There is a lot of theological controversy surrounding the new film “The Shack” and whether you agree with what’s being said or not, I’d like to take a few minutes to give you some tips on talking to your students about this film. Put aside the theological debates and look at the film for what it is, a fictional film. Without telling you too much about the film, let me give you some of benefits of seeing this with your students.

Many of your students will at some point face a moment in life that shakes their foundation and stirs up the “What If” and “Why Me God?” questions. The thing I appreciated most about this film is the depiction of what it looks like in our current world to wrestle with God or better yet, to be really angry with God. It’s a story of pain, suffering, and restoration. You see the ups and downs of following the Lord through a very difficult and heartbreaking situation.

There is a scene in the film where the dad enters a room and instantly begins throwing everything in sight, yelling at the Lord. Eventually he falls to his knees, sobbing as he tries to wrap his head around why the Lord would let this event happen to him. Let me just tell you, I have been in that exact place! The results of sin have taken away two very beloved family members from my life in a matter of moments. I wish I could tell you, I acted in a godly manner and turned to the Lord instantly but I didn’t. The dark days that followed that occurrence brought out some very ugly moments between the Lord and I. Moments of yelling in the shower, hoping none of roommates would hear me. Moments of laying sprawled out on my bedroom floor weeping uncontrollably because I couldn’t understand why God would let something like this happen to my family. Well, during this scene all I could think about was how my students need to realize that this kind of wrestling with the Lord is healthy, useful, and healing. It may look ugly and it may seem childish, but our relationship with the Lord needs to be authentic. Students need to know that it’s okay to come before the Lord with every emotion and work through that with the only one that truly understands those emotions.

The rest of the film works through what it’s like to journey with the Lord towards healing through our grief. Again there is a lot of theological debate around some of the things, but when we take it for just a film, we can see the power of healing through walking with the Lord and not turning to earthly things. The film depicts the restoration part of following the Lord in a way that sometimes words don’t do justice. I don’t know how many times I’ve told a student that was struggling something like this; “Surrender hourly to the plans the Lord has for you, and this difficult season will get better.” Or “Are you letting the Lord walk you through this season, or are you turning to boys and partying?” Only for the student to roll their eyes and continue on the path they were going on. This film puts on the screen everything I want to describe to a student who is struggling, or knows someone struggling.

By the end of the film you see a dad who decided to wrestle with the Lord and do the hard work to be restored, come full circle and be filled with life again. I would highly encourage you to go check out the film. Use it as a conversation starter with your students. For more advanced students, use it to talk about those deep theological debates surrounding the film. For the students struggling to make it through the day, use it as encouragement that there is hope in the Lord.