Last Updated on January 8, 2019

Tragedy strikes each of us at some point in our lives. The real challenge is how we react to that tragedy.

I recently met and spent some time with a young woman who faced unimaginable tragedy and has come out on the other side whole — even when those who see her appearance would assume she was not … literally.

Immediately, Bethany Hamilton put me at ease with her soft-spoken voice and matter-of-fact attitude toward how she felt about being in Arkansas visiting FamilyLife. “Well, it is pretty here, but I’d rather be at the beach.” That’s a young lady who knows what she wants and goes after it. Her life has been an ongoing battle of going after what she wants. It just so happens that most of what she wants occurs while she’s standing on a surfboard.

I hope by now you have heard about the upcoming release of the movie Soul Surfer, based on the book of the same title written by Bethany. I’m guessing there are several books out there written by surfers, but not too many written by a young teen surfer who had a harrowing battle with a shark and came out on the other side without her left arm.

What I can tell you is that upon first meeting her, my mom-heart hurt when I saw what was left of her arm. And I admit I imagined for a moment the absolute terror of the day of the attack and the complete hopelessness that must have followed. But mere moments later, the mom in me lost sight of the trauma completely because sweet Bethany is full of life and reflects a wholeness in a way that many her age are incapable of.

As we chatted together, the previous imaginings gave way to admiration for the love she has for her mother (who was there with her) and the passion she exudes for her sport. In spite of all she has been through, she remains a champion surfer and humbly volunteers her time by encouraging wounded soldiers.

The name of Jesus rolled off the tongue of Bethany so frequently that it was obvious to me her faith carried her through the battle, and that alone should put Soul Surfer at the top of your list of movies to go see this spring.

No doubt the many who flock to the theaters in the coming weeks to see Soul Surfer will do so because they want to see the story of Bethany Hamilton’s battle with a shark twice her size. What they will walk away with is a glimpse into the life of a girl and her family who took an unimaginable tragedy and used it to bring glory to God.


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