Have you ever been through a difficult time or lost something that was important to you? Of course you have - sort of a silly question, isn’t it? Common to the human experience is the occurrence of trial and the ever increasing familiarity with life’s relentless delivery of heartache.
And then there are people who go through tribulations that most of us cannot even imagine even in our worst nightmares. You might expect them to be crushed under the weight of the calamity that has befallen them, but many times they emerge with a victory greater also than we could imagine as well.
One such person that fits in this category is Bethany Hamilton. By now you’ve probably heard about, read, or are about to see her story in the film Soul Surfer. At only 13 years old, she was attacked by a shark and sustained the loss of her arm. And if that weren’t enough, she also lost the love and passion of her life - riding the big waves. A blow like that would be enough to discourage any young teenager from moving forward as she saw her future dreams burn up in the flames of catastrophe.
Or so you might have thought - but Bethany Hamilton gathered up the ashes of her dreams and offered them to the God who “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).
And if you asked her today about her perspective on what happened, here is her answer:
"I try not to make a big soap opera out of the shark attack. I would rather focus on what God has allowed me to do in picking up the pieces of my old life and adjusting to parts that are new and different for me. Most of all, I want to use my story as a way to tell people about God's story. It seems like he has given me the attention of the world for a moment, and I had better take advantage of it while I can." (Soul Surfer, 2004).
How does someone who has undergone such trauma find the strength not only to move on, but allow herself to be used by God in amazing ways?
I would say it has a lot to do with her earthly father and her heavenly Father. In the film there is a scene that chronicles a conversation that took place less than two days after the attack. Bethany is still in her hospital room, and her father, Tom, is keeping a quiet and prayerful vigil at her bedside. When Bethany awakens, she looks to her father for assurance that she can overcome her tragic loss and get back to the sport that she passionately loves. Her dad encourages her with a reminder of a promise from her Heavenly Father:
Bethany: “When can I surf?”
Bethany: “How do you know?”
Tom: “Because you ‘Can do all things …’”
Bethany: “… through Him who gives me strength.”
Bethany claimed that Biblical promise and God has given her the strength to do more than she probably ever imagined as she was lying in that hospital bed.
Please remember, my friends, that this incredible promise holds true for you and me as well. Here is the way another translation of the Bible puts it:
I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me. I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me (Philippians 4:13).
I know that you’ve suffered losses in your life and experienced trials that may be even too difficult to talk about. You may think there is no one on the planet who can say they know what you’re going through - and you would be right. But you have a Savior in heaven who will infuse you with inner strength so you can not only endure, but triumph in your trials.
And when He causes all things to work together for your good, the biggest question is: Are you willing to use your story as a way to tell people about God's story?
His story is about a God who loves His creation so deeply that He was willing to suffer more than any of us could ever imagine to open the way for heaven.
His story is about a Father who was willing to endure the loss of His Son Jesus so we could spend eternity with Him.
His story is written by the moments of our lives and the conversations we choose to have with our friends who don’t know about the amazing news of the gospel. They are the people whose souls need to be saved from a pointless and meaningless future.
Are you willing to be a soul saver?
Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action
There are several moments in the movie that bring up solid Biblical references. Invite your friends to go see the movie and go out afterwards to see what they thought about the film and also ask their opinion about the Bible passages as they relate to salvation.
Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause
Pray: Dear Jesus, thank you for Bethany’s story and how you have used her in such big ways to tell people about you. Thank you also that we can do all things through as you give us strength. Please help me be bold in using my story to tell Your story.
Read: 2 Timothy 1:7. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
Get: For Teenagers: Free resources at soulsurfer.com to help you discuss the movie Soul Surfer with your friends.
For Youth Leaders: Free resources from Interlinc that can help you use the movie Soul Surfer in your youth group.