Fourteen years after losing her left arm in a horrific shark attack, Bethany Hamilton reflected on how God can turn pain into beauty.
On the anniversary of the 2003 attack, the 27-year-old surfer shared an Instagram photo of herself along with the caption: "Today I'm thankful to be alive! I look back and would not change that day otherwise. God can truly turn pain into beauty. We can grow through our hard times and overcome. Happy stumpy day to me."
Hamilton, who recently announced she is expecting her second child with husband Adam Dirks, was on her way to becoming a surfing star when the devastating attack happened. The Hawaii native was lounging with her left arm over the side of her surfboard when a 14-foot tiger shark attacked, severing her arm just below the shoulder.
She would later claim she did not feel much pain from the shark bite, noticing the bloody water around her before realizing her arm was missing.
Instead of letting the terrifying event destroy her dreams of becoming a professional surfer, Hamilton returned to her board just three weeks after losing her arm, and won her first national surfing title just over a year later. Today, she's a world-class surfing champion, last year beating a six-time world champion to place third in the World Surf League's Fiji Women's Pro competition.
During a 2011 interview with Christianity Today, Hamilton reflected on how her faith allowed her to persevere in the face of tragedy.
"God can prepare you for anything," she said. "And that's exactly what he did. But yes, my mom and I were praying for God to show me his will. I wanted to be a light for him in everything I was doing. And then a couple of weeks later, the shark attack happened, and I feel like God gave us a sense of peace about it, because he's not going to allow anything that he doesn't think you can handle. God will give us the strength to be able to handle things. I mean, you can try to do it on your own and sometimes you can pull off some stuff, but in the long run it's much easier with him by our side. So yeah, we just trusted in the Lord as everything just kind of fell apart, and then just focused on starting fresh."
An outspoken Christian, Hamilton regularly shares her story to inspire others and remind young girls suffering with self-image issues that they are beautiful exactly the way they are. Her foundation, Friends of Bethany, encourages amputees and youth through faith.
"There are a lot of media images that are constantly shoved in front of us...all this stuff telling us how we need to be cool and beautiful," she said during a 2015 appearance at Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, CA. "When God looks at us, He loves us as we are. When we bring it back to who we are in Christ and think of how we love our friends, that's what life's all about. It's not about being perfect or what the world thinks is perfect. When you're bombarded with these images, it's okay not to accept it and remember who you are in Christ. God loves us so much, and He doesn't want us to be self-depressed."
Her powerful story of faith and resilience in the face of overwhelming odds is documented in the 2011 biopic of her journey, "Soul Surfer."
"There is hope in life, especially if you have Jesus Christ in your life," she told CT. "You can overcome these horrible circumstances and turn it into something good."