Why yes, that title is a Tears for Fears reference. Thanks for noticing! My dad is a fan of theirs, so I heard "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" quite a bit growing up. Great song, but not what we're talking about today. Instead we're talking about a movie where someone wants to rule the world and thinks they can do a better job of it than God can.
That's right, folks: we're tackling Bruce Almighty. This 2003 comedy is way, WAY better than it has any right to be. It's buoyed by a star-studded cast (Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, and a young Steve Carell), a clever premise, and a lot more depth than you'd expect.
I honestly think this is a film every Christian should watch. It centers on Carrey's Bruce Nolan, a TV news reporter in Buffalo, NY. He seemingly has it made: great job, beautiful girlfriend, famous in the local community. But Bruce isn't happy. He focuses on the small nuisances of everyday life, indulges in pessimism, and often complains.
At the end of a particularly rough couple of days that see him humiliated on television, passed over for the anchor position at his network, getting into a car accident, and even losing his job, Bruce snaps. He launches into a profane tirade up at the sky, raging against God for His alleged inability to do His job.
It's a great scene; Jim Carrey is just a top-notch comedian. Bruce chucks the prayer beads that his girlfriend has given him into a lake and busts out some pretty incredible lines. "The gloves are off, pal...Smite me, O mighty smiter...You're the one who should be fired!"
Pretty incredible (and blasphemous, I might add) stuff. Bruce, still grumpy, goes to bed not thinking anything of it. The next morning, he has a message on his pager (yes, I know what a pager is. I'm not THAT young.) inviting him to an empty warehouse to apply for a job, since he's now unemployed. Not sketchy at all, right?
Bruce goes, and he's met by Morgan Freeman in a janitor uniform on the first floor. He's told to look for Room 7 on the 7th floor and trudges up the stairs, grumpy as ever. Once he get's up there, he's met by...Morgan Freeman in a different uniform, fixing a light in the ceiling.
He assumes he's being pranked and turns to leave, to which Freeman replies, "The boss will be right out." He removes his uniform to reveal a sharp white suit underneath. Have you figured it out yet? In this movie, Morgan Freeman plays God. See what they did there? Three outfits, three parts of the Trinity!
God convinces Bruce that He actually is who He says He is, pulls out the transcript of Bruce's life (represented by an endless file cabinet), and reads off the blasphemy we witnessed shortly beforehand. Again, comedic gold. He tells Bruce that He's willing to give him a shot at doing a better job of being God than God Himself. Before Bruce leaves, God tells him that He'll give him all of His powers for one week.
To make a long story short (and to not spoil things; you should seriously go watch this movie), Bruce doesn't do very well. He gets overwhelmed by the millions of prayers he receives daily, his attempts to make his life better end up ruining things, and the world seems on the brink of tearing itself apart at the end of the week.
Quick sidebar: there are a total of about 5 scenes in the whole of cinema that I'm physically incapable of watching without laughing. This portion of the film has one of them. It involves Jim Carrey (using God powers), Steve Carell, and a newscast. I won't say any more, but check it out here for one heck of a laugh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iplfWUtKMzI
Back to the action, where Bruce comes to realize that he's not cut out to be God. It is at this point that we see one of the most moving and beautiful portrayals of trust and surrender to the Lord ever put to screen - and it's not even a "religious" movie! Bruce falls to his knees and basically directly contradicts his angry verbiage from earlier.
"You win...I'm done...I don't wanna do this anymore...I don't wanna be God...I want you to decide what's right for me...I surrender to your will!" Wow. That's some powerful testimony right there. It's at this point that God returns from His one week "vacation" and takes His powers back, speaking to Bruce as a father speaks to a child who just realized the error of their ways.
Bruce returns to his normal life with a renewed sense of joy and gratitude. He treats his girlfriend better, takes to his work with gusto, and spreads kindness to the people he encounters in his daily life. The story is wrapped up in a nice little bow!
If the message isn't obvious yet, I'll help you out: we can do NOTHING without God. No. Thing. This is something I really struggle to get through my head: without God, without His grace in our lives, we can accomplish nothing. We are so fully reliant on our Creator that to try to fix our problems with our own strength is foolish!
We are all called to the same radical trust and surrender that Bruce displays at the end of the movie. When we learn to unclench our fists, relax our grip, and give up control, the Lord can move in our lives and lead us towards His will for us. After all, we pray "THY kingdom come, THY will be done" pretty frequently, right?
Bruce Almighty is a movie about a man learning to do just that. There are so many analogies in our Christian lexicon for this; "Let go and let God," "Jesus take the wheel," etc. All great things to do! What does that look like in your life? How do you need to surrender to the Lord? I pray that we will all find the answer to that question this coming year.