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Monday, March 15, 2010

When God Leaves No Footprints in the Sand

“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there has only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
“The years when you have seen only one set of footprints,
my child, is when I carried you.”

Who hasn’t been moved by those touching words from the poem “Footprints in the Sand”? Just to know that, even when we don’t realize it, God is going to be there in the difficult times and He carries us through the most trying times. So whether there are two sets of footprints or one set of footprints, God is faithful to deliver.

But what happens when there are no footprints?

Just recently, during a particularly troubling day, I came across Psalm 77, a sort of biblical version of “Footprints in the Sand” I guess.

The Psalmist begins the poem in anguish, “I cry aloud to God…In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord”. He goes on to talk about sleepless nights, waning faith, being spurned by the Lord and the inability to see His steadfast love or find His compassionate care.

So far so good--that's right where I'm at today.

Yet in the writer's anguish, there is a sense of familiar assurance, “I cry aloud to God…and He will hear me.”

How can the Psalmist know that the Lord will hear him? How can he know that God will be with him during this anguish? How can he know that God will carry him if need be? How can you and I know?

Verse 10. “I will appeal to this…I will remember the deeds of the Lord.”

Instead of looking around at his own circumstances and trying to formulate a theology of God based on situational emotion, the Psalmist searches the archives and checks God’s record of faithfulness.

“I will ponder all your work and meditate on your mighty deeds…You are the God who works wonders.”

Now for the most powerful aspect of the poem: The specific time the Psalmist recalls (to refresh his faith in the Lord) is the deliverance of God’s people from the hand of Pharaoh through the Red Sea. Instead of carrying His people on the beach, God took them through the stormy sea. “Your way was through the sea, Your path through the great waters.” Verse 19

Then the Psalmist says something at the end of verse 19 that is both frightening and profound, “…yet Your footprints were unseen.”

No calm beach, no pristine sunset, no gentle lapping waves, no peaceful puffy white clouds and no footprints—not two sets—not even one set.
So what is God saying in Psalm 77 and how should I respond? Here is what I wrote down in my notes:

1. When I cannot see God's faithfulness in my immediate circumstances I have an archive of His faithfulness to look back on. His record is spotless, His faithfulness is perfect.

My response: Therefore, I will not be swayed by emotion or fall into despair. Instead, I will run to His word, the Bible, for my source of strength and assurance.

2. God generally prefers to take us through the stormy sea rather than around it or beside it. It reveals more of my helplessness and more of His glory; more of my dependence and more of His strength. It also prepares me with a stronger testimony of His deliverance to share with others.

My response: Therefore, I will tell the stories of His miraculous deliverance to spread the fame of His name to a fallen world.

3. The absence of footprints does not mean God was missing during my trials or that He didn’t carry me. It only means that He is so much greater than all my obstacles, all my problems, all my circumstances that He can carry it all and not leave a single footprint.

My response: Therefore, I will not look for footprints in the sand. Instead I will look back at His perfect and spotless record of faithfulness in my life and the lives of others and realize, that is the biggest "footprint" of all.


  1. Thank you for sharing these wonderfully encouraging insights!

  2. So glad to find your blog. I was sent here through a recomendaion of another adoptive parent. We are curently on the road to bringing home our second adopted child but first with some needs we did not think wecould handle.... God is definatly calling the unqualified... He will for sure gain all the Glory. I am so happy I found this blog. I know it will be a place of encouragment as we continue on our journey now and after our daughter is home.

  3. Truly, truly beautiful. Thank you.

  4. Beautiful words, thank you. I found your blog through Tim Challies.

  5. My husband sent me a link to this post. Powerful. Thank you and to God alone be the glory

  6. Thank you, this is very enlightening.

  7. I am new to your blog--my dear friend sent me here...my husband and I have an adopted son that has autism, xyy, among many other diagnosises :o) and we are struggling right now with the possibility of placing him in a crisis group home for boys his age--we ache inside and are searching for God to lead us through this lonely journey. Thank you for your blog--this entry brought me peace.

  8. My heart breaks for you during this difficult decision. We placed Jake in a group home just last year. I wrote about it more extensively in my book. It can feel like a lonely journey, but sometimes God takes away all our support in order to reveal His sufficient strength. He loves your son and has a magnificent plan for his life.

  9. this a wonderful response and applies directly to how i have been feeling for sometime now. it has really opened my eyes to a different view to and my perception of things! Thank you!