When I was younger, one of my favorite poems was “Footprints in the Sand.” However, as I grew older, I heard criticisms against this poem, that it was misleading because God doesn’t carry us on our spiritual journey; we ourselves need to walk with His help, even through the difficult times. I have even heard of a similar poem vulgarly titled “Buttprints in the Sand,” which needless to say uses satire to prove this very point.
While I agree that our walk of faith is indeed a walk that requires our own efforts and resolve, I believe there is merit in the original poem, which at the end reveals that when there was only one set of footprints, it was not that God abandoned us, but that He carried us. The very fact that God carries us is recorded in Isaiah 46:3-4:
Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, And all the remnant of the house of Israel, Who have been upheld by Me from birth, Who have been carried from the womb: Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.
These verses tell us that God has upheld and carried us from the womb. When we were born, we were completely helpless. Spiritually speaking, we are completely helpless without God. So our loving Father has been there from the beginning, even before we knew how to rely on Him. Because He made us, He bears responsibility for our souls and our very existence. Even when we are old and gray-headed, God promises to never leave or forsake us because He is faithful. While we are capable of walking, God continues to support us, lift us up, and deliver us throughout our spiritual journey.
So I think the message of “Footprints in the Sand” is not that we can expect God to carry us through difficulties or that we are carried in the passive sense. It is that He has been supporting us all along, even though sometimes we may not see or feel His presence. He cares about us so much that He will personally see us through to the end of our spiritual journey. Therefore, we need to acknowledge that the very reason we are able to stand, let alone walk, is not because of our own strength or determination, but because of God’s hand, which has been quietly upholding us and faithfully carrying us along.