When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you. (Margaret Fishback Powers)
Footprints: The History
The poem Footprints in the Sand (or Footprints) has been in search of an author for many years. Three claims of authorship were identified for different versions of the poem by 2005 – the estate of Mary Stevenson (1934), Margaret Fishback Powers (1964), and Carolyn Carty (1963). More recently, Burrell Webb claimed to have written the poem (1958).
It doesn’t matter to me who penned the words or that the words in each version are just a little bit different. All I can say is that it is an awesome poem that has inspired me and countless others around the world over the years. I don’t remember when I first read it. Maybe it was when I renewed my relationship with God when I was 20 after I had lost track of Him for several years through my turbulent teens.
Footprints: The Poem
Here’s the version attributed to Margaret Fishback Powers, which has just the right words for me.
Footprints (also known as I Had a Dream)
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord.
When the last scene of my life shot before me I looked back at the footprints in the sand. There was only one set of footprints.
I realized that this was at the lowest and saddest times of my life. This always bothered me and I questioned the Lord about my dilemma.
“Lord, You told me when I decided to follow You, You would walk and talk with me all the way. But I’m aware that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints. I just don’t understand why, when I need You most, You leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.“
Footprints: The Message
The thing that’s most powerful for me in each poem is the last sentence where the Lord says that when I saw only one set of footprints, “It was then that I carried you.” He carried me. He carried you. And He continues to do so in our hard times. Think about that – what a powerful message in those words.
And He says in Hebrews 13:5:
“I will never leave you or forsake you.” (King James Version)
“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” (New Living Translation)
“I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you.” (The Message)
You get the message, don’t you? No matter what Bible version it is, it makes the same point just like the different versions of the poem. He won’t leave us, forsake us, fail us, abandon us, let us down, or walk away from us. Never!
We’ve all struggled at times – with loss and grief, illness, financial difficulties, broken relationships and so much more. Often those moments of struggle turn slowly and painfully into days and weeks and months and years. We get tired. We get depressed. We want the pain to end.
We forget the promises of God. We cry out to Him and ask him how much He expects us to take. Or we just walk away or run away from Him, angry or hurt thinking that He has abandoned us. I know. I’ve done it too.
I was talking with someone recently who felt abandoned by God because of life circumstances. And who was feeling guilty for feeling that way. What could I say to encourage and support that individual trying to hold on to a wavering faith?
I thought of the words of Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46, King James Version) “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (New Living Translation)
But He was. He was in the darkness beside His Son Jesus. Aching to take Him off the cross. Aching to take away the pain. Aching to take Him down from the cross. Aching to let Him feel hope again. But God the Father couldn’t do it. If He had done those things and given Jesus hope, then there’d be no hope for us.
And then I thought about the walk to the cross. God was with His Son Jesus when He was trying to drag that heavy cross up the hill to Gethsemane. When Jesus collapsed on the way, His cross was given to someone else to carry. Jesus, beaten and tortured, could hardly lift His head, let alone His aching body to continue that death walk.
How did He get to the top of the hill? He didn’t call upon superhuman strength, which He could have done. Instead, He called upon His Father and His Father carried Him. And, I believe too that when Jesus called out and asked God why He had abandoned Him that He heard a quiet voice in the darkness surrounding the cross, “Remember, I will never leave You or forsake You. I haven’t abandoned You. I am carrying you, My Son.”
We are all God’s sons and daughters. We may not believe it. We may feel like we don’t deserve to be sons and daughters. We may not want to be sons and daughters. But we are. We may choose to leave Him. But no matter what we do He will never leave us or abandon us.
Do you see His footprints in the sand?
Footprints in the Sand: The Song
Footprints: The Poem Retold
Photo credit: Second photo of footprints in the sand: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1058