The Shack Essay Questions

Reflections on The Shack for individuals or groups.

*If you would like to receive this guide in a word doc via email, please email a request to Don't forget I cannot reply to anonymous responses.I will also send my personal annotated guide if you would like to see what I was thinking with the question. It is updated every few weeks as Father brings new insights.

**Numbers on the left indicate page number.


7 Willie describes Mack’s family as “committed to calloused hands and rigorous rules…externally religious,” etc…
How common is this today?
8 How does being overly religious leave a child feeling?
9 Why would Mack “see the landscape of human ideas and experiences differently than everybody else?”
Mack claimed to have “a way of pointing out people’s faults and humiliating them while maintain his own sense of false power and control”. How and why do people do this?
10 What is a “love/hate relationship with religion?”
How would childhood experience effect marital relationships?
11 Explain: “most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing”.
Why does “grace rarely make sense for those looking in from the outside?”
Are you totally at home “in your own skin”? Why or why not?
Willie says Mack is “no longer just wide, he has gone way deep. But the dive cost him dearly”. Does it have to cost dearly?

Chapter 1

16 Could God actually send a person a letter?
22 What is your favorite name for God?
Mack told Nan “I’m sure God knows what he is doing” even though Mack did not personally believe it. Do you ever try to encourage people with things about God you do not believe? For instance? How does this help them? What does it do to you?

Chapter 2
The Gathering Dark

24 Mack’s companion was the “Great Sadness”. What is your companion?
25 How does your companion effect you?
28-29 How does truth, reality, legend, history mix in the story of the Multnomah Falls? Read Young’s blog on Truth, reality and Fiction and the story of the Good Samaritan.
30 What are the similarities between the Princess and Jesus?
31 How can we tell the difference between legend and history?
Why do people think God is mean? Is He? Why or why not?
32 How far will God ask us to go?

Chapter 3
The Tipping Point
38 How much of what we view as God comes from our relationship with our earthly fathers?
39 How was Mack alone yet not alone?

Chapter 4
The Great Sadness

46 Is promising things to God dumb and irrational?
65 What else contributed to the “increased rift in Mack’s relationship with God” and the ensuing sense of separation.
Why did Mack embrace a stoic and unfeeling faith? What else do people typically do in the name of faith?
Why did Mack feel guilty about the occasional moment of laughter or joy?
How long should a tragedy rob a person of Joy?
Why would Mack even consider the note could possibly have come from God?
Has God stopped all overt communication with man since the completion of scripture?
66 Is it true that “nobody wants God in a Box, just in a book”?
Where can a person keep God?
“Gilt or guilt” edges: Why would a book about forgiveness produce such feelings of guilt?
How do you feel about “who sent the damn note?”
Read the last paragraph of pg 66. How much of it do you identify with?
What question would you ask God right now if you could?

Chapter 5
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

67 In the Christian walk is there a supra-rationality? Explain.
Is there a bigger picture in life man cannot see? Who is in charge of painting it? Is it random or operating under some kind of control or plan? Why do you think that?
70 If God were to speak to you in some way, would people be skeptical? How could you prove it was God who spoke or acted?
71 Could God send a note? What could he positively not do to communicate with his child? Why?
Why did Mack link what happened to Missy with judgment for what he had done to his own father? Does God do that?
In rejecting the gun, Mack states that ‘using violence to solve a problem only” makes a bigger problem. Are there exceptions to this?
72 Did Mack Lie to Nan?
Why did Mack take the small Tin box?
73 What does God look like to Mack? Does everyone have their own favorite mental picture of God?
Oswald Chambers Said in My Utmost For His Highest: ”My vision of God is dependent upon the condition of my character. My character determines whether or not truth can even be revealed to me”. 7-13 What does Chambers mean by this?
74 What do you think about Willie’s promise to pray for Mack?
Since Mack is essentially angry with God, why does Mack pray to him at all?
Is this kind of praying beneficial? Does it show at least a shred of faith and hope?
77 “If God was really here he was more than ready to get things off his chest, respectfully of course”…Does Mack really respect a God he does not trust?
78 Why was Mack so angry with God?
Did Mack really hate God?
Mack viewed God as the active killer of his daughter and at the same time being indifferent. What is his true heart attitude and hope. Why?
Agree or disagree: Anger at God is on the road to near perfect faith. It acknowledges the power and sovereignty of God while denying His love and purpose.
What exactly is Mack accusing God of when he complained “you’ve never been around when I needed you, not when I was a little boy, not when I lost Missy”.
Mack sensed a pattern of rejection from God all his life. Was God rejecting him? Have you ever sensed a similar pattern of rejection in your life?
Mack was in some ways comfortable with the great sadness. Why did he accept it as a friend, painful as it was?
80 Mack declares he is “done God…I can’t do this anymore. If God wanted him, God would have to come find him”. Who was really looking for who?
Why would God let Mack quit looking before he found Him?
Why was the Shack and surroundings transformed?
81 Can anyone really run away from God?
82 What was your initial reaction to Papa as a black nanny?
Did you ever get comfortable with the image? Why or why not?
83 Papa acknowledges that Mack is hurt, confused and angry and encourages him to let it out. How is that different from David’s prayers in the Psalms?
Can we really hide what we truly feel from God?
Does God really let us do things on “your terms and time”?
How long does it take before God becomes impatient with us?
84 What was your reaction to the depiction of the Holy Spirit in Sarayu? Did it change? Why?
What was your reaction to the depiction of Jesus. Did it change? Why?
85 Why was it hard to focus on Sarayu?
86 Elousia means Creator God (Pg111) Why would God chose that name for himself if Jesus is the creator?
Why Papa for God?
87 Sarayu means wind (110). What does the name imply about her?
Papa and Sarayu are both pictured as women. Does this contradict or compliment any biblical depiction?
Mack asked which one of you are God. “I AM all three said in unison”. How can that be?
Does the relationship of the trinity become clearer as the story unfolds?
How does it compliment or contradict scripture?

Chapter 6

88 “Well Mackenzie, don’t just stand there with your mouth open like your pants are full”. How does the earthy talk coming from God effect you? The story?
89 Is the real Holy Spirit full of surprises with perfect timing? Explain
Jesus had just told Mack he was free to do what ever he wanted and Mack volunteered feeling obligated to talk to Papa. Jesus instructs: “Don’t go because you feel obligated. That won’t get you any points here. Go because it’s what you want to do”. What is the message here?
90 How does the creator value things given?
How can Papa listen to music from a band that has not been born yet?
What does this mean in relation to how Papa might view all of life’s experiences?
How is time different for us?
91 Would God really value all kinds of music? Why?
Why was Mack uncomfortable with Papa manifesting as a woman? Why did Papa manifest that way?
92 “If you will let me Mack, I will be the Papa you never had”. How much does our earthly fathers effect how we view our heavenly father?
“If you couldn’t take care of Missy, how can I trust you to take care of me?” In the back of Mack’s mind would he also wonder why God did not rescue him as a boy too?
Why does God allow the great gulfs that separate us from Him?
Do all God’s children have wounds at some point in life that God needs to heal? Does anyone escape?
“Life takes a bit of time and a lot of relationship”. In your life, does relationship really triumph over answers?
93 What are the “head issues” that must be gotten out of the way that makes the heart issues easier to work on?
Is a relationship a head issue or a heart issue or some combination of both? Explain.
Why is Papa depicted as a woman?
How big a part of the average Christian’s life is religious conditioning compared to genuine relationship?
List all the religious (or non religious) stereotypes of God you have heard of. Which are the most accurate?
94 If God is not male or female, why is he presented as Father in the Bible? Is his feminine side ever shown?
Agree or disagree: God is neither male or female because gender is part of creation and God is above and beyond creation but it is contained in him.
Does God’s prior knowledge of any matter effect our freedom to choose?
95 What are the limiting influences of life that limit freedom?
Why can’t freedom be forced?
How is a person ever truly free?
Where does freedom happen? Why there?
Why did Papa have scars on her wrist to match the one’s on Jesus’ wrists?
96 “Love always leaves a significant mark”. What kinds of marks does love leave?
Was Jesus alone on the cross, forsaken? Was that in his humanity only?
“Mackenzie I never left him, I never left you”. What is the message and point here?
How did Jesus put himself completely in God’s hands? How do we?
Deep inside, who did Mack think God was?
97 What was man created for? What does that imply?
Can a person be loved with out feeling like they are loved? Why don’t they know they are loved?
When Papa says that unlike man, his wings cannot be clipped, what did he mean he was free to do?
98 How do people make up their versions of God according to Papa?
How much of God can man comprehend?
How can Papa live in a state of “perpetual satisfaction”? What does that mean for sinners?
99 Man was created to share in what with God?
Paraphrase Papas description of the incarnation of Jesus.
What are the implications of the incarnation?
99-100 How does Jesus accomplish his life in the flesh according to Papa?
“Humans are not defined by their limitations but by the intentions I have for them”…Clarify.
101 What was Papas reaction to Mack’s inability to comprehend completely the trinity.
Paraphrase Papas definition of the trinity. How does it differ from yours?
How does love and relationship that exists in the trinity flow into the life of humans?
102 How does Papa’s explanation, “unless I had an object to love, or more accurately, a someone to love, if I did not have a relationship within my self, then I would not be capable of love at all…” effect your understanding of his nature and the trinity?
What are the implications of “the God who is….cannot act apart from love.”
Is it reasonable to believe that humans cannot possibly comprehend why God could allow a tragedy such as Missy’s death.
103 If Mack had been the only human, why would Jesus still have died for him alone?

Chapter 7

104 What was the message behind Jesus dropping a bowl?
Is there a difference between dropping a bowl and stumbling under the cross on the way to Calvary?
105 When Jesus and Sarayu cleaned up Papa and the mess, what did it reveal to Mack about their relationship?
How did Papa’s teasing Jesus about dropping the bowl make you feel?
What does “ You can’t share with one and not share with all of u”s reveal about the relationship of the trinity?
“It’s not about winning and losing but about love and respect”. Is there a sense in which God could lose to us to demonstrate love and respect?
Does God take delight in “seeing things through your eyes”?
IF “relationships are never about power, and one way to avoid the will to power is to choose to limit oneself—to serve” is accurate when applied to God, how could it be demonstrated from God to man?
107 Would devotions literally and really be present or necessary within the trinity?
108 Describe what holiness FEELS like to you.
What should true biblical holiness fell like?
When Jesus and Mack went our alone to look at the stars on the dock, Mack asked “what about the others”? Jesus replied, “I’m here, I’m always here”. What was he implying?
Was Mack ever completely alone with Jesus?
109 Will Jesus ever tire of his creation? What are the implications of your answer?
Does the Jesus of scripture experience things differently now through his human eyes than he did before the incarnation?
110 What is holy?
Mack felt more comfortable with Jesus than with Papa or Sarayu. Jesus explained “I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu. To see me is to see them. The love you sense from me is no different than how they love you.And believe me, Papa and Sarayu are just as real as I am, though as you’ve seen in far different ways”. Of the three, who do you feel the most comfortable with or know the best? Why?
What exactly is Sarayu?
111 Are we literally “in the very center of {God’s} love and purpose”? Does sin change that?
How did Mack’s questions about Jesus’ physical appearance make you feel?
112 Does being always transcend appearance?
IF Jesus were to appear to you in the flesh, would he actually be any more real to you or would it actually make him more limited to you?
What is God’s ultimate purpose from the beginning?
Explain Papa’s miracle.
Does Jesus LITTERALLY indwell his children or is it just a metaphor for some spiritual truth?
113 How long will God continue to work with us until we understand? Are there any scriptures to support your view?
Why did Mack feel guilty about enjoying his time on the dock with Jesus? Have you ever had a similar experience? Why?
114 Is feeling lost and being lost the same thing?


118 How do you know God is especially fond of you?
119 Who is God angry with? Does God get angry with believing children? Why do you think so?
What things would you find much easier if you were just to accept what is?
What is included in “What is”?
120 How can Papa say “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It is not my purpose to punish it, it is my joy to cure it”?
121 What captured Mack about the way Papa, Jesus and Sarayu communicated?
Who is the leader in the trinity?
122 What is the difference between a circle of relationship and a chain of command.
Why would they NOT need or desire an authority based structure?
Why is it hard for humans to reach true relationships?
Does a hierarchy have to act like described here?
123 How have we confused “adaptation for intention or seduction for reality”?
Is it always dangerous to chose independence over relationship? Are there any exceptions?
How does God work within our systems while trying to free us from them?
What systems do you need to be freed from?
124 Why was man made in the first place?
Are you yielding to the matrix?
What would life be like “unencumbered by structure and simply free to be in relationship with God and one another”?
What kind of hierarchy will there be in heaven for eternity? What could that imply?
In your life has “everything that has taken place …occurred…exactly according to this purpose, without violating choice or will”?
125 Why does God not stop evil?
If God does not stop evil, does that make him complicit in the evil? Explain
Can any choice I make cause God to have to alter his plan or purpose? Why do you think so?
Does God literally use every choice we make for the ultimate good and the most loving outcome?
Why doesn’t it always feel like that?
126 What were the lies that Mack had bought into that caused him to say that the ends justified the means?
Is there a sense in which you share Mack’s underlying flaw?
If you are worried or anxious about something, is that an indication that you share Mack’s ailment? Why or why not?
What is trust? How is it achieved?
How did Papa say he would help Mack learn and change? Would that same thing work for you in your life?
What did Papa mean when he said it was not performance?
127 What did Papa mean when He said, “we’re not justifying it, we are redeeming it”?


128 What do you think of the description of Sarayu?
129 What is a fractal?
How is your life a fractal?
131 God created all things good, are all things still good? Explain.
132 Detail how a good creation is being dragged down.
How and why is it happening?
Why is creation full of mysteries? Which ones fascinate you the most?
How does Sarayu define freedom? Based on that freedom, are you personally free? Free from what to do what?
133 What might the roots symbolize that Sarayu and Mack are digging up? Is it just good gardening or something more?
Why was it a disaster for humans to have eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
134 Besides the Garden of Eden what other “rumors of glory are hidden inside of what many consider myths and tales”?
Why do people resist the biblical accounts of creation as fantasy and yet accept inconclusive or contradictory scientific theory as fact?
How is your process for determining good from evil different from Mack’s process?
135 What happens when there is no absolute reality to objectively define Good and Evil?
What did eating from the Tree do to man and creation?
How much time do you spend trying to acquire what you see as good and avoid what you see as evil? How’s that working for you?
136 What happens when humans determine good and evil for themselves? What is the chief result?
What is Evil?
What are the implications of “Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good; They do not have any actual existence”?
How does light and good actually exist? What are the relationship implications of that?
Why does independent living always result in evil? Are there any exceptions?
137 What is the difference between personal rights and being loved. What are personal rights, where do we get them, how to we keep or enforce them?
What does Sarayu mean “rights are were survivors go, so they won’t have to work out relationships”?
When a person is demanding their rights, what are they actually doing? Where will that lead?
Can you get your rights by demanding them?
What is the net result when we surrender all rights to God.
In relationship to God?
In relationship to others?
Why did Jesus give up his rights as God to become Man?
How does God react to our anger? Elucidate
138 What does the garden of your soul look like? Is it a mess or a fractal?. Why do you say that?


140 Why did Mack change is description of the water from “pretty damn cold to pretty darn cold?” Was the water getting warmer?
Why would Jesus enjoy Mack’s discomfort?
How does Jesus react when you do things like this?
Tell of a time when you hesitated at what Jesus told you to do?
Would you do the same thing again?
Was Mack wrong to ask for clarification before he stepped of the dock?
How do you clarify what Jesus is asking you to do?
141 How does imagination make man like God?
Where do you spend most of your time living, the past, present or future? Explain.
142 What commands your sense of the future? How accurate is it likely to be?
Remember your past projections of the future. Were they accurate? Is life today what you thought it would be 5 years ago? Share the difference with us.
What does Jesus say was Mack’s basis for thinking of the future?
What is your biggest fear right now?
What are you failing to believe?
How can you tell How much God loves you?
143 To you, what is “utterly ridiculous and impossible” right now?
Where do you need Jesus to walk with you right now?
If you started there now, would you be alone?
Do you need to know how to get all the way there?
What do you need to know to start?
144 How is the earth like a child right now?
145 What would happen if God took absolute control of the earth right now? How would that impact Romans 11:25?
What has God demanded of you personally?
What does Love not do? Why?
What marks a genuine relationship? Are your closest relationships like that? How are they different?
What is submission all about?
How can God be in submission to his creation?
146 What does this mean and imply?: “we want you to join with us in our circle of relationship. I don’t want slaves to my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me”?
Is this what Jesus really wants?
If this” circle of relationship” is salvation, how is it different from what you have thought? How is it the same?
How could Jesus be “Mack’s life”?
How is submission natural?
How did the world break? What was lost?
147 Have you ever tried to be God for someone else? How did it work out for you?
How do people try to be God for others?
What is the hard part for a woman in returning to God? Why is that hard? Is it hard for you? Why or why not?
What is the hard part for a man in returning to God? Is it hard for you? Why or Why Not?
What do women turn to instead of God? What are they looking for? Will they find it?
What do men turn to instead of God? How well is it working?
148 How is filling roles the opposite of relationship?
Does our body of believers pursue roles or relationships?
How do we pursue roles? The results?
How do or could we pursue relationships?
Would some stuff not get done if our body of believers emphasized pursuing relationships over roles? What impact would it ultimately have?
What would be the impact of a “circle of friendship” with God and others based fellowship?
Would sin abound in such a fellowship? Why or why not?
Why was man created first?
What destroyed “the relationship your heart longed for”?
How could you start fixing that right now?
149 How is power the opposite of relationship?
Seriously now, doesn’t someone have to be in charge?
What is the only way anyone can submit?
Is WWJD a bad idea?
Is Jesus’ life inside you literal or figurative?
If it is literal, how do we get it? What happens?


MEMORIZE THIS: I came to give you life, real life, my life. We will come and live our life inside you, so that you begin to see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and touch with our hands, and think like we do.

Is this our purpose in being? How would it change life if we lived believing this is true? (IT IS!)

How would this view of living change your thinking of John 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Who would really be motivating the asking and doing the doing?

Would that mean you would be living in relationship and doing the things God does? YES IT DOES!

Is this essentially what we will be doing for eternity in heaven? Participating with God as his children in the glories of his creations. Who would not want to do that?

Consider this: God created us to love us and live life in, with and through us. When we look at the stars and worship, God is there in us responding to and being glorified in it. In a certain sense The infinite God experiences life through his children who have invited Him in. Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest said that according to Phil 2:13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose,) the basic will of a believer is GOD’s Will. That means I can do what I want when Christ is indwelling me. If take a day to go fishing, God is going fishing! We live life together in His power and at his direction and I honestly think that sometimes God is happy to go fishing or whatever with me. He loves to be with me and IF I am cognizant of the reality of his presence, it is going to effect everything about the experience for his glory and my good. Why just do whatever it is you are doing alone. Recognize Jesus is there, talk to him about it all, worship, laugh, listen, enjoy, really LIVE! So do whatever you truly want! Jesus wants to do it to. I know, I’m a heretic, people might get it wrong and sin! Know this: Jesus is going to be there anyway, he will NEVER Leave us or forsake us. SO LIVE FREE!

Is this helping or just frustrating you? Why?


154 What was Sophia’s point in asking Mack which of his children he loved the most?
155 What does Sophia mean when she say knowing grows and loved expands to contain it?
What would that mean to the relationship between God and you?
156 How did God teach Mack to Love? How is he teaching you?
Why did Mack not truly believe God is good? What area in your life causes you to wonder if God is truly good to you? Be brutally honest with yourself even if you don’t answer out loud.
Who do you sit in judgment on? If it is easier to answer, who don’t you sit in judgment on?
What authority does it take to be a real judge? Do you have that authority?
157 What judgment was Mack in the cave for?
158 What indicates that we really are judging, even if we say we are not?
Do you:
Determine the standards of conduct for others
Exodus 20:1-17
Demand absolute obedience
Gen. 22:1-12 Deut. 8:20
Judge the lives, attitudes and actions of others
Psa. 9:16; 94:1-2
Control all of life
Acts 17:24-28; Job 12:13-25
Exercise sovereign independence, doing whatever you please
Dan. 4:35; Psa 135: 5-6
Seek the praise and worship of others
John 4:23; Isa. 42:8
Ask help and guidance from no one
Romans. 11:33-34
159 What are your personal criteria for judging?
Who or when do you act superior over another person?
160 When was the last time you judged another person fairly? Unfairly?
What was the last thing you judged God about? (oh yes you did! It is easy to do, just like I just judged you)
What are the ways we usually judge God?
How effective is judging God in relation to getting our own way?
How can we learn to stop judging God? Others?
161 Was Mack’s anger with the man who killed his daughter justified? Why or why not?
Was the Little lady killer deserving of any compassion or forgiveness?
Is there a difference between Justice and forgiveness?
Under what circumstances should a person not receive forgiveness?
Under what circumstances should a person not receive justice?
Would Mack be denying justice to Misty if he were to forgive her attacker? Explain.
Can / should God be held accountable for not stopping the evil that is in the world? Why do you say that?
If you decide to hold God accountable, how would you do it?
162 Would it been easier for Mack if Sophia’s deal was 1 child to hell and 4 to heaven? Why?
If God is not condemning people to hell, how do so many end up going there?
Do people say a prayer to Jesus just to stay out of hell?
Do you think it is really working? Is saying a prayer the same as beginning a relationship?
Instead of just scaring people out of hell by trying to literally scare the hell out of them, how could we present Jesus to them?
Which do you think would work better? Give them a copy of the Shack to read or Live Free in Jesus in front of them.
What does living free in Jesus look like?
163 Why couldn’t Mack chose between his children?
How was Sophia’s suggestions on judging the children any different than the popularly presumed good deeds vrs bad deeds answers most people give for going to heaven.
What changed the accepted standard?
What did Mack discover about God when he pleaded to go in his children’s place?
What were they Judged worthy of?
164 Why was Mack ok with Jesus but still angry with God?
Why can’t Mack see God and Papa are the same person yet?
What did Mack do to his father?
Why does God NOT stop the evil?
IF God had a physical body (which he does not nor will he ever outside this story) would it have the same scars as Jesus?
Why or why not?
Why does mercy triumph over Justice?
165 Do you really want strict justice for everyone?
If even one person could not have mercy, could you still have it? You gotta be kidding, really?
Did Missy have to die? Why did she? What has happened to you or those who you love that did not have to happen?
Do things happen that God does not desire? What?
Why couldn’t Mack see the Better Way?
What would Mack have to do to see the better way?
Will that work for anyone, even outside this story?
166 Do people in heaven have any awareness of what is happening on earth?
168 Have you ever visited with a loved one in a dream? How did it make you feel?
What was the lie Mack needed to let go of?
Are you living with a lie you need to let go of?
What did Sophia mean when she said “Judgment is not about destruction, it is about setting things right”.
What implications does that have for the cross?

In The Belly of the Beasts

170 “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction”. Blaise Pascal Are today’s Christians exempt from this accusation? Examples?
Have you ever been hurt, abused or injured that you felt like it would be wrong or impossible to forgive and move on?
How did Mack find permission to move on?
What would it take for you to get permission to move on and let go of the anger, bitterness etc?
Do your loved ones in heaven today have any idea of what is going on in your life right now? Would there view of it be different? Why?
If you wanted to talk to Sophia, where would you find her?
What compounds the beautiful simplicity of Sophia’s wisdom? Is there a remedy?
Are there times in our lives when the (“time dimensional coupling”) eternal dimension of Heaven and the temporal dimension of earth intersect? Hint: Luke 15:10.
The story of the Shack is fictional, but are the characters of Papa, Sarayu and Jesus real?
William Young, the author, explains that the conversations are the combined conversations he has had with God over his lifetime. Does the setting make it any less real?
How was Misty not alone in her captivity? Have you ever been alone, but not alone?
Why did Mack sink the second time he started to cross the lake? What is the lesson here?
Have you ever ended up treading water when you were trying to walk by faith? What happened?
Why does everything look so scary in the dark?
If you find yourself in the dark, how can you turn on the light.
175 How can a person “live loved?”
Are you living loved? By who?
What did Jesus mean when he said “we’re meant to experience this life, your life, together”?
Is this imagery or reality?
”You get to share our wisdom and learn to love with are love…” Can YOU really live this way or is it the fictional part of the story?
176 What was the point of the trout? Is it possible that the real Jesus wants to experience His life through us?
If Jesus actually and literally indwells a believer is he actually and literally experiencing our life? Is he enjoying it?
How much of the infinite Jesus was limited for our sake in the incarnation? Why would Jesus do that?
Why do people assume the worst of God when they are in pain?
Jesus told Mack the prior times he tried to talk to him were not a waste. Why? What does this say about how Jesus feels about us?
What is “the timing of grace”? How do we try to change the time table?
177 What is it to be truly human?
How does your picture of heaven differ from what Jesus describes to Mack?
How is Jesus the Pearl? What does that mean?
Why is the church not some place Jesus goes to on Sunday?
178 How does a person get to be part of the church Jesus is talking about?
In your experience, is the church today more relational than institutional or more institutional than relational?
Who builds Jesus’ church? How?
Is just being with Jesus in relationship enough?
179 How is being with Jesus different from the well intentioned religious stuff?
What kind of stuff happens in the institutional church in Jesus’ name that he has nothing to do with?
Why is marriage not an institution?
Why would Jesus say he is not fond of religion, politics or economics?
In your experience are they the trinity of terrors Jesus refers to them as? How?
What does this “trinity” promise that it cannot deliver?
What does it deliver that it does not promise?
180 What did Jesus come to give?
How would living Jesus’ life be different than the one you are living now? How is it the same?
What happens when we live life apart from the REAL relationship with Jesus?
What makes it really hard to rescue someone?
How have you made it hard for God to rescue you?
How can you get past it and be rescued?
181 What can you do to make the changes in religion, politics and the economic machines around you?
How could you change one person in the machine?
How are you free to love without agenda?
How can anyone be “in but not of” the world systems?
How can you help a person who is “in and of” the systems find freedom?
182 What did Jesus mean when he said ”who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian?
If Jesus does not want them to be Christian’s, what does he want?
Do all roads lead to God or does God walk all roads to find his children?
What road are you on? Where is it going?


183 Do you have any idea what God is doing right now? Could you make and educated guess? What does your answer suggest?
How long does it take for God to put our sins in the past?
Why did Papa say she did not even want Mack’s sorrow for his judgmental attitude?
Have you ever heard someone try to explain a tragedy like Mack did? “Did Missy have to die for you to change me”.
Why do people think that way?
Have you ever seen God work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies?
Why doesn’t grace have to depend on suffering to exist?
What did Papa mean: “She was not your sacrifice Mack. She is and always will be your joy”?
186 How does ceasing to be a judge make a persons burden lighter?
Why do people see God as Mean and Jesus as nice?
Why is that impossible to be true?
How literal is it when Papa said “we are all in him”?
Why did God chose to love Mack? You?
187 Why doesn’t God get exasperated with our continual failures?
What is Guilt good for? (hint, it’s the same as the 60’s war song, WAR, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing! HUH!)
Why will guilt prevent us fro finding freedom in Christ?
What does it mean to “hide in lies”? What lies do people typically hide in? Hide from who for what?
In what way is a lie a “little fortress”?
How was Mack lying about not telling Nan about the note?
Do you ever lie to yourself just to feel better or avoid some internal pain or conflict? How’s that working for you?
What was Papa’s cure for lies?
How is Papa bigger than lies? What does that mean?
189 Why will faith not “grow in the house of uncertainty”?
Papa said: “my life inside of you / will appropriate risk and uncertainty / to transform you / by your own choices / into a truth teller”. Break the meaning and process of this down section by section.
Mack asked for forgiveness, Papa said “did that a long time ago…..ask Jesus, he was there.
What is our imaginary independence?
How is Love a lot bigger than stupidity?
If you have been really stupid, does that mean you are really, really loved?
What did Papa do with Mack’s choices? What does he do with yours? All of them?
Does Papa use pain to force people back to himself?
190 How many people do you know are “lost in your perceptions of reality and yet so sure of your own judgments”?
What does true love never do? Why not?
Where is the flaw in Mack’s logic for God’s permitting evil to continue: “the consequences of our selfishness are part of the process that brings us to the end of our delusions, and helps us find you?
Make a list of all the evils and tragedies God has prevented in the last 6 months.
Where does evil find its source?
What would happen if God divinely eliminated the source?
“If I take away the consequences of peoples choices, what is destroyed? Why?
Why does man have a small view of what it means to be human. What does it mean to be human? Is that a big deal?
What are the possibilities for man in Papa’s view of being human?
191 You demand your independence, but then you complain when I actually love you enough to give it to you.
How does Papa define his purposes?
Why must all things be permitted to unfold?
What did Jesus accomplish in dying? (Wayne Jacobsen’s He Loves Me; Learning to Live in the Father’s Affection is a MUST READ follow-up to the Shack. He takes a deeper look into exactly what happened on the cross.)
What links our purpose and your destiny forever? Why? How?
What is God’s plan B?
What did Jesus dying on the cross accomplish? For WHO?
How big a risk did God take in the offer?
According to Papa, The nature of love is to do what? Do you agree or disagree, why?


194 What does God is a verb mean?
195 Are you aware of Sarayu’s presence sometimes more than other times? Why?
Is Sarayu more “intentional”. Why would that be?
Are there other voices we hear in our spirit that we could confuse with Sarayu?
What happens if you make a mistake?
196 What would be the best kind of mistake to make, seeing as your going to make one anyway?
How does God handle honest sincere mistakes?
How does he handle rebellious, self centered mistakes?
Do you feel like you have things under control?
If you do is it reality?
If you don’t, when and why did you discover you do not have things under control?
What value is emotions?
Do honest emotions always tell the truth?
Tell of a time when your emotions told you the truth?
When do your emotions tend to lie to you?
How do people try to control emotions?
Which is the most effective method of control?
197 What is the power behind emotions according to Sarayu?
How often have your perceptions been accurate?
Have you experienced a paradigm shift in reading the Shack? What changed?
If we lived in absolute perfect truth, could emotions be trusted?
If we cannot trust our emotions, what can we trust?
How might living out of relationship be more complicated than following rules?
How might it be simpler?
How successful can you be following the rules.
Whose rules are you going to follow?
Which way satisfies the soul?
Why did Sarayu say ”the Bible does not teach you to follow rules” when there are plenty of commands written in it?
198 What is the essence of living life?
What does “living in Him” mean? How is it done?
What is a sure fire indication it is NOT being done?
Whose righteousness are we to live in? How do you acquire it?
What can rules never do? Is that universally true of all kinds of relationships?
Describe the difference between right answers and the living answer.
What would you predict having a relationship with the right answer would produce in your life? How would you feel? What would you do? How would it affect relationships with other?
What would you predict having a relationship with the living answer would produce in your life? How would you feel? What would you do? How would it affect relationships with other?
Compare your life to the answers to the 2 previous questions. What do your answers tell you about your life?
Is there a change you need to make? What is stopping you?
Do the real answers in life come from right answers or right relationships?
Do you work harder on answers or relationships?
Do relationships require all the answers to be satisfying?
Can the search for the right answer stifle a relationship?
How does Sarayu communicate?
If you study the Bible looking primarily for rules and principles, what will you likely end up with? How will others react to your kernels of truth as you share?
If you study the Bible looking primarily for keys to relationships, what will you likely end up with? How will others react to your seeking a true relationship with them?
200 What did the grace of God living in community look like to Mack?
Would there be “banter and laughter” within the Holy Trinity?
When believers are walking in harmony is there banter and laughter?
Is there any description, definition or comparison that can fully explain the trinity and their relationship?
Do you have a perfect, complete and accurate understanding of your closest friend?
Is it ok to believe in and accept the trinity when the infinite cannot be described by the finite?
A rule approach to the trinity would require having perfect understanding. What would a relationship approach require?
Are you looking for something to know or someone to love and be loved by? Explain
What would it take to have the relationship with others that Mack desires to have with Nan?

Please don’t get stuck on how the trinity might interact. This scene is contrived for the purpose of the story. Do not miss the real message here. It pictures how believers should be living in a joyful, playful, harmonious and respectful relationship with Papa, Jesus, Sarayu and each other. Isn’t that what you really want deep down in the depths of your soul? It is there for the asking.
Have you ever asked another person “why do you love me”?
Why didn’t you know the answer to it? Did there answer surprise you?
How would they know why you love them if you did not tell them?
When you ask yourself the question “why would God love me?” what does your heart answer?
When you ask yourself the question “why does God love me?’ can your heart actually answer or would you have to ask God to know the answer?
How does it make you feel to know that you are loved with no expectations or standards for performance?
201 What is the difference between God and Jesus in their very nature?
Explain Sarayu’s reaction to Mack’s question “what do you expect of me now?” Why could Sarayu not remain silent?
202 IF rule keeping was what counted with God, what is the minimum standard to be accepted? Are all rules equal in weight or is there a graduated system?
What is the point of rules? Were they made just to be broken?
What did Sarayu mean when she asked “can you clean your face with the same mirror that shows you how dirty you are”?
How much mercy and grace exists in rules?
203 What did Jesus do with rules?
What did Jesus make Lawful? What does that mean? Does it approve of sin or ignore it?
Who is afraid of freedom?
Are you a signer on “declaration of independence”?
How’s that working for you? Feel better?
Why do people love the Law?
How do we try to create certainty out of uncertainty?
Rules can do and cannot do what? Are there exceptions?
204 Discuss the difference of nouns and verbs according to Sarayu? What is she saying Papa is offering?
How do humans kill verbs? Give and example.
Would nouns still exist if there were no physical realities?
How can one move from death to life? How does that relate to dead verbs?
What is required for there to be any verbs?
205 How did the words responsibility and expectation change in meaning when they were removed from relationship?
What does religion use law for? Is that true of all religion?
Share an experience where you were expected to do something you could not do.
What is responsibility without ability? Where does ability come from?
What happens when expectancy is changed to expectation? Which one do you enjoy and seek out more?
What is the difference at the end of a day of fishing and catching nothing when the day was started with expectancy? With expectation?
Where do you live? Wanna move?
206 Will the world fall apart without responsibility and expectation?
What is the basis of shame and guilt? What part does this play living in relationship with Papa?
If you are plagued by shame and guilt, what does that say about your relationship with Papa?
How is it possible to disappoint Papa? Why?
What does resorting to expectations and responsibilities demonstrate?
How is living with priorities different than living in relationships?
207 How big a priority is God in your life? Is it enough? Why?
Have you ever felt like you were just another item on someone’s to do list? How did that make you feel?
How special do you feel waiting in line for your turn?
If Jesus is not first in your life, where does he want to be?
What is a ritual?


209 Have you ever seen the heavens declare the glory of God? Tell us about it?
210 Why is Sarayu hard to look at? What does it represent?
211 What is your overall reaction to the description of the festival? Could any earthly imagination portray the reality of heaven? Why or why not?
212 Why are all the color patterns of light unique?
215 What is the point of Mack meeting his father now?
Will there be a need for reconciliation in heaven?
217 How did Mack feel when the festival was over? Why?


218 Can God be diluted when He gives ”all of Himself to each of his children”? Explain.
Why did Papa appear as a man?
Is it easier now for you to think of God as a changing Papa than it was at the beginning of the story? Why?
220 What do we tend to make ritual? Does it help anything?
Mack felt the need to clarify to Papa that he was referring to Jesus in conversation. What do we need to clarify with God? Why?
221 Why did Mack need to reconcile with his father? Is it possible for you to reconcile with someone who is gone by death or distance? How?
222 “There is no way to create freedom without a cost”. Is this a universal truth?
Theoretically, would God have the same scars as Jesus? If not physically, emotionally? How much of the cross did God himself experience?
How could God have stopped the attack on Missy?
Has God ever allowed something into your life that caused you great pain? Did you ever understand why?
How can we live in love and relationship with God when he allows stuff we cannot understand?
How can Papa say He did not purpose Misty’s death when he acknowledges he could have stopped it?
What changed in Mack to allow him to truly trust Papa?
223 What darkens our understanding of Papa’s purposes?
Shame, humiliation, guilt, condemnation cannot do what?
What did God do with them?
If God will not use them for his purposes, why should we use them on ourselves or each other?
What could they be replace with?
224 What would have happened if Mack refused to forgive Missy’s killer?
Who would it ultimately hurt the most?
Why did God want Mack to forgive?
Do you agree that technically God does not forget sin but chooses to limit himself in relation to remembering our sins?
225 Explain the implications of “forgiveness does not establish relationship”.
What power is there in forgiveness?
What might have happened to God if HE refused to forgive those who sinned against him? Would he still be God? To be true to his nature did he have a choice? Is God angry with his children for their sin? Why do you say that?
“Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver”. Is that true of God too? What are the implications of your answer?
What happens when you chose to forgive another?
Did God have to forgive mankind?
How is love and forgiveness a stronger power than hate?
What are the boundaries of relationships Papa gives?
Why did Papa love Misty’s killer?
226 Is forgiving and forgetting the same thing?
Why does forgiveness NOT require you to trust the one forgiven?
Is it an insult to the injured party to offer forgiveness to the offender prematurely? Explain.
What would Mack’s loyalty to Missy and anger accomplish?
Is there someone you refuse to forgive out of loyalty to another person? What is that likely doing?
What is our responsibility to justice? Why?
How is true forgiveness possible?
227 How does saying I forgive you out loud help?
Can you forgive and still be angry? Why?
What are the limitations?
Is forgiveness a process or does it happen in an instant?
228 What is the value of tears?
Why did Mack laugh in such a serious time?


231 If you are not following Jesus, what are you actually doing?
234 What is “a tree of life growing in the garden of your heart”?
Why was Mack given a choice to go or to stay with them?
235 What are the implications to you of “she lives where there is no impatience”. What does that explain about events in your life?
Explain “if anything matters then everything matters”.
What happens when you forgive? In what way?
What do you do that has zero impact on anything?
Why did Mack choose to go back?
236 How many people are carrying burdens that are not theirs to carry? What can be done for them?
Why didn’t Mack keep his little tin treasure chest?
Where do you keep your most treasured possessions?
Is it possible to give them to Jesus too?
Ultimately what did Mack want?
Is that true for you also?
How does one get it?
Why did Mack think “it is more truly God, my servant”?
How is God a servant to man?
237 When Mack awoke he found himself back in the “un-real world”. Why was it now unreal to him?
Which world seems the most real to you?


239 What happened to Mack?
243 Why did Nan start to believe Mack’s incredible story?
245 Why did Nan Believe?
248 What do you want Mack to say to the Little Lady Killer? Why
What does Willie say Mack hopes will happen in the telling of this story?
How does Willie describe the revolution of love?
“if anything matters then everything matters”. How does this apply to your life?
Has The Shack affected you in any particular way? What?

Book Discussion: The Shack

Overview Questions

  1. If you were to rank the book: THE SHACK on a scale of 1-5, what would you rate it and why would you give it that rating?
  2. What part of the book spoke to you the most, and why?(If you can find it please read it)
  3. Are there any brief quotes in the book that you like?
  4. What part of the book confused you the most or created the most questions? Why did you have a hard time with that part of the book?
  5. What were some of the things that the Shack says about God, faith, and life that you disagree with?

Digging In: The Shack, The Garden, and The Human Soul

  1. Why do you think Mack's encounter with God took place at the shack? If God were to invite you somewhere, where would it be? (In other words, where is the center of your doubt and pain)?

  2. Do you think suffering draws people closer to God or distances them from Him? Which has it done in your life?
  3. If you think about your soul as a garden, what do you imagine it being like? Is it neat and all in order? Is it a mess? Do you want it in order? Do you want it to be a mess or in order? Does it need weeding?
  4. Why do you think Missy was buried in the garden?

Digging In: Papa, The Trinity, and All that God Stuff

  1. How did the author's description of God differ from your understanding of God? What parts of the descriptions of God did you resonate with? What parts did you have a hard time with? Why?
  2. Did you have a hard time with the way the author presented God's gender? Why or why not?
  3. Did you find the presentation of the Trinity helpful? Why or why not?
  4. When you pray to or think about God, what is the mental picture that comes to mind of what God looks like?
  5. Mack naturally relates to Jesus the best out of any member of the Trinity? Which do you tend to relate to when you pray? When you think about what is God is like?
  6. Do you think God is too nice in The Shack?



Digging In: The Great Sadness, Relationships and Reconciliation

  1. What do you think about how Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu relate to one another?
  2. The Great Sadness goes from being something that is the grief of Mack, to the thing that defines him. How did this happen? How does this happen in people that you know?
  3. In what ways does the Great Sadness in Mack hurt him in his relationships with other people?
  4. In what ways does Mack blame himself for what happened to Missy? How does this define him?
  5. Throughout the story we see that Mack, although he can hardly speak it, blames God for taking his daughter away. When do we blame God? Why? How do we reconcile with God after this?
  6. What were your thoughts about Mack's reconciliation with his father? In what ways do our relationships with our parents define us? Color our relationship with God? With others?
  7. Why is Mack's forgiveness of the killer important? To Papa? To Mack? For the killer?
  8. How does Mack's forgiveness of himself, God, and others get him to the point where he can be a better husband, father, and friend? Do you think this is true of all of us?



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