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In Canada, it is the last day of summer, the day before school starts. To mark the occasion today's post celebrates summer and perseverance. It is a review of the movie Soul Surfer by Meg Korpi and Rusty Wright.

Kauai, 2003. A 14-foot tiger shark bursts through the waves and tears off 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton’s left arm. She loses 60 percent of her blood, and faces the end of her pro surfing dreams. Three months later, the unstoppable teen is surfing competitively again.

If you’re looking for inspiration to thrive in tough times or to appreciate life more fully, Soul Surfer—the movie based on Hamilton’s brush with death and remarkable comeback—will knock your socks off. The Sony Pictures release, starring AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, and Carrie Underwood opened across North America in April, and was available on DVD August 2, 2011.

Fantastic Surfing, Tough Competition, Heart-stopping Tragedy, Strong Character

The film’s breathtaking surfing footage and heart-pounding athletic competition will appeal to sports enthusiasts. But Bethany’s true story of gut-wrenching tragedy, driven character, and hard-won victory is what makes Soul Surfer worth seeing.

Pre-attack, Bethany (Robb) is a lighthearted kid, as well as a skilled surfer. (At 13, she ranked #2 among females 18-and-under in the USA.) After the attack, Bethany emerges as poised and determined, with a well-grounded spirit. Where does a 13-year-old gain the inner strength to remain surprisingly positive while adapting to a missing limb and rebuilding athletic prowess?

Why This? Why Me?

After the attack, Bethany struggles with the mundane (ever try slicing a tomato with one hand?), the profound (how could this be God’s plan?), and the weighty (“will a boy ever like me with only one arm?”). In addition, as a champion surfer driven by love of the sport, Bethany confronts the likely loss of her career: How could she possibly paddle a surfboard, one-armed, through breaking surf, much less re-conquer championship surfing maneuvers?

“I don’t need easy; I just need possible”

But a love of God also drives Bethany. In a story line that some may see as contrived, but which reflects actual events, her youth group leader, Sarah Hill (Underwood), encourages her with the biblical assurance: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘…plans for good and not for harm, to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)

As Bethany learns to rely on this truth, it compels here. With dogged determination, she decides to tackle surfing again. She seeks help from her father (Quaid).

“It’s not going to be easy,” he cautions.

“I don’t need easy,” replies Bethany. “I just need possible.”

Inspiring Role Model

At the film’s NYC premiere, director Sean McNamara offered insight into Bethany’s remarkable fortitude. “Her faith was amazing. I watched her overcome adversity and [attribute it to her] faith in Jesus Christ … I’d been through years of Catholic school, but it’s different when you actually see someone walk the walk and talk the talk.”

This film will not necessarily please moviegoers who expect dark drama and gore from a shark-attack movie. Skeptics will likely scoff at the portrayal of Bethany’s resilience and positive attitude. In fact, the filmmakers toned down the real Bethany’s indomitable spirit for fear audiences wouldn’t find her believable. “They kept wanting [her character] to act sad in the hospital,” Bethany’s brother Noah told us, “but she wasn’t like that. She was upbeat.”

Good teen role models are hard to come by. Thirteen-year–olds who inspire adults to greater courage are virtually unheard of. If one is open-minded enough to accept the fact that admirable and wise-beyond-their-years teens do exist, one could learn a lot from Bethany’s example.

Soul Surfer is thought-provoking PG entertainment. The Hamilton family’s faith is portrayed as integral to the characters, not preachy. The shark-attack scene is tame enough for the squeamish. We found the movie hard to leave in the theater, and carried it in our heads for days, reflecting on the individuals’ character, wisdom and choices.

Some of the real Bethany’s insights are so profound and selfless that they’re indeed hard for the rest of us to comprehend. She once said,

“If I can help other people find hope in God, then that is worth losing my arm for.”

Amazing. Grace.

Meg Korpi studies character development and ethical decision-making through the Character Research Institute in Northern California. She holds a PhD from, and formerly taught at, Stanford University.

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.


I used to think that I was a patient person, but lately I’ve been realizing that I’m really not. I don’t like it when things go wrong (defined as not how I want them to). I don’t like it when things break, especially if we can’t afford to replace them. And I don’t like waiting for someone else when I have other things that I want to do. I always try my best to be kind and considerate to others, but when it comes right down to it, I’m really a rather selfish person. I want things to go my way. As a general rule, they don’t. Now, I have to tell you that I learned long ago not to pray for patience—all manner of things might happen to a person who prays for patience—but I think the Lord might be trying to teach it to me anyway.

The Apostle Paul always gave practical instructions to the people he wrote to, and Romans 12 is certainly a shining example of that. In the middle of Romans 12:12, Paul tells us to endure in suffering. Be patient! Things are not always going to go the way you want them to; as a matter of fact, we can be sure that in this world we will have trouble. (John 16:33) But on either side of that phrase in Romans 12:12 we are given other instructions that will help us to endure.

Rejoice in hope. We know, and I have said many times, that God wants what is best for us. (Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 7:11) I always want things to go according to what I plan, because I think I know what is best for me, but the truth is that I usually want what is easiest, most enjoyable, most productive or most rewarding. God wants to build my character and integrity and make me more like Jesus. He has an eternal perspective, and if we were to focus on eternity instead of this very moment, perhaps rejoicing in hope would come more easily.

Persist in prayer. Prayer is a gift from God. It allows us to tap into His plan and His power. It connects us to Almighty God, which is hard to fathom really. That He would allow us to be a part of His family, and to take part in what He wants to accomplish on this earth, is just beyond imagining. Prayer is a benefit to us, and it glorifies God when we come to Him. It keeps us focused on the overall picture, which helps us to rejoice in hope and to endure suffering.

We should pray, rejoice and not give up.

A few days ago a friend posted on Facebook that she heard a song with the line, “What if our blessings come through raindrops?” She was driving to work in the rain at the time. At that point I had never heard it, but later in the day another friend on Facebook posted a link to that very song. It is called Blessings by Laura Story. I was so moved by the song that I had to write about it.

The song questions, as the songwriter has, what blessings really are. We have the idea that blessings are good health, comfort, prosperity. Certainly blessings are not suffering, or trials or sleepless nights. Or are they? Is there more to God’s plan for our lives than we can understand? I’m sure of it. God allowed Job to be tested by Satan to prove Job’s faithfulness. Job didn’t understand why all those hard things were happening in his life, but he maintained his hope in God, and Job passed the test. (Job 13:15) At the end of it Job learned that God is God, and it was not Job's place to question Him. (Job 42:1-6) God's ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9) and beyond our understanding. (Job 36:26, Job 37:5, Psalm 147:5)

Laura Story says, “The album that I did, I guess about three or four years ago, had happened right after my husband went through surgery for a brain tumour, and so a lot of the ideas that I was writing about then were just very fresh, about how we worship in the midst of trials. And so, fast-forward a few years later, a lot of things have changed; a lot of things have gotten better with his health. A lot of things have not. And trying to figure out, you know, we pray for God to bless us; what does it look like when I spend four or so years praying for healing for my husband that never comes? You know, I feel like that we’ve kind of gotten to a place of having to make a choice. Are we going to judge God based on our circumstances that we don’t understand, or are we going to choose to judge our circumstances based on what we hold to be true about God?

One of the lines from this song says, “We doubt Your goodness; we doubt Your love, as if every promise from Your Word is not enough.” God has given us His Word to instruct us and to encourage us. He has told us how much He loves us, (John 3:16) and that He wants only the best for us. (Matthew 7:11, Jeremiah 29:11) Let’s take a step of faith and believe Him. Trust in His promises.

Please take a few minutes to listen to this beautiful song.

You can visit Laura Story's official website here.

Over the years I have heard of many cases where people purposely entered the lions’ cages at zoos. I’m sure they all had reasons that they thought made sense at the time, but some were mauled and others died because they challenged such powerful creatures. Although, zoo keepers have managed to safely care for the animals, unexpected visitors do not escape unharmed.

In I Peter 5:8, Satan is described as a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. The verse begins with a warning to be sober and alert—self-disciplined, wise and vigilant. You can be sure that if you are not prepared to face the devil, he will get the better of you. His goal is to make you doubt your faith and to disregard or disobey God. Satan is a liar and the father of lies, (John 8:44) but he disguises himself as whatever will suit his purposes, including an angel of light. (II Corinthians 11:14) His purpose is to deceive you, as he has done since the very beginning of the world. (Genesis 3:13)

Jesus said that in this world we would have trouble and suffering, and that we would be in a constant battle with the evil one. But He also told us to have courage, because He has overcome the world. (John 16:33) This world may be a battleground between God and Satan, but we know that God will win. We have to be careful not to let Satan deceive us. How can we do that? Through spending time with God. By reading our Bibles, studying the Word and thinking about how it applies to our lives. By praying in an open and honest way and taking time to listen to God for His answers. By relying on Him to give us His strength. He has promised us that His grace is sufficient for us, that His power is made perfect in our weakness (II Corinthians 12:9), and that we are able to do all things through the strength that He provides for us. (Philippians 4:13)

I Peter 5:9-11 tells us to resist the devil and trust in God. Don’t let Satan deceive you into believing that you are alone in your trials or that God has abandoned you. God has promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:8) He will give us the strength we need for every situation and will restore us in His time. Warren Wiersbe has said that “God doesn’t always change the circumstances, but He can change us to meet the circumstances. That’s what it means to live by faith.”

I’m a bit of an idealist, so I don’t like it when things go wrong, especially when bad things happen to people who don’t deserve it.  It’s one thing to deal with the consequences when you’ve made a mistake, but if you didn’t do anything wrong, it just seems so unfair.  Either way though, it is good to be able to call on God to rescue you.

Do you ever wonder if God really hears you when you pray?  Sometimes we feel like the pain, frustration and struggles will go on forever.  He says that He has a good plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11), but do you ever want to negotiate with Him?  Tell Him your side of the story?  Give Him your ideas for the plan?  I think that the Psalmist David must have felt that way when he wrote Psalm 13.  In the first two verses he asked “How long?” four times.  He felt ignored, anxious and threatened by his enemy.  We don’t know for sure, but he may have been running for his life at this point.  David didn’t end his psalm the same way he started it though.  He moved from complaint (Psalm 13:1-2) to prayer (Psalm 13:3-4) to praise (Psalm 13:5-6).

Philippians 4:6 tells us not to be anxious about anything, but with thankful hearts to present all of our requests to God.  This is what David did.  He asked the Lord to answer him, to revive him, and to save him, not only so that he would be saved, but so would the reputation of God’s name.

What caused David to turn from despair to praise?  Hope in God’s unfailing love and mercy.  David had faith that God was still God and would keep His covenant with him.  We must do the same when we face trials that have gone on so long that we think they will go on forever.  When we have lost our joy and our hope, we must cling to our faith.  We must remember that God is God and more importantly that we are not.  Even when we don’t understand what He is doing, we must believe that He does.  We know that He understands every trial that we go through (Hebrews 4:14-16), that He will not give us more trials than we are able to bear (I Corinthians 10:13) and that He longs to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11).  Think back on how God has brought you through trials before.  He will again.

I have come to realize that a major theme in James 1 is humility.  James 1:12 tells us that we will be rewarded if we endure the testing that we face.  What must we do to endure testing?  We need to let go of our pride and our feelings of entitlement.  How do you react when you face trials?  I have to admit that I usually try to avoid them.  I think it is quite common for people to pity themselves and want to escape the unpleasant circumstances that they are in.  But the Bible tells us that we face testing to humble us, to strengthen us and to bring good to us. (Deuteronomy 8:16, James 1:2-4)  A wise pastor once suggested that instead of lamenting our trials that we ask God what He wants us to learn from them.  Candy Hemphill Christmas, founder of The Bridge Ministry has said that she has learned something about God—“that if you ask Him a question, He will answer.  Now, you’re going to have to get ready for the answer, but He will answer.  It might not be what you want to hear, but He will answer.”  Are we willing to submit to God’s answer, to His plan?  That takes humility.

I think it is natural for people to think that trials are a punishment from God.  Job’s friends did, and so did Job’s wife.  Job, on the other hand, asked why we should expect good things from God and not accept the bad.  (Job 2:7-10).  When God answered Job, (Job 40:1-14) He reminded him that there is a God, and Job isn’t Him.  Neither are we.  We need to trust God and His love for us.  We need to trust what He tells us in Jeremiah 29:11, that His plan for our future is a good one.  The trials that we face along the way are stepping stones to that good future.  God is more interested in our character than He is in our accomplishments or wealth, and He can bring good from everything that happens to us.  (Romans 8:28)

I wonder what would happen if we thanked God for our trials and looked for the lessons in them rather than complaining about our lot in life.  Let’s try to focus on making the best of the present instead of wishing for something better in the future.  Let’s see how we can help other people instead of throwing ourselves a pity party.  Let’s trust God to bring good out of every circumstance in our lives.