When the shark chomped off Bethany's arm, the surfer was only 13-years-old. She lost nearly 60% of her blood, and her life was touch and go for awhile. But her and her mother had been praying that God would use her life for great things, and He certainly has. Her experience has brought her name and story into so many homes, testifying to the powerful and loving name of Jesus Christ.
Looking back at a few of my childhood experiences (ruptured appendix at 14), benign breast tumor as a teenager, and various normal ups and downs, I shamefully acknowledge that I did not "let perseverance finish its work so that I would be mature and complete" (James 1:4). I would whine, complain, ask the inevitable "why me?" and demand that God "deliver me." How pitiful. How sad. How arrogant.
To waste an opportunity to allow pain to bring about glory. And my "tests" where so minuscule compared to what many children endure. I've never lost a close loved one, dealt with chronic illness, or any other such tragedy. And still, despite all the blessings, my maturity has come about a little slower, and I've put up more of a fight. In fact, I'm still much, much further from where I'd someday like to be.
But what encourages is me is that God understands we are dust (Ps. 103:14) and He patiently challenges us and refines us with the level of heat we can handle. My goal is to keep growing closer to Him so that heat's intensity means little and little. And someday, as my gaze is fixed on him, my life will speak of His love, strength, and faithfulness.