Despite our setbacks, mistakes, accidents, failures, sins and fears, God fully intends on accomplishing His purposes for our lives.
That was the first thing I thought of when I read the powerful testimony of Bethany Hamilton. You may remember her story, Bethany was thirteen years old when a shark attacked her while she surfed in Hawaii in 2003.
Though the shark cut off her arm, incredibly Bethany survived. Three weeks later, she conquered her fears and was back surfing.
Her strong faith in God helped her through the ordeal and her story would spread around the world because of it.
Since then a feature film, Soul Surfer, has been made on Bethany’s triumphal return to surfing.
She is now married to Adam Dirks and they have a one year old son. Aside from winning several surfing competitions, she and Adam also placed third during the 2014 filming of The Amazing Race.
The World Surf League announced that on May 30, 2016, Bethany, 26, finished third in the World Surf’s League Fiji Women’s Pro. She wasn’t even rated among the world’s top women surfers when she entered as a wild-card participant.
Surfing with just one arm, Bethany made it to the semi-finals beating out Tyler Wright, the world’s top-ranked female surfer and as well six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore.
The only thing she uses to accommodate her missing limb is a handle on her surf board to help her paddle out to the waves.
But despite her accomplishments, what stands out is her unique response to the shark attack. In a 2010 interview with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bethany said:
“In early October 2003, my mom and I started praying and asking God to use me and show me His purpose for my life. So, after the shark attack, I accepted that God allowed this to happen to me for a reason. … I want people to see where my hope and strength comes from: Jesus Christ. And hopefully they’ll consider having a relationship with God, too.”
She acknowledged in the midst of her greatest trial that God had allowed it. Then she went the next step and asked the Lord what his purpose was for her trial.
A passage in Proverbs is one of those popular verses that Christians often cite, but we quickly gloss over its true meaning.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NASV)
It is easy to acknowledge God during the times of blessing, but the verse tells us to acknowledge God in all your ways — this includes the bad times — our trials and testing. It is not that God caused them, but He allowed it to happen.
It’s when we acknowledge God’s sovereignty in our darkest hour, that He can then direct your path and fulfill His purpose for your life.