The Shack Ending, Explained

Stuart Hazeldine’s Christian film ‘The Shack’ centers around Mackenzie “Mack” Phillips and his family, who suffer a turbulent time with an unbearable tragedy. Based on the eponymous novel by William Paul Young, the film explores the grief Mack suffers and progresses through the unanticipated events that happen in his life. An intense and heart-rending drama, the film portrays the multiple dimensions of faith and beliefs through the journey of Mack. The film ends with many questions for the audience to ponder over. If you are wondering about the same, we have got you covered! SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Shack Plot Synopsis

Mackenzie “Mack” Phillips is leading a contented life with his wife and three children. Barring the traumas of the harm he suffered as a child — which lead him to kill his abusive father — Mack is happy with his family. But during a camping trip, Mack’s youngest child Missy gets abducted while he saves his other two children from a canoeing accident, shattering the whole family. The police find that Missy is a victim of a serial killer, who leaves her dress in a desolated shack.

As Mack and his family immerse in insufferable grief, he receives an invitation to the shack, signed by Papa. To find the truth behind the invitation note, Mack goes to the shack and finds it empty. A disappointed Mack tries to kill himself but retains from it. However, while he goes back to his SUV to return home, he meets an anonymous man who guides him to the same shack.

To his surprise, Mack finds the shack in the best shape with winter changing to a prosperous climate. He meets Papa and identifies the man who guided him as Papa’s son. He also meets a young woman, who identifies as their spirit. Together, the trio makes Mack confront his grief that revolves around his daughter and the guilt of killing his father. After successfully doing so, Mike returns home, but he gets into an accident on the way.

The Shack Ending: Who is Papa? Who is Papa’s Son? Who is the Spirit?

Papa, her son, and the spirit are the three facets of God, which form the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Papa represents God the Father, her son represents Jesus Christ, and the spirit represents the Holy Spirit. Papa is the nickname Mack’s wife Nan gave to God. According to Christianity, God exists in coequal persons and forms the Trinity, and the three of them explain to Mack that they form the essence of what he believes to be God. Together, they help Mack to go through each of his concerns and worries, helping him get rid of them.

Was Mack Dreaming? Is Papa the Real God?

Yes, Mack was dreaming the whole weekend which he spends with Papa, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Papa, like Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is not real and the Trinity is nothing but the creations of Mack’s dream. After waking up in the hospital bed after the accident, Mack learns from Willie that he never made it to the shack.

When he tries to convince Willie that he spent the weekend with God, Willie reminds Mack about the effect of the accident, indirectly informing his friend that everything happened in a dream. As Mack initially suspects, the note he receives is possibly a prank someone pulls on him, but it creates hope in him that he will indeed meet the serial killer or God.

The dream was Mack’s unconscious attempt to deal with Missy’s disappearance and the unresolved traumas he carries from childhood. The note he receives leads him to believe that he will finally get to know what exactly happened to his daughter, and that belief transforms into a dream. When Missy gets abducted, Mack starts to fear/wonder whether this is God’s way of punishing him for killing his father.

The grief and guilt he carries within himself and his desire to confront God for letting the serial killer harm Missy create a dream where he resolves his concerns. His unconscious mind gives the appearance of a neighborhood woman who was sweet to him in his childhood to Papa, Mack’s idea of God. In the dream, he encounters his guilt of killing his father as Mack meets the latter.

Mack forgives his father for being abusive and the father forgives Mack for killing him, freeing Mack from his traumas. Mack’s desire to confront God for letting go of Missy also materializes in the dream. When Mack confronts Papa, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit about the same, they explain to him that they can’t judge their own creations as good and evil.

With the help of Wisdom, they make him realize that every creation is inherently good and bad and as the creator, God doesn’t differentiate Missy from the serial killer that harmed her. Wisdom also assures that Missy is fine, irrespective of what happens to her. A satisfied Mack understands the ways of God and finds the answers to his questions. Papa assures Mack that she also shares the grief he feels over Missy, freeing him from the grief as he wakes up.

Is Missy Dead? Does Mack Find Missy’s Body?

Missy is presumed dead. Even though Mack and his family believe that Missy is dead, the authorities fail to find her body, which keeps Mack from getting closure. Even though he consciously believes that his daughter is dead, Missy’s undiscovered body makes it difficult for his mind to solidify his belief that she is dead. In his dream, Mack encounters Missy and sees her, jubilant in heaven. Her sight clears off the unbearable sorrow he carries from the day of her disappearance, finally helping him to be free of that sorrow.

Even though Mack finds Missy’s body, it happens in his dream. Since he struggles to find closure with her possible death due to the lack of her dead body, the dream becomes a pathway for his mind to attain that closure by finding the body. Mack also gives Missy a proper funeral, which helps him overcome the guilt that he couldn’t do justice to his daughter as he was unable to give her a proper burial. The discovery of Missy’s body and the funeral — both happening in the dream — help him attain that closure and move on from the torment he suffers from.

After achieving closure in the dream, Mack wakes up as a new man. He returns to his normal contented self, starts to take care of his family with care and happiness, and brings back that shine that was lost with Missy’s presumed death. He puts Missy in the past and starts to nurture his family in the present with the belief that Missy is well at the heavens with God.

Read More: Where Was The Shack Filmed?