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The Verdict Is In on “The Shack”

The book shows that God will help us in our deepest, most personal and private struggle and need for healing. Our faith will help us move on.

The results are in about why The Shack  has been so popular. In my most recent blog post, I asked readers why they think The Shack, by William Paul Young, has been picked up and read by millions of people, remains on bestseller lists, and is still being read. Thanks to everyone who commented (mostly on the Guideposts Facebook page, where you’ll need to page down a bit to get to them).

Naturally, most of the comments were your personal reactions to the book. Most of you said the book was amazing, beautiful, and insightful. It made you cry cleansing tears. It helped you through sorrow. One reader said that the shack itself reminded her of her grandmother’s house, that is, a place where she found much comfort and love.

Several others had mixed feelings about the book or did not like it altogether, saying that it seemed a bit contrived, didn’t represent God accurately, or felt too much like science fiction.

All of these reactions are valid, and interesting.

One of the overwhelming responses about the book is the way it puts a face on God, helps you better understand the three ways we can know God in the Trinity, and makes a relationship to God conversational. No matter where we are or who we are, many readers feel that the author did a great job in showing that God is personal, palpably close, and always ready to offer us incredible grace and unconditional love. The Shack is a novel very much about healing and forgiveness.

This most popular response about God’s personable, loving care, it seems to me, explains the book’s primary appeal. I would, however, take it one step further.

The main character, Mack, relays that he struggles deeply with what is called “The Great Sadness.” Without saying too much about the story itself, suffice it to say that his sadness comes on the heels of a deeply disturbing tragedy. The prose pairs this sadness with a strong sense of loneliness. The tragedy causes Mack pain in a way only he can know. No one can help him or console him. He must make that journey on his own—with one exception. He has a God who is gentle, approachable, guiding and loving. This is not a wrathful God bent on making him feel guilty about mistakes or shortcomings, but a God that suffers alongside him.

The Great Sadness, however, with the capital letters the author uses, seems to me to extend far beyond Mack’s struggle, whether the author intended it or not. I think we all carry a great sadness to some degree. On the one hand, it’s part of the human condition. But on the other, I would argue that this sadness is so great because loneliness, or aloneness, is a big problem in our lives today. Our families are spread apart. Jobs keep us moving around. There’s so much change everywhere you look. So we all struggle to find community and commonality, rootedness and spiritual friendship. More than ever we find ourselves turning to God for that friendship, as we can and should. And that is why I think The Shack has been so popular. It shows that God will help us in our deepest, most personal and private struggle and need for healing.

Thanks again for commenting. As promised, three free books will soon be on their way to a lucky few.

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