Reflection on the Children of Sandy Hook Elementary

    December 15, 2012


    I know the best thing to do for the families in Connecticut right now is to sit in silence and mourn their losses with them, like Job’s friends did before they opened their big, fat mouths for forty chapters. To light candles, send cards, or whatever our hearts direct in the way of sensitivity and compassion.

    But I also respect the fact that so many are asking the “why” questions we always ask when things like this happen. So I’ve dusted off my copy of The Shack to highlight a portion of the book that may help those who are trying to sort out their thoughts and beliefs about God in times like this.

    (I’ve changed the pronoun for God to “he/him” in order to calm some nerves. I don’t have the space here to explain the meaning of the word “metaphor” to those who insist Young’s treating of “Papa” is other than just that. Nor do I have the mental energy in this instance to explain the theology of God as a Spirit with male and female aspects, and why He chose to reveal Himself to us as “Father.”)

    Anyway, if you’re not familiar with the story, the main character, Mack, is struggling over the brutal murder of his little girl, Missy. He’s baring his soul to Sophia, the character who personifies wisdom:

    “What am I supposed to think? I just don’t understand how God could love Missy and let her go through that horror. She was innocent. She didn’t do anything to deserve that.”

    “I know.”

    Mack continued. “Did God use her to punish me for what I did to my father? That isn’t fair. She didn’t deserve this….” Tears streamed down his face. “I might have, but (she) didn’t.”

    “Is that who your God is, Mackenzie? It’s no wonder you are drowning in your sorrow. Papa isn’t like that, Mackenzie. He’s not punishing you, or Missy…. This was not his doing.”

    “But he didn’t stop it.”

    “No, he didn’t. He doesn’t stop a lot of things that cause…pain. Your world is severely broken. You demanded your independence and now you are angry with the One who loved you enough to give it to you. Nothing is as it should be, as Papa desires it to be, and as it will be one day. Right now your world is lost in darkness and chaos, and horrible things happen to those he is especially fond of. “

    “Then why doesn’t he do something about it?”

    “He already has….”

    “You mean what Jesus did?”

    “Haven’t you seen the wounds on Papa too?”

    “I didn’t understand them. How could he….”

    “For love. he chose the way of the cross, where mercy triumphs over justice because of love. Would you instead prefer he’d chosen justice for everyone? Do you want justice, ‘Dear Judge’?” And she smiled as she said it.

    “No, I don’t. Not for me, and not for my children.”

    She waited.

    “But I still don’t understand why Missy had to die.”

    “She didn’t have to, Mackenzie. This was no plan of Papa’s. Papa has never needed evil to accomplish his good purposes. It is you humans who have embraced evil, and Papa has responded with goodness. What happened to Missy is the work of evil, and no one in your world is immune from it.”

    “But it hurts so much. There must be a better way.”

    “There is. You just can’t see it now. Return from your independence, Mackenzie. Give up being his judge and know Papa for who he is. Then you will be able to embrace his love in the midst of your pain, instead of pushing him away with your self-centered perception of what you think the universe should be. Papa has crawled inside of your world to be with you, to be with Missy.”

    “…She’s really okay, isn’t she?”

    “More than you know. This life is only the anteroom of a greater reality to come. No one reaches their potential in your world. It’s only preparation for what Papa had in mind all along….She is a very wise child, our Missy. I am especially fond of her.”

    (pp.166-169)


    “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

    And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.

    Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.'”

    Revelation 21:1-5

    (Disclaimer: I do not endorse The Shack as a work of sound doctrine or a tool for evangelism, but rather as a masterpiece on the subject of suffering and on the nurturing aspect of God’s character.)


    5 thoughts on “A Return to "The Shack"–A Reflection on the Children of Sandy Hook Elementary

    1. Joe says:

      Like you, I saw a lot of value in the book, and some ‘theological’ issues. If I turned everyone off that I had an issue with, I would not even listen to myself. I could only listen to Jesus. Oh well, I appreciate the blog. Thanks Faith.

    2. MichelleM says:

      Hi Faith, I, too, loved/hated The Shack. What I appreciated was the declaration of God’s amazing love for us. Thank you so much for posting this excerpt. It helped me, who, although I can’t come close to imagining the depth of suffering the parents and families of the victims are experiencing, find myself curling up in pain every time I read about them.

      One little note: in the story, it was Mack’s daughter who was abducted and killed. I love my nieces to pieces, but my daughter has a special, humongous place in my heart (as does my son.) The loss of a daughter actually was an aspect of the book that made it hard reading for me.

    3. Faith Bogdan says:

      Thanks, Michelle. I removed that first paragraph and replaced it with a simple disclaimer at the end (to shorten the post). I have a bad habit of post-posting tweaking!

      Thanks, Joe.

      Thanks for all incoming comments; I’m going to go spend the rest of the day loving my kiddos.

    4. Keith says:

      “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:18)
      I think what Jesus is teaching here is that even if something is good and beautiful and true, if it comes from a bad source – the passage is about false prophets – it is unacceptably tainted.
      The enemy is a seducer. he entices us to let our guard down with samples of truth and beauty. he would be ineffective otherwise. A good counterfeit must look genuine, and he’s a master at it.
      If we receive what he offers – even if it’s just the good parts – it legitimizes him and advertises for him. It can influence others, if not ourselves, to be receptive to his lies.
      God teaches zero tolerance for aberrant ideas (Galatians 1:8-9). With so much pure truth and beauty our Good Shepherd offers us, we don’t need any from the pusher on the street corner dressed like a sheep.

    5. Faith Bogdan says:

      Wow, I re-read your comment, Michelle and saw my mistake. Thanks for pointing that out! The reason I said “niece” is because in real life it was the author’s niece who died. I’d forgotten that.

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