Investigating the shack
"O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago." (Isaiah 25:1)
As William Paul Young’s short fiction novel tops two million in sales, there has been much debate about "The Shack" and whether or not it is theologically sound.
So why is LIFE Outreach offering it on television?
And what should we take away from this best-selling story, if anything?
To put it into proper perspective, you first have to understand why and for whom it was written.
When Paul (as he is called by those who know him) came on LIFE Today, he shared his disturbing life story.
As the son of missionaries, he was sent to boarding school in Papau New Guinea, where he was physically and sexually abused.
The pain and confusion of his circumstances left him deeply scarred.
As an adult, he became successful in business and remained "a religious man," but his past would come back to haunt him.
Eventually, he fell into an affair with his wife’s best friend.
The fallout from that nearly destroyed him and his family.
In fact, it would have if his wife had not been committed to loving him unconditionally.
He found there were other friends who loved him enough to walk him through his buried pain and help him understand the true nature of God and the relationship He wants with each of us.
The place where Paul faced his past, with all of its emotional turbulence, was his personal "shack."
In a miraculous and personal way, God met him there and delivered him from his past and present sin and pain.
"I came out," Paul says, "at the end of 2004 and by the grace of God I’m the freest man I know.
"I have no addictions left…. I have no skeletons in my closet.
"I have no secrets."
He adds, somewhat jokingly, "Now, I have no reputation!"
But the truth is that it took an unusual and deeply personal experience with God to completely transform his life.
Even more, it saved his life.
As my dad noted when he interviewed Paul, "Many people get ‘stuck’ because of some tragedy in their life that they don’t understand and then separate themselves from the adequacy and sufficiency of God’s grace.
"Far too many people carry their Bible in a leather cover and never allow the Word to be written on their hearts and demonstrated in their testimony.
"We often carry the Word and do not allow the Word to carry us."
Ultimately, this is what Paul’s testimony is about: the overwhelming power of God to personally enter into our lives and carry us through any and every circumstance.
This incredible transformation was put into a fictional story in order to convey factual truths.
But despite the enormous popularity of "The Shack," it was not designed for the New York Times bestseller list.
"I didn’t write it to publish…I’ve never published anything in my whole life," Paul confesses.
"I wrote the book for my children.
"It was a way to communicate the bigness of who this God is that I’m so desperately in love with and wanting them to enter [into it] more fully.
"You don’t need all of the baggage [that I had] in order to come to maturity."
He goes on to explain, "The truth is [that] from glory to glory He changes you, not from cruddy to glory.
"And not from glory to ‘glory-er.’
"We don’t have this comparison thing inside the kingdom.
"For God it is all glory.
"And He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it.
"He is at work in you both to will and to do His good pleasure.
"This is something that He has come inside to accomplish and there is no shame at any point of the process.
"From the beginning when the stuff comes to the surface to when it is skimmed off, there is no shame.
"That is the beauty of the incarnation.
"That is the beauty of His love—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—that climbs into our stuff with the intention of healing you, knowing everything there is to know about you and He is not ashamed of you at all."
You don’t need to read "The Shack" in order to come into this relationship and knowledge; it’s all in the Bible.
But Paul’s story has a way of relating God’s eternal truth in a way that many people understand right now.
You can live a supernatural life with God’s indwelling Spirit.
You do not have to be bound by the accusations of the enemy.
We all know John 3:16 by heart, but how many of us know the following verse?
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
We can all live free from condemnation, which is not the work of God.
If you feel beaten down or bound by your past, you can enter into a metaphorical "shack" by coming face-to-face with the living God.
Then, like Paul Young, you will understand that the nature of God is One who came to set you free and lift you up.
Lay yourself out before God completely and unashamedly.
Bring Him everything—all your hurt, pain, confusion, anger and sorrow.
Ask Him to reveal Himself more fully and allow Him to begin the work of healing in your life.
"Show me Your glory, Lord and move me from the places where I seem to be stuck.
Help me to see You for who You really are, without misconceptions placed on You by my past experiences.
Change me according to Your will so I can be the person You created me to be."