“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10)

Sam Bracken is a living example of what it looks like to be refined in the furnace of affliction. While today he is a successful author, speaker, husband and father, his journey to success was one less traveled by.

Sam grew up in Las Vegas, with a home life he’d be lucky to survive. Literally. He suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of his stepfather and stepbrother, and found himself involved with drugs and alcohol by age 9.

Sam turned to sports when he was 13 years old, leading him to quit the substances he was so early involved with. He grew a special affinity for football and track, and he excelled.

His mother abandoned him for a motorcycle gang when he was 15 years old. Despite Sam’s unthinkable setbacks, he graduated from high school with a 3.9 GPA and a full ride football scholarship to the Georgia Institute of Technology.

When Sam left for college, he found that all his possessions fit inside a single orange duffel bag. This inspired the title of a book he would one day publish, titled My Orange Duffel Bag. As a memoir and self-help book, My Orange Duffel Bag would receive awards in 2011 and help many on their personal journeys to change.

At Georgia Tech, Sam was inflicted with shoulder injuries that were likely to end his football career. Having attached much of his self-worth to his success as an athlete, this was a difficult time for Sam.

In the midst of trying to rehabilitate his shoulders, Sam turned to Coach Curry, his football coach at Georgia Tech for advice. Coach Curry asked Sam to go home and make a binder with four sections in it: spiritual, mental, physical and emotional. He invited Sam to evaluate his life in these aspects and make goals and plans for each section. Curry wanted him to have a well-rounded life.

Through an immense amount of work, Sam reached the spiritual, mental, physical and emotional goals he had for himself. He overcame his injuries and regained a starting position at Georgia Tech. He graduated from college with honors. Sam found the Savior and spent two years teaching people about Jesus Christ on a mission in Canada. This is where he met the love of his life, Kim. They eventually were married and built a loving, Christ-centered home for their 4 children.

Sam reminds us that no matter the obstacle, we each can overcome. Change is within reach. Success is ours to claim when we work and have faith.

“If you want small changes, focus on your behavior. If you want big changes, focus on your thinking.” –Sam Bracken

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