Review | The Shack by William P. Young


When Rob and Dawn Critchley and Peter and Heather Jackson kept pestering me to read The Shack, by William P. Young, a little streak of resistance surfaced that sometimes manifests when people are overeager for me to do something.

Then my husband, a major Tom Clancy fan, read it and the pestering escalated. To get my husband to stop badgering me whenever I sat down to watch Law and Order, I finally complied. For the next two days, I vacillated between fear and excitement when I thought of my next reading session.

The story flowed like a crime novel, but this time, the victims became personal friends luring me into a plot and a resolution that left me crying my eyeballs out and Facebooking about it! I had not been prepared for the book’s emotional impact or its influence on my personal dialogue with God.

The Shack is a novel, a parable about a middle-aged father who suffers the horrifying tragedy of having his daughter abducted by a serial killer. Mack is on the verge of drowning in anger with God when he opens his mailbox to find an invitation to return to the scene of the crime mysteriously signed by “Papa.”

Should he go?

What if the message was really from the abductor? When Mack returns to the scene, God appears to him in the form of an African-American mama named “Papa.” Over a weekend, Papa, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all take turns talking to Mack and leading him on a trail of self discovery and into a far more intimate knowledge of God than he had ever found on the pew of his church.

There is a reason this self published story has risen to the top of the New York Times Best Seller List. It confronts every person’s struggle with God that often comes when He allows a wind of tragedy to invade a life. William Young uses the narrative to dig into the places the reader isn’t prepared to see, and the result is far more powerful than what could have come from a non-fiction exposition of the subject.

It had the curious effect on me of helping me “tune to flow,” as Mark Virkler taught us in his series on hearing the voice of God. After reading pages of dialogue between Mack and Papa, I began to hear God speaking to me.

I saw that disappointments I had suffered during these years of renewal and that had been deodorized with joy and laughter still lurked inside me. The dialogue with Papa gave a voice to those hurts, and I found myself crying out loud to God myself asking him the inevitable “why” questions that ooze out of us all when things get quiet.

To say that reading the book was a set up from God is an understatement.

If you have an ounce of self awareness, be warned, this book will show you the thing that’s hindering you from trusting God. But it doesn’t leave you asking. It answers the questions giving insight into the way God feels when you hurt and the why of it all.

People who read the book usually buy their first copy and then go to the website to order a case.

Why not go to the TACF Resource Center for your first copy? You will want to give it away; particularly to folks you know who are struggling with those “why” questions and drawing negative conclusions about God and whether or not He really loves them.

Critics of the book are upset because God appears as a woman. However, Jesus compared God to a woman in His parable about God hiding the leaven of the kingdom in three measures of meal. They are also upset that God would talk to someone in such a prolific dialogue.

Duh! We’ve spent the last fourteen years in renewal adopting this as a lifestyle. Critics are also questioning William Young’s challenges to the institutional inadequacies of what we’ve come to call “church.” Isn’t it time we took an honest look at those and asked ourselves if our traditions are really healing people like Mack?

I am not aware that William Young has ever been to a Toronto-style renewal meeting or a conference on the Father’s heart, but the same God who hovered over those meetings in Toronto inspired him to write this book. If you have ever wanted God to sit down in the chair beside you and answer some questions, you will eat this book!

So if I am the next in a long line of folks pestering you to become “Shacked,”* you may as well give in.