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By: Casey Parker
Photo Credit: Ashley Wingo

A note from Allie: Through our ministry partnership with The Beautifully Flawed Foundation (formerly Friends of Bethany Hamilton), which we have co-hosted our Anchored In Love Conference with, we have had the opportunity to meet some incredible women who have overcome unimaginable hardships. Today, we’re excited to introduce you to two of our friends: Casey Parker and Lauren Scruggs Kennedy. Casey interviewed Lauren at the Beautifully Flawed Retreat one year and we are excited to share it with you here on our blog.

Lauren Scruggs Kennedy is a fashion journalist, blogger, and author. In December of 2011, she was hit by an airplane’s spinning propeller. She lost her left eye and hand, and also suffered a traumatic brain injury. I recently had the privilege of meeting Lauren at a retreat I attend annually called the “Beautifully Flawed Retreat” in Del Mar, California, which is designed for young women who’ve experienced the loss of at least one limb.

The experience reminded me that every trial of suffering is an opportunity to grow in faith. Faith must be tested because it can only become an intimate possession through conflict. Spiritual maturity allows us to recognize a way to avoid unnecessary suffering, a wiser way to endure unavoidable hardship with grace, and an opportunity to turn our pain into a lesson of healing for other people. While I was reading the book of Job recently, I realized that genuine faith is revealed only when we trust God in the midst of suffering, loss, and opposition. Faith that has allowed us to be transformed by suffering is not doubt-free certainty; rather, it’s tenacious obedience. I’ve learned that true Christian maturity is not strength or competency, but deep dependence on God in the midst of suffering.

A painful life can be lived brightly; loss has gifted Lauren and I with great perspective and wisdom. In order to grow, seeds need to be dropped in dirt, covered in darkness, and struggle to reach the light; it is the same with our sufferings.

Yet, suffering in and of itself doesn’t make us holy. It’s only when we unite it, out of love, to the suffering of Christ that it has meaning. Suffering without love is wasted pain. I’ve learned that every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation. I was born with a disorder called Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD). My disorder is a complex birth defect in which the upper part of the femur bone (in the thigh) is either malformed or missing, causing one leg to be shorter than the other. In December of 2001, my right leg was amputated. During my recovery, I learned that hardship can melt into worship when you realize that God is continuously present in your suffering. Remember that even in the midst of suffering, God’s will is being done. Our place of suffering can be transformed to a place of worship in the presence of Christ.

My Interview with Lauren Scruggs Kennedy:

What is the most significant experience of suffering that you’ve gone through?
I was hit by an airplane propeller – I lost my left eye, left hand, and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Do you think that suffering can refocus someone’s priority to follow Jesus daily?
Absolutely! Suffering has demonstrated that nothing else and nobody else can comfort like Jesus!

Do you believe that suffering has produced perseverance?
Absolutely! It can teach the importance of taking one day at a time and knowing God has a purpose!

Do you believe that suffering can be used to grow spiritually?
I absolutely believe suffering is a key to growing spiritually–it can cause us to grasp our deeper need for Jesus.

How would you explain suffering to someone who doesn’t believe in God?
Since we live in a broken world, everyone will experience suffering in their lifetime, but Jesus will redeem it beautiful!

Bible Verse for Suffering: It is evident that the world is full of suffering–physical, emotional, and spiritual pain is an intrinsic part of the human experience. Suffering will indeed come, but God can give you grace and power to overcome every trial and to fulfill your purpose and mission in His kingdom.

Isaiah 53:3: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.”

Casey Parker is a Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) major at Anderson University in South Carolina. In December of 2001, she became an above-the-knee amputee because of a disorder called Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD). She now uses social media to advocate for the limb loss community. “I used to think I had to be flawless inside and out for life to fall into place,” she says. “I compared my broken and flawed self with everyone else’s highlight reel. I made the decision to seek God, the One who is present in the unfiltered version of my life. There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than someone who is comfortable in their imperfection.”