By Katie Heneghan, Senior Writer
William P. Young’s “The Shack” is my personal favorite book, but also one of the most influential pieces of literature I’ve ever read. When my mom first suggested I read “The Shack” I passed it off as just another religious novel she wanted me to read, in hopes of inspiring my own personal experience with religion and faith. When a friend of mine similarly suggested the book and noted its profound impact, I knew I had to give it a try—little did I know it would have a deep impact on the way I look at life.
“The Shack” at its core, is a religious book, however, I think it’s worth a read whether you are religious or not. For me, this book had a grand impact on my outlook on life, faith, anxiety, grief and love.
In Young’s fictional novel, the main character, Mack, suffers an unimaginable tragedy: the death of his young daughter. His daughter is brutally murdered in a shack in the woods while on a family camping trip. Years later, after struggling with his faith and grief as a result of the tragedy, Mack is called upon by an external force he believes to be God, to return to the shack.
When Mack returns to the Shack, he is met with a flood of emotions, but more notably he is met with three individuals: Sarayu, Jesus and Papa. The three characters are representative of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Mack spends a weekend at the shack, confronting his doubts in faith, anxieties about the future, and most importantly comes face-to-face with the grief and pain of losing his daughter.
This book offers a truly unique and transformative perspective on anxiety and fear of the future. I turn back back to this quote often, which references our human nature to try and grasp control of the future:
“It is your desperate attempt to get some control over something you can’t. It is impossible for you to take power over the future because it isn’t even real. You try to play God, imagining the evil that you fear becoming reality, and then you try to make plans and contingencies to avoid what you fear,” Young writes.
This quote has stuck with me as I feel it perfectly encapsulates my own personal feelings of anxiety for the future and the unknown, and challenges them. When I reflect on what “The Shack” taught me, I realize I lacked a lot of trust that everything would eventually workout.
The most important thing I believe “The Shack” taught me was that when tragedy strikes, we are so quick to try and place blame, or think we would have acted differently in the past, done more or even done less, but in reality everything happens for a reason and there is a plan beyond our control and understanding.
If something wasn’t supposed to happen, it wouldn’t have. Whether you have faith in a higher power, or in the universe, I think this is a lesson for all.
Young has an interesting way of telling the story. His perspective on faith lacks judgment and is filled with understanding, compassion and charisma. Young aims to make readers understand that faith and fear don’t have to go hand in hand, and that changing your mindset can have a very profound effect on your life.
William P. Young acts as a wonderful crossover of a theologian and man of faith, and a writer with a purpose of telling a story. There is no doubt the book will make you think, question and reflect, but more importantly it may change your mindset and help better equip you for the uncertainty of the future.
“The Shack” has since been made into a major motion picture, but I highly encourage you to read the book prior to watching the movie, in order to formulate your own ideas and understanding before being offered a visual idea of each character.
Young started an initiative called “The Missy Project”, encouraging those who are touched by the book to pass it on to others to continue the message. The book had little to no marketing budget, but became what it is today through others sharing the message. If you do read “The Shack,” I highly encourage you to pass it on to your friends and family.
If you’ve ever faced an event of grief or tragedy in your life where you’ve asked yourself “why?” I can’t recommend “The Shack” enough.