Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Mystery of Human Suffering

1. “’You abandoned him (Jesus on the cross) just like you abandoned me!’ ‘Mackenzie, I never left him, and I have never left you.’
‘That makes no sense to me,’ he snapped.
‘I know it doesn’t, at least not yet. Will you at least consider this: When all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?’” (pg. 96)

Q. Bible scholars have wrestled with the cry of Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) Because if God is a trinity – one God revealed in three persons – how could God the Father abandon himself? Why would God abandon his son? (See 2 Corinthians 5:21)

Q. The author of The Shack interprets Jesus’ cry on the cross as him feeling that God the father had abandoned him, but in reality, he never did. What is your view on this? Why?

Q. Have you ever felt abandoned by God? Would God actually ever abandon us, his children? (See Hebrews 13:5)
2. “’Mack, pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly. And if left unresolved for very long, you can almost forget that you were ever created to fly in the first place.’” (pg.97)

Q. We all have pain at different times in our lives. How do we keep the anguish of life from hardening our hearts and moving us away from a close relationship with God?

Q. Is it acceptable to express our anger and disappointment directly to God? (Psalm 10:1, 62:8, 88:14)

Q. Are experience the liberating grace and love of God? If not, what has ‘clipped your wings?’ How can you remove the things that keep you ‘grounded?’
3. “’Mack,’ said Papa with an intensity that caused him to listen very carefully, ‘we want to share with you the love and joy and freedom and light that we already know within ourself. We created you, the human, to be in face-to-face relationship with us, to join our circle of love. As difficult as it will be for you to understand, everything that has taken place is occurring exactly according to this purpose, without violating choice or will.’
‘How can you say that with all the pain in this world, all the wars and disasters that destroy thousands?’ Mack’s voice quieted to a whisper. ‘And what is the value in a little girl being murdered by some twisted deviant? …You may not cause those things, but you certainly don’t stop them.’
‘Mackenzie,’ Papa answered tenderly, seemingly not offended in the least by his accusation, ‘there are millions of reasons to allow pain and hurt and suffering rather than eradicate them, but most of those reasons can only be understood within each person’s story. I am not evil. You are the ones who embrace fear and pain and power and rights so readily in your relationships. But your choices are also not stronger than my purposes, and I will use every choice you make for the ultimate good and the most loving outcome.’
‘You see,’ interjected Sarayu, ‘broken humans center their lives around things that seem good to them, but that will neither fill them nor free them. They are addicted to power, or the illusion of security that power offers. When a disaster happens, those same people will turn against the false powers they trusted. In their disappointment, they either become softened toward me or they become bolder in their independence. If you could only see how all of this ends and what we will achieve without the violation of one human will – then you would understand. One day you will.’
‘But the cost!’ Mack was staggered. ‘Look at the cost – all the pain, all the suffering, everything that is so terrible and evil.’ He paused and looked down at the table. ‘And look at what it has cost you. Is it worth it?’
‘Yes!’ came the unanimous, joyful response of all three.’ (pg. 124-125)

Q. God wants to ‘share with you the love, joy, freedom, and light’ he experiences within the trinity. Jesus said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” (John 15:11) And the Apostle John wrote, “We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.” (1 John 1:4) What keeps us from enjoying the presence of God?

Q. Why is it important to God that he not ‘violate human choice or will?’ How would our relationship change with him if he did?

Q. When Mack thought of all the pain and suffering in the world, he couldn’t reconcile it with God’s statement that everything is going according to his purpose and plan. He said, “You may not cause those things, but you certainly don’t stop them.” Have you ever wondered if God is really controlling the events of your life? Why doesn’t God step in to protect his children from harm? (See 2 Corinthians 1: 3-11)

Q. God uses sorrow and suffering as the resource to carry out His desired finished creation: children who are a whole and complete reflection of his son Jesus (James 1:2-4). How can we better align ourselves with God’s purpose in our suffering so he accomplishes this goal?

Q. What are you centering your life around? Is it possible to make good things, like family, work, or a worthy cause the center of our lives and miss God’s best – the freedom to fly?

Q. When Jesus thinks of all his suffering, was it worth it to him to save and transform you? (See Isaiah 53:11)
4. “’You try to make sense of the world in which you live based on a very small and incomplete picture of reality. It is like looking at a parade through a tiny knothole of hurt, pain, self-centeredness, and power, and believing you are on your own and insignificant. All of these contain powerful lies. You see pain and death as the ultimate evils and God as the ultimate betrayer, or perhaps, at best, fundamentally untrustworthy. You dictate the terms and judge my actions and find me guilty.
‘The real underlying flaw in your life, Mackenzie, is that you don’t think that I am good. If you knew I was good and that everything – the means, the ends, and all the processes of individual lives – is all covered by my goodness, then while you might not always understand what I am doing, you would trust me. But you don’t.
‘I don’t?’ asked Mack, but it was not really a question.
Sarayu spoke. ‘Mackenzie, you cannot produce trust just like you cannot ‘do’ humility. It either is or is not. Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved. Because you do not know that I love you, you cannot trust me.’” (pg. 126)

Q. How we see the world – our world view – makes all the difference in our lives. If we look at life through the ‘knothole of hurt, pain, self-centeredness, and power’ we grow increasingly disappointed with God. How can we get an accurate perspective – one that is aligned with the reality of who God is and what he is doing in the world?

Q. The Bible calls Satan ‘the father of lies.’ (John 8:44) He is constantly trying to plant deceptive ideas about ourselves, others, and God in our minds. What are some of the ways he does this in your life? How can you counteract it? (See Matthew 4:1-11, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

Q. Do you believe that ‘the Lord is good; his love endures forever?” (1 Chronicles 16:34) Why or why not? Do you think Mack had justifiable reasons to doubt God’s goodness and love?

Q. How do we know that God loves us? (See John 3:16, 1 John 4:9)

Q. What if you’d like to have faith in God, but you can’t seem to ‘muster’ it up? What should you do? (See Mark 9:24)

Q. What is authentic faith based on? (See Romans 10:17)


  1. I just found your blog....I am going through it with interest...thank you for putting it together-you may hear from me again as I may post my thoughts....God Bless...

  2. Q. The author of The Shack interprets Jesus’ cry on the cross as him feeling that God the father had abandoned him, but in reality, he never did. What is your view on this? Why?

    The fact that Jesus became fully human and experienced all the pain and anguish on the cross is very comforting to me because I know that He fully understands my pain and anguish when I cry out to may feel like God has abandoned me at that moment when I focus on my pain and suffering....but when I shift my focus to the awesomeness of God and accept that there will be many many things that will happen to me in my lifetime that I will probably never understand...but that the Lord God always always has my best interest in mind....when I refocus on that truth- the pain becomes ...something becomes the vehicle for change in my is truly a miracle when there is nothing that I can do but cling to God's hand....and somehow...make it through to the other end of whatever it is I am facing....knowing that Jesus actually felt as lost at times as I do...comforts me because I KNOW that God didn't abandon Jesus...and know - He won't abandon me

    1. Appreciate your honest and open sharing. "knowing that Jesus actually felt as lost at times..." - May I point out that Jesus never felt lost. He knew very clearly what His mission on earth was - to do the Father's will. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" - as Christ took on the sin of the world, for that moment, God could not look upon Him. It's a great sadness amongst the trinity, for the sake of God's glory and Man's salvation. A sacrifice that is very profound.

  3. Q. The author of The Shack interprets Jesus’ cry on the cross as him feeling that God the father had abandoned him, but in reality, he never did. What is your view on this? Why?

    This comment has often been maligned to suggest Jesus as questioning his purpose or even to imply the trinity was in someway flawed. I would submit that another reading of Psalm 22 will frame things in different light. Jesus never stopped teaching his followers. For a moment, mentally place yourself on the cross. In the last excruciating moments of your life, as you took your last breath, what message would you leave? That is the message he left us. Here's a link to the passage:

  4. I too have just found this blog. I'm starting a study of The Shack with my small community, and was wondering if there was a study guide. I thank God for directing me to this site. Paise the Lord!

  5. Thank you!!! Helped me a lot with my faculty's researches.