My daughter bought me The Shack DVD for my birthday and last night my wife and I watched it. I think I was sobbing more than I did when I read the book some years ago. It probably has the worst film reviews you can find, but it only makes sense in two directions. One if you have had something really bad happen to you or lost someone dear to you and the other if you are a Christian who has never really thought about what difference the Trinity really makes to your life.
I can’t speak from the first viewpoint, I’ll let the many reviews of the book and how it has helped people in the worst of tragedy answer that question. Jesus promised the Comforter and Paul Young has spoken under the influence of that same Holy Spirit to try and explain why bad things happen and how our anger and hatred towards God and those we can’t forgive removes us from the one thing that God desires: a loving relationship.
The help for me as a Christian trying to work out my salvation (Philipians 2:12), with perhaps not enough fear and trembling, is that of establishing a God of relationship, relationship within the trinity and by example with me. It does not explain the trinity, and perhaps this is where many have lambasted Young as a heretic, but it sets the three persons in context of how the relationship can work in our lives when set alongside the Bible and Jesus as the Word illuminated by the Spirit all in balance with the Father. Some have had their illusions about the gender of God challenged and quite rightly so, our ‘picture’ of God ought to be a shifting image, “for now we see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Some would rather have our unchanging God boxed off by predefined sections of scriptural dogma. That is a God who is dead to us from the neck down. If God breathed it (2 Timothy 3:16) then it is alive so handle it like that.
So if there is any criticism from me of the book and the film is that it is just a starter, it cannot explain everything, there is a mystical quality about God and his relationships that we just can’t and won’t yet fully understand. And he wants to keep it that way because, although he loves us more than we can imagine, he wants us to try and love him back. You can’t love someone properly from a distance so the journey, life’s journey, is to go looking for him and in that case he guarantees that you will find him (Deuteronomy 4:29). I just need to learn that what I seek is not just my own vain imaginings but the one who is truly God. And that’s a lifetime’s search.