20 years ago, I sat in the youth group room at my church as my Youth Pastor cautioned us to not go see the movie Bruce Almighty. He said it would be completely blasphemous, mocking God, and could be detrimental to our faith.
So, of course, when a young boy in youth group is told not to do something, they’re going to do it even harder. I mean, it was a Jim Carrey movie after all, back when every movie he was in was still a must-see.
If you haven’t seen it, here is the gist: The story revolves around Bruce Nolan (Carrey), a television reporter in Buffalo, New York, who is discontent with his life and blames God for his misfortunes. God, portrayed by Morgan Freeman, responds by offering Bruce his divine powers to see if he can do a better job while setting some ground rules: Bruce can’t tell anyone he has God’s powers and cannot interfere with free will.
Empowered with these abilities, Bruce initially uses them for personal gain and humorous pranks. However, he soon realizes that the powers are more challenging to manage than he thought, particularly when it comes to addressing the world’s prayers and handling his relationship with his girlfriend, Grace (played by Jennifer Aniston).
As Bruce grapples with these challenges, he learns valuable lessons about responsibility, the nature of free will, and the importance of appreciating one’s life as it is. The film combines comedy with a deeper message about finding happiness and fulfillment in God and in life, rather than constantly seeking more.
What I loved about the movie was how God was portrayed. We’ve seen many portrayals of God in movies over the years that are… less than biblical. From George Burns in 1977’s Oh, God! to Whoopi Goldberg in 2011’s A Little Bit of Heaven, it seems most big screen depictions are based on a more secular view of God – who the world thinks God is versus who the Bible says He is.
However, the God in Bruce Almighty (and the oft-overlooked Evan Almighty) might just be the closest portrayal to the real thing yet – at least when it comes to the lessons taught in Scripture. This movie directly and indirectly showed moviegoers why God allows free will, why bad things happen to good people, how getting everything we want would be detrimental to us, why humbling ourselves is so important to faith and relationships, and how living our lives for God and for others is far more fulfilling than living for ourselves.
However, there is one lesson that was left on the cutting room floor. When the DVD was released, it came with a selection of deleted scenes. In one extended scene, when trying to answer the overwhelming numbers of prayers, Bruce gave everybody what they prayed for. The answer was always “yes.”
In a later deleted scene, God shows Bruce that because of what he had done, these people did not become who they were supposed to be. God told Bruce that these people would have become better, stronger, more virtuous, and would have done greater things, directly because of the struggle they were going through. If the answer had been, “no” or “not yet”, it could have made all the difference.
There will be times in your life when you will give in to temptation. There will be times when people hurt you. There will be times when you lose someone or something important to you. There will be times when the answer to your prayer is “no.”
You can let those moments break you, or you can surrender them to God and let Him use them to grow you. If there is one thing the real God is great at, it’s taking the broken pieces of our shattered life and making something beautiful out of them – for our good and for His glory. No matter how filthy something gets, He can always clean it right up.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Philippians 3:8-16 ESV