Under a grove of palm trees, accompanied by the sound of the crashing waves, a small congregation gathers in one of the opening scenes of the new film, Soul Surfer. Paddling to shore after an early morning surf along the beautiful Hawaiian coast, thirteen-year-old Bethany Hamilton (played in the film by Anna Sophia Robb) joins her family in the outdoor worship service. With a joyful smile, the teenager sings along, “Blessed be Your name, on the road marked with suffering. When there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name…”
But when a sudden shark attack in November 2003 takes Bethany’s left arm and almost takes her life, her faith is stretched in a way she never could have imagined. When it seems there is no hope for the professional surfing career she had always dreamed of, and before she can see any glimpse of good in this tragedy, Bethany chooses to put her hope and confidence in the Lord’s goodness and sovereignty. She clings to the promise that He has a “future and a hope” for her life (Jeremiah 29:11).
“I don’t pretend to have all the answers to why bad things happen to good people,” the real-life Bethany Hamilton says, “but I do know that God knows all those answers, and sometimes He lets you know in this life… God did have something bigger planned for me. What we all needed to do was trust… and believe.”*
“Lord, blessed be Your Name!”
Rather than let herself be swallowed up by the threatening waves of depression, self-pity, and bitterness, this amazing young woman pushes herself to learn to surf again – with one arm. Bethany doesn’t stop until she is a top professional surfer, competing with and surpassing some of the best female surfers in the world!
“I have this thought every second of my life – ‘Why me?’” Bethany confesses. “Not negatively, like ‘Why did this terrible thing happen to me?’ But more like ‘Why did God choose me and what does He have in mind for me?'”*
At the end of the film Soul Surfer, after Bethany has just finished an amazing performance in a regional surfing competition, a reporter asks what she would do if she could go back to that day of the shark attack. A confident Bethany smiles and says she wouldn’t change a thing. The ability to impact so many people with her story makes it worth losing her arm. “I’ve had the chance to embrace more people with one arm,” she says, “than I ever could with two.”**
“He gives and takes away. He gives and takes away. My heart will choose to say, ‘Lord, blessed be Your name!”