The Shack

by

William P. Young

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The Shack: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
That night, Mack has a flying dream for the first time in years, since The Great Sadness overtook him. Mack finds himself peacefully exploring the beauty of creation until he is suddenly dragged down in the mud and sees Missy screaming for help. He awakes with a gasp. As the images fade, the feelings from the dream linger, leaving him mired in sadness and anger as he gets ready. He wonders why God wouldn’t take his nightmares away, especially while they’re sharing a cabin.
Mack’s depression has not only kept him from enjoying life to the fullest in his waking life, but even suppressed dreams he used to enjoy. When Mack has a nightmare, he wishes simply that he could stop dreaming, failing to see that even nightmares can have value in helping to process emotions. For Mack, it would be far easier to continue feeling nothing. Mack’s desire that God take away his nightmares reflects both his avoidance of negative emotions and his belief that God can lift suffering at will, but chooses not to because he doesn’t care.
Themes
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Mack is drawn to the kitchen by the smell of breakfast and the sound of Papa singing to Bruce Cockburn. She tells Mack she is especially fond of Bruce, but she also agrees when he points out that she seems to be “especially fond” of all of her children. He asks if she ever gets mad at her children, and she says that she certainly does—but even that anger is just an expression of her love. She still loves children that she’s angry at. Feeling his own anger rise, Mack asks how that forgiveness fits in with the image of a vengeful, angry God, killing people as in Biblical stories. He asks if she enjoys punishing and killing. She says sadly that she doesn’t need or want to punish people for sin, and she doesn’t need to fit any preconceived notion of an angry God.
Mack confronts Papa about the ways in which she doesn’t conform to his ideas about the nature of God, and the frustrations that have arisen because of that disconnect. Mack explains point blank that he thinks God is angry and vengeful, but Papa disagrees. She explains that the relationship between God and people is predicated on love, and, like all relationships predicated on love, it should be as free from harmful power dynamics as possible.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Jesus and Sarayu join them for breakfast, and Jesus, Sarayu, and Papa, enter into an intense conversation about reconciling an estranged family while Mack listens with awe. He finds the way the listen and react to each other to be beautiful. He asks which one of them is in charge, and Sarayu explains that there is no hierarchy among them, only love. She says that authority and hierarchy are human concepts that lead only to the infection of power and abuse into relationships, which is not what God intended. The constant weighing of individuals against systems leads only to prejudice, war, and abuse of relationships.
Jesus, Sartayu, and Papa value loving and peaceful relationships very highly, as exemplified by their desire to help a family in conflict. They also have a very specific definition of what love is and how it should operate; a definition that is often corrupted by humans who inject power dynamics and hierarchies into relationships. Instead of allowing these structures to taint relationships, Sarayu encourages Mack to reject hierarchies. Such structures, she argues, inevitably reduce people to their productive value, which leads to prejudice and fighting.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Related Quotes
They ask Mack to step outside that mindset of hierarchy in order to trust God. Mack asks how he can possibly do that given all the pain and destruction in the world, including the death of Missy. Papa says there are many reasons to allow pain and suffering, and those ends make everything worth it. Mack says he can’t understand how anything could justify the loss of so many lives, to which Papa responds that he still has much to learn. Ultimately, the problem is that Mack does not believe that Papa is good. If he did, he would trust Papa despite the difficulty and pain of life. In order for any of that to happen, Mack must learn to trust that Papa loves him. Sarayu invites Mack out to the garden to continue their conversation.
One reason that Mack suffers so much is that he assumes God causes all the pain in the world, and he judges God for causing that pain. But the book suggests that this viewpoint is in fact an unfortunate side effect of Mack's independence from God: he no longer trusts God and does not believe that the basis of God’s relationship with humans is love. Mack’s judgment, combined with his fundamental misunderstanding of God’s nature, means that he actually perceives God as a force of evil in the world.
Themes
Independence from God Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
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