'Footprints in the Sand' Beautiful Meaning & Biblical Hope
- Candice Lucey Contributing Writer
- 2020 16 Apr
The poem “Footprints in the Sand” is frequently framed for display in living rooms and bedrooms. You can buy keychains and tea towels and decorative plates featuring this well-known piece of writing. It’s not scripture, but “Footprints in the Sand” does offer hope for the reader who recognizes God’s promises between the lines.
One night I dreamed a dream. I was walking along the beach with my Lord. 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 in the Sand Song
Leona Lewis - Footprints In The Sand from footprintsinthesanduk on GodTube.
Who Wrote "Footprints in the Sand"??
If you go to Goodreads.com looking for “Footprints,” Margaret Fishback Power is credited as the author. Harper Collins published her biography before a public argument erupted over copyright between Power and the estate of Mary Stevenson.
Sources even attribute the inspiration for “Footprints” to Charles Spurgeon. Interest in this debate (though it is still debated) fizzled out, at least on the internet, after around 2008.
Margaret Fishback Power wrote the most widely-recognized version of this poem during a time when she was “searching for direction and faced a crossroads in her life.”
While the writer and narrator’s challenges were deeply personal, and the poem was written in the 20th Century, Power’s word choices evoke struggles faced by Biblical figures such as King David and the Apostle Paul.
The poem’s readership is a modern one, among whom many may have never opened a Bible and may not consider themselves gospel-believing Christians. The words of this poem, however, are rooted in a personal relationship with God.
Is “Footprints in the Sand” in the Bible?
There is no place in all of scripture where a single line from the poem is evident. Some parts of scripture are evoked here, but there are no biblical quotes; only biblical ideas.
Using a concordance, you can see where God’s word mentions “footprints” or says that God will never leave His children. The tone of this modern poem is suggestive of the Psalms, speaking directly to God about personal struggles, a person questioning God in confusion.
“I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.” (3rd stanza)
The exact wording of “Footprints,” however, comes from the author.
Related Bible Verses and Scriptures
“Footprints in the Sand” seems to draw much of its inspiration from the Psalms where the writer remarks “The steps of a man are established by the Lord when he delights in His way, though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong for the Lord upholds his hand.” (Psalm 37:23)
In Psalm 77:19, the writer remarks that God’s footsteps “were unseen.”
Psalm 119:133 begs God to “steady my steps according to your promise and let no iniquities get dominion over me.”
In the New Testament, such as 1 Peter 2:21, the Christian is exhorted to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Romans 4:12 says God “is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”
While the poem has been translated into many languages for worldwide distribution, the Christian reader searching for spiritual meaning behind each stanza might be fascinated to know where the actual word “footprints” will take them.
For instance, the Hebrew word for “step” is “aqab” meaning “footprint, heel, trail, or rear guard.” The Greek “ichnos” translates into “track, footstep, impression.” Many ideas overlap within the word “footprint.”
There is the idea of following a trail; of copying someone’s example. In 1 John 2:6 we read: “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.” Which is saying: Do as He did; follow in His footsteps.
Jesus’ life leaves a visible impression and also a direction. His life provides the pathway we are searching for, and also marks us as “His.” Jesus told His disciples “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
If disciples live as “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8), they will be identifiable—marked—to a watching world.
There is the notion of being protected by a soldier (rear guard) defending His people: “But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior.” (Jeremiah 20:11)
The translation “heel” recalls Genesis 3, the relationship between serpent and man. The serpent would bite the man’s heel, but man would crush the serpent with that same heel. That is the earliest promise of Christ in scripture.
The Promise Found in “Footprints in the Sand”
The modern Christian reading this poem can easily apply it to the challenges of daily life. In the 4th stanza, the Father says “My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you.”
This is what the Lord has promised in Deuteronomy 31:6: “The Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” What was true of God then is true today—He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
By the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, God has fulfilled His promise to be with us all the time and keeps that promise by not only being omnipresent, but by giving the Christian a helper in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
“Footprints” connects direction, identity, and example with the promises of God. He will protect. He will also equip His people to follow. Paul prayed that God would “equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)
4 Practical Ways to apply “Footprints in the Sand” to Your Life
This reality should give us real, solid hope. After all, if God is unchanging, and He has told us He will never leave nor forsake us:
1. We never have to be afraid. “If our God is for us, then who can be against us?” asks Paul in Romans 8:31. What enemy is bigger, more frightening, or more powerful than God? Can there be any time in our lives so low that He is not there, sheltering us in the shadow of His Almighty wings? (Psalm 91)
2. We are never alone. Jesus prepared us for adversity and division, even within households. “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Mathew 10:34) Christian beliefs are an affront to some people; however, Christ provides the defense and companionship of His Spirit “which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) He is fighting for you.
3. We are not strong—God is. “My grace is sufficient,” is what God said to the Apostle Paul. Paul decided to “boast in my infirmities” because, in them “Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) God really is carrying us even if life seems unbearably difficult. He is carrying us paticularly when life is at its toughest.
4. We can give this hope to others. Many people find consolation in the poem “Footprints,” but their consolation is shaky if it is based on a powerless view of God who is just an energy in the universe, not Lord and not personal Savior. Christians can use this poem as a way to discuss the “surpassing greatness of His power” (Ephesians 1:19) with unbelievers.
A Prayer to Recognize God’s Footprints in Your Life
Father, we feel alone sometimes. When we need You, You seem distant. When we are desperate, You appear disinterested. We can’t always seem to see Your face or feel how near you are.
At these times, Lord, help us to realize that You are so close we can’t make out your features; so intimate that we aren’t seeing Your glory. Help us to recognize that, in our helplessness, You have been carrying us, and prompt us to take a step back.
When in times of such closeness You seem small, what we need is perspective. Drive us to our knees in prayer and worship, and show us the big picture. Remind us of Your power, Your will, which is personal but also too great to comprehend.
Take us outside of ourselves and restore our focus to your Son’s Sovereign grace. In His name, Amen.
It’s not healthy or obedient to spend too much time concentrating on our needs, but we can derive hope from understanding that God is closer than we imagine. If you take anything from “Footprints in the Sand,” perhaps it will be that reminder. We are weak, and God does carry us, because He is both omnipotent Lord and personal Savior.
May we also be inspired by this reality to spread joy and hope to those who don’t know the real Christ behind Power’s popular poem.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Hydromet
Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.