Stranger Than Fiction (courage, when life stinks)
Main Point of Discussion: At the crossroads of life, we often find our greatest courage to help us face our toughest moments.
The Movie Clip: “You’re asking me to knowingly face my death?”
Stranger Than Fiction is about an IRS agent named Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) whose life has been pretty mundane, simple and absent of meaning. One morning he wakes up and begins hearing a “voice” narrating his life. Harold wonders if other people can hear the voice and struggles against the voice interrupting his daily activities. All is fine until one day the voice mentions his “imminent death.”
The remainder of the movie follows Harold as he desperately struggles to find out who the author (the voice) of the story is so he can stop this “imminent death.” On his journey he discovers the courage to be more than just and IRS agent and seems to find himself also.
Introducing the Clip:
Have you ever come across a time in your life where you just weren’t sure what to do? Do you know what I mean? You can see all of your options but you just aren’t sure which option is the “right” one. That kind of situation is often referred to as a “crossroad” in our life and tonight I want to show you a clip from Stranger Than Fiction where Will Ferrell plays a man named Harold who faces a very difficult crossroad in his life.
Harold’s life is somehow mysteriously tied to the writing of a new unfinished book by an author who always kills off her main characters. Harold is not ready for the end of his life, but the author is now ready to finish her story. Upon discovering her writing is actually dictating Harold’s life, the author gave her story to Harold to read before she officially finished it so that he could see the end of the book, and thus his life, before it happened. However, Harold didn’t have the courage to read it and asked a professor friend to read it instead and then to let him know what happened…
BEGIN CLIP AT 1 hour 25 minutes and 00 seconds (Chapter 22) or you can use the clip above from WingClips.
- Harold: Professor Hilbert?
Professor: Hi Harold. You look tired.
Harold: No, no, just calm.
Professor: Harold, I’m sorry. You have to die.
Professor: It’s her masterpiece. It’s possibly the most important novel in her already stunning career and it’s absolutely no good unless you die at the end.
I’ve been over it again and again and I know how hard this is for you to hear.
Harold: You’re asking me to knowingly face my death?
Harold: (Sighs) Really?
Harold: I thought you’d…I thought you’d find something…
Professor: I’m sorry Harold.
Harold: Can’t we just try and just see if she can change it?
Professor: Harold…In the grand scheme it wouldn’t matter.
Harold: Yes it would.
Harold: I could change. I could just quit my job. I could go away with Ana. I could be someone else.
Professor: Harold, listen to me.
Harold: I can’t die right now. (Crying) It’s just really bad timing.
Professor: No one wants to die Harold, but unfortunately we do. (Harold gets up from chair) Harold…Harold, listen to me. Harold, you will die someday, sometime. Heart failure at the bank. Choke on a mint. Some long, drawn-out disease you contracted on vacation. You will die. You will absolutely die.
Even if you avoid this death, another will find you. And I guarantee that it won’t be nearly as poetic or meaningful as what she’s written. I’m sorry but it’s the nature of all tragedies, Harold.
The hero dies, but the story lives on forever.
Harold is faced with an incredible decision here. He’s left sitting at a crossroad in life knowing he could die now with great meaning or avoid this death and face another possibly meaningless death down the road. This very situation is a road that you and I will likely never have to walk down, but there are many decisions that we must face in our lives with great courage because we’re unsure of the outcome.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: It would be cool to get a glimpse into our future… or would it? Let’s imagine for a second that you could get a glimpse of your future. What question you might want answered? (leader – the answer you might be looking for: who I’m going to marry, what kind of house will I live in…)
- ASK A FEW: In this scene we just saw Harold (Will Ferrell) had found the answer to one of those questions that we might or might not like to know: when/how we will die. What kind of emotions/feelings do you think Harold was experiencing in that moment? (leader – the answer you might be looking for: scared, afraid, nervous, anxious, etc.)
- Stranger Than Fiction is truly fiction. Now let’s take a glimpse into a true story out of the Bible. Jesus had a very similar encounter. Let’s all read that together now.
Read the following passage:
Matthew 26:36-46 (NIV)
 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”  He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.  Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
- ASK A FEW: What is going on in this passage? Why is Jesus “sorrowful and troubled?” (leader – the answer you are looking for: He’s about to be betrayed, turned over and crucified)
- ASK A FEW: Jesus is facing down his own death. It’s clear that He knows His death is coming and how it’s going to happen. So, knowing the time was coming soon, what did Jesus do? (leader – the answer you are looking for: Pray)
- ASK SOMEONE: What specifically did Jesus pray? (leader – the answer you are looking for: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”)
- ASK THE GROUP: Jesus prayed that God take “this cup” from Him, but then followed that with “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Why did you think that Jesus asked God to spare Him what was coming if He could? (leader – the answer you might be looking for: He was struggling and probably not yet ready to go through what He knew was coming)
- ASK THE GROUP: When you watch TV, or maybe in your own experience or with your friends, what are some things that you’ve seen people do when things get tough? (leader – the answers you may be looking for: cry, panic, call friends, call parents, go crazy, etc.)
- ASK A FEW: At the crossroads of His life, why do you think Jesus chose to stop and pray instead of all those other things we just mentioned? (leader – the answer you are looking for: He needed the courage to face what He knew was coming and to do what He knew He had to do.)
- ASK SOMEONE: The last verse of the passage says, “ Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” What happened next? What was the outcome of the crossroads that Jesus faced here? (leader – the answer you are looking for: He was betrayed by Judas into Roman authorities and crucified only to be resurrected again to save us.a)
- Break up into pairs or threes to pray: Knowing that He would save the world through the cross and rise again, Jesus was frightened. He chose to stop and pray for the courage to keep going on.
What’s going on in your life right now that might be a tough situation where you might need prayer for courage and strength?
Tonight we saw a fictional example and a real example of people who needed great courage when times were pretty dim. Facing their own deaths, people struggle with the overwhelming emotions and stress of dealing with those tough times. Jesus even struggled with these feelings.
God promises us that He will give us the courage to deal with the obstacles of our life, but He doesn’t promise that it will always be pretty or easy. At the crossroads of our life God shows up and with Him there is nothing we cannot overcome.
Close in Prayer
Written by Jamie Locklin
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.