All Christian films tug at my heartstrings. Even though most are on tight budgets, they still include phenomenal acting and in-depth screenwriting. Each displays a relatable message that leaves me with a new view on myself or the world. Movies like: The Blind Side, Facing the Giants, Courageous, Fireproof and War Room, bring forth reflection and tears during the first and consecutive viewings. I saw previews for The Shack earlier this year, and within the first minute, I knew I wanted to see it. Added bonus: it featured one of my favorite actresses, Octavia Spencer.
A few weeks ago, there was a viewing of The Shack at my grandma’s assisted living center that my mom and I attended. The movie was emotional and thought-provoking. I cried multiple times, but also laughed. Like the rest of its genre, I left with a new view on myself and the world. It left a lasting impact. I couldn’t let go of the connection I made with the characters. So when my dad said I should listen to the audiobook, I immediately agreed. He renewed the library copy and it soon filled my car during commutes.
Movies based on books are always slightly different. It’s impossible to cram every detail from a 300-page book into a 120-minute movie. Plus, films spice up their adaptations to reach the Hollywood standard. The movie version of The Shack shows all the action sequences while the book expands on dialogues that occur between the protagonist and secondary characters. Speaking of, let’s dive into the plot.
Mackenzie Allen Phillips’ youngest daughter is kidnapped during a family camping trip and murdered in a shack in the woods. This loss propels Mack into deep sadness for the next few years, pushing him away from God. One day he receives a letter instructing him to return to the shack to catch up with Papa, his wife’s nickname for God. When he goes, he spends time with the Holy Trinity: God/Papa, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. His faith is restored when he forgives himself and the killer for his daughter’s murder. His resentment is washed away when he learns that God cannot stop the world’s evil, because doing so would eliminate the freewill that was given through Adam. All God can do is find the good in the evil that affects his children.
“Nobody knows what horrors I have saved the world from ‘cuz people can’t see what never happened. All evil flows from independence, and independence is your choice. If I were to simply revoke all the choices of independence, the world as you know it would cease to exist and love would have no meaning. This world is not a playground where I keep all my children free from evil. Evil is the chaos of this age that you brought to me, but it will not have the final say. Now it touches everyone that I love, those who follow me and those who don’t. If I take away the consequences of people’s choices, I destroy the possibilities of love. Love that is forced is no love at all.” – Papa
The Shack reaffirmed my belief that God never resents us for turning away from him. We will always be welcomed back with open arms when we realize our mistakes and want forgiveness. He simply wants a relationship with us because that’s what he created us for: love. So when evil enters our lives and we focus on our suffering, we quickly lose sight of him. This is what evil wants: our focus and energy. Fortunately, if we invite God into our hearts, he can help us embrace our suffering. The Shack will give a new perspective to all who watch because we have all felt pain at some point.