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Shark-Victim Surfer Girl’s Simple Faith
Bethany is fortunate to be alive. When a 1,500-pound tiger shark chomped a huge chunk from her surfboard, she also lost her left arm. But “She’s not suffering,” says her dad.

Bethany Hamilton looks like any fun-loving young American teenager – bright eyed, smiling, excited about what she enjoys doing. She’s athletic, attractive, trim, tanned and blonde – qualities that in this culture can open many doors.

Bethany Hamilton

But Bethany faces a special challenge that many her age do not. She is missing her left arm just below the shoulder, lost to a shark attack while surfing in Hawaii in the fall of 2003. The 1,500-pound tiger shark also chomped a huge chunk from her surfboard. She’s fortunate to be alive.

Bethany, who lives on Kauai, was the state’s top-ranked female amateur surfer before the attack. Such a loss might seem devastating. USA Today reports that Bethany seems undismayed. Merely three months after the mishap, she was surfing competitively again. She aims to be among the world’s best surfers.

Rather than hiding her left arm under clothing, she displays it in tank tops and calls it “Stumpy.” When her prosthetic turned out to be too light in color to match her suntan, she nicknamed it Haole Girl, slang for a non-Hawaiian. She peels tangerines by holding them between her feet and using her right hand.

How to account for her bright spirits? Determination and dedication seem part of her makeup. But is there something more?

Her dad gives a clue. “She’s not suffering,” Tom Hamilton told the newspaper. "Somehow God gave Bethany an amazing amount of grace in this. I am in awe. She never says, 'Why me?'.”

Bethany confirms her father’s analysis: "This was God's plan for my life, and I'm going to go with it. … I might not be here if I hadn't asked for God's help."

This surfer girl’s simple faith astounds observers. She has become a media darling – with TV appearances on Oprah, 20/20 and Good Morning America. Book and movie offers have come. She threw out the first pitch for baseball’s Oakland Athletics on opening day. Through it all, her family ties remain strong.

Her optimism echoes that of an early follower of Jesus, Paul, whose life-experience log included unjust imprisonments, beatings, stoning, shipwrecks and social ostracism. He was convinced that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love” Him.

Life can throw many curve balls: serious illness, accidents, terrorism, domestic strife, employment hassles, theft and more. Answers to “Why me?” and “What to do?” are often complex. Accompanying feelings of fear, confusion, grief or despair should not be ignored or minimized.

But perhaps a perspective that includes God in the picture can be a starting place for coping. Maybe the surfer girl’s belief and trust have something valuable to say to a society filled with pain and risk.

During a winter New York City media tour, Bethany spontaneously gave her ski jacket to a homeless girl sitting on a Times Square subway grate, then called off a shopping spree, citing her own material abundance.

Something very significant is happening in this young athlete’s life. Watch for more.

Have you been waiting, hoping, longing for something significant to happen in your life? Today could be the day!

Take a look at your life. How would you describe it?

Contented? Rushed? Exciting? Stressful? Moving forward? Holding back? For many of us it’s all of the above at times. There are things we dream of doing one day, there are things we wish we could forget. In the Bible, it says that Jesus came to make all things new. What would your life look like if you could start over with a clean slate?

Living with hope

If you are looking for peace, there is a way to balance your life. No one can be perfect, or have a perfect life. But every one of us has the opportunity to experience perfect grace through a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.

Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? You can pray it right now, and Jesus Christ will come into your life, just as He promised.

Is this the life for you?

If you invited Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life. As you learn more about your relationship with God, and how much He loves you, you’ll experience life to the fullest.

Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. His work is distributed through Rusty Wright Communications. Rusty Wright has been invited to participate in conferences organized by the Global Christian Internet Alliance formed by Christianity Today International to platform Christian websites internationally. Christianity.ca is the internet representative for Canada. His work is distributed through Rusty Wright Communications.  www.RustyWright.com.

Originally published on the website, The Amy Foundation, under Real Answers, Fall, 2004.

Used with permission. Copyright © 2010 Christianity.ca.

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