Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I do like going to the movies—always have. It’s amazing to me that so many are produced for our pleasure. Many are not worth seeing, but there was one I did see that had quite an impact on me. It was The Shack, which you may have seen also. A remarkable, moving and intelligent film that did cause a deal of controversy around the world when it was released.
It is based on the runaway big-selling 2007 book by William Young. He was the son of a missionary and wanted to write a Christian book for his kids. It sold more than 5 million copies in less than 2 years. Little did he know what an impact it would have. Some loved the movie—others rubbished it, and some church people were highly offended.
Opinion was certainly divided. One minister told his congregation not to read the book or see the film. He said it was heresy. I don’t agree actually—I think, if you have an open mind, there are many brilliant questions and theological topics that can be opened up for discussion. It’s nothing to be scared about—providing you have an open mind. For me, it was uplifting and moving.
There are those who found the book worthwhile, if not exceptional. Eugene Peterson is among these:
When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilise the result is a novel on the order of The Shack. This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!
I don’t know what Eugene Peterson thought about the movie version. But he felt good about the book. I can’t deal with the whole story in this short space, but let me tell you about Mac Phillips, the main character. He used to attend church regularly with his wife and children. But all that changed when Missy, his youngest daughter, is abducted and murdered.
It is a shocking crime. Mac is devastated and a shattered man, but meets God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. His life has a dramatic change as he meets the Trinity in a supernatural experience. And you would need to either read the book or see the movie to get the whole story. But Mac is an angry man, blaming God for his tragic loss. And who can blame him?
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
Mac is not the first person to have a crisis of faith:
- Have you ever had a crisis of faith?
- Has God ever disappointed you?
- Has there been a time in your life when you became disillusioned and lost faith in God?
- Is this how you feel today?
Why do you think this happens? We struggle to accept that bad things happen to good people. Deep down, we believe we can ward off evil, or at least minimise its impact, by being responsible, mature, disciplined and loving. When we suffer, even though we have been faithful, it leads to doubts about God’s love for us. And this is seen in the movie The Shack. Mac talks to the Trinity in very honest ways with his questions.
We assume that if God loves us, he will rescue us when we are irresponsible and make bad decisions. I think the Israelites believed this—they knew they had drifted away from God and lived by the culture’s values. They were not pursuing justice and peace, or reflecting God’s nature by the way they treated their neighbours. They were addicted to money, possessions, pleasure and a life of ease, which led to corruption in high places.
They were not driven by the power of love but the love of power. They knew they were guilty and were to blame for the mess they were in. This did not keep them from expecting God to rescue them though, and they became disillusioned when God did not take away the consequences of their bad decisions. Sound familiar?
The Lord Is My Shepherd
I heard about a book by Paula D’Arcy titled Song for Sarah, which is Paula’s personal diary. When Paula discovered she and her husband, Roy, were going to have their first child, she began writing letters to her unborn child. She intended to write in this diary until her child turned 16, and then give it to him or her. She began by writing to ‘Andrew’, thinking the child she was carrying was a boy.
‘Andrew’ turned out to be a girl, whom she and Roy named Sarah. For the next 18 months, Paula wrote about her experiences with Sarah, knowing one day it would bring joy and delight to her. Tragedy struck so abruptly on a summer day when she, Roy and Sarah were on their way to Massachusetts to visit grandparents. A car swerved and hit them head on. Paula was the only one to survive the accident..
Paula continued to write in the diary for several years after this terrible day, which turned out to be very therapeutic. Writing enabled Paula to ask questions and express feelings she might not have been able to verbalise. At the end of her diary she wrote:
God never guaranteed anything to be permanent except his love. I made all the other conclusions. I look at what I wrote on your grave marker. ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’ How well I now realize that is true.
Overall is the hand of the Shepherd. Always for me, at every moment, God was there; there when I felt his presence and equally there when it seemed I was all alone. His presence did not depend upon my feeling it, or even upon the extent of my belief. God was simply there.
‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’ And we are all quite safe.