Footprints in The Sand, Questions and Answers About Suffering

Footprints in the sand poem.Jesus carrying person in his arms on the beach at sunrise, only one set of footprints in the sand.

BELIEVER’S ROAD SERIES 2

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“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah…One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.” (Psalm 62:5-8, 11-12)

Footprints In The Sand

Anonymous

One night a man had a dream.

He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord.

Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.

For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand:

One belonging to him, and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him,

he looked back at the footprints in the sand.

He noticed that many times along the path of his life

there was only one set of footprints

He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him, and he questioned the Lord about it.

“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you

you’d walk with me all the way.

But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life

there is only one set of footprints.

I don’t understand why when I needed you the most you would leave me.”

The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child,

I love you and I would never leave you.

During your times of trial and suffering,

when you saw only one set of footprints in the sand,

it was then that I carried you.”

 

One night a woman had a dream:

She dreamed she was going through the most difficult trial of her life. It felt as if a large, serrated dagger was twisting in her heart. As the darkest hour of her trial approached, the people closest to her did not come to help her. They even withdrew from her because they did not know what to do or say in the face of such suffering.

Late one night the last faithful one left standing with her, the closest one, fell away. It was as if another dagger pierced her heart, and she was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Out of deep hurt she lashed out angrily towards this person but was immediately cut to her heart over what she had done.

All of a sudden Jesus stood between her and the other person. She could no longer lash out at her closest human friend because the Lord was standing in the way. He spoke directly to the woman, “Let ME be the one who loves you. Let ME be your solid Rock. Let ME be the one who stands with you and carries you through this trial.”

The Lord was very gentle and loving but also quite firm when he presented himself to her as Friend, Rock and Support. She was stunned and silenced before him, but exhausted with grief she soon fell asleep.

Early the next morning while it was still dark she went for a long walk on the beach. She wanted to be all alone in the darkness, but as dawn began to break and the sun began to rise, she saw that Jesus was walking beside her.

She was silent, for not only was she hurting too much to speak, but she was also sorely ashamed of her behavior the night before.

Jesus said to her, “I see all your hurts.”

His simple statement opened up her heart towards him, for up until this point, she had been looking for just one human comforter who could empathize with her and help her bear the unbearable grief and pain she was carrying… but she found no one. “Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none” (Psalm 69:20).

Then the Lord said to her, “I care.”

This statement completely crumbled all the hardness of her heart, for all of a sudden “…God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light…” (1 Timothy 6:15) revealed himself to her as the one who was, “…made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest…” (Hebrews 2:12).

She began to realize just how much Jesus, although he is Almighty God, went through the fullness of the human experience. Because Jesus, according to his human nature, was made just like us, he suffered just like the rest of humanity and therefore could fully empathize with exactly what she was going through. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).

By those simple little words, “I care”, she realized that she had found the one comforter she was looking for– Jesus. He fully empathized with her, and he loved her.

Jesus said to her, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30].

All of a sudden the overwhelming burden lifted from off her shoulders, and she said, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” [Psalm 68:19].

She was comforted for a brief moment, but then she remembered the pain of everybody else hurting her and falling away from her in her greatest hour of need. Out of that hurt she said to God, “I know that you care–but nobody else does…”

The Lord replied, “You expect too much out of men. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men [John 2:24]. Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find? [Proverbs 20:6]

When the Lord spoke these Scriptures to her, he opened her eyes to see just how great the gap is between human nature and God’s perfect, loving nature. Yes, she realized, she expected way too much out of men, for she relied on them to be what only God could be for her.

As she began to contemplate this, all of a sudden her own human nature was nakedly exposed before her own eyes. Humiliated, she saw just how far short she fell of continuously loving people like Jesus loved her. She was grieved at her shameful treatment of her closest friend the night before, and she recognized that she was no different than any of the other people she had just accused of failing and hurting her.

As she and the Lord continued walking along the beach together, she also realized that he had experienced the same heartache, grief and abandonment she felt.

She remembered how Jesus had agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46), how he had experienced excruciating pain (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), how he was betrayed to death by a close friend (Matthew 26:47-50), and how his once faithful disciples who had stood by him in his previous trials (Luke 22:28) all abandoned him in his most severe trial (Mark 14:50) and how one of his closest friends denied him not just once but three times (Mark 14:66-72) in his darkest hour.

Lastly she remembered that the night before he was crucified, Jesus told his disciples, “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” (John 16:32). She was starting to see that, just like her, Jesus had also been completely abandoned by everyone, including all his closest friends. His Father was his Solid Rock through his deepest agony and severest trial.

The woman realized he was now coming to her as that same Solid Rock of unfailing love and everlasting faithfulness. He wanted her to thrust herself upon him as that Rock for he said to her, “Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one” (Isaiah 44:8).

The woman knew she could no longer run to men for comfort, for they would only fail her. She acknowledged she must run to God.

So the woman thrust all her trust in Jesus and was greatly comforted and said to him, “How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 36:7).

…but she found there was still a lurking uneasiness down deep in her soul.

She said to him, “Lord, you alone are my Rock. I wholly rely upon you and trust in your unfailing love for me…but what about my past? I know you are here with me now and so I am strong, but what about the dark times in my past when I felt like you had abandoned me? For your sake I endured suffering, but I felt like you left me to be slaughtered. I could not find you or your love anywhere during those times, so how do I know you are not going to be an unfaithful Rock that is sometimes there to love, comfort and support me and other times not? Lord, this is the reason why it has taken me so long to finally rely on you in this trial. I fear that you will not be completely faithful to me every time I need you to be.”

The Lord said to her, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord [Romans 8:35-39].”

She said to the Lord, “I know that Scripture, but I still can’t make sense as to WHY , if you love your children so much, that you would allow us to be subjected to the pain of suffering at all…and I have hardly suffered compared to what my many of my brothers and sisters in other parts of the world have had to endure. What about them?”

Inwardly, she was still struggling with the pain of past suffering, but her greater struggle was with trying to understand WHY a loving God would not prevent such great suffering in the first place.

In response to her question “Why?”, the Lord replied, “To testify. But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them” [Luke 21:12-13].

All of a sudden, the morning star of revelation dawned in her heart. Jesus opened her eyes to see a glimpse of God’s eternal purposes and plans. She saw a tiny sliver of the vastness of his eternal victory over Satan and all that had been plunged into darkness through the sin of mankind. All darkness, she realized, only served to greater magnify the display of God’s great victory and the glory of his character.

Before the eyes of all Creation, God alone will be exalted! And she now understood that the Lord has chosen to display some of his eternal victory, wisdom, glory, power and kingdom through the Church, for whom he suffered and died in order to redeem.

She realized that those who have experienced the glory of his redemption and grace have been made witnesses and are now engaged in part of God’s great cosmic display of his glory, grace and love throughout all of Creation. As Christians are subjected to the darkness of suffering and persecution, the glory of Christ shines all the more brighter as he manifests his character through them in the midst of these trials. They live to testify of his eternal victory! They live to display his glory!

As they walked, the Lord reminded her of the Scriptures:

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-12)

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3:10-11)

She had no more questions for God, for she was fully satisfied with all of his answers.

The Lord’s great love and kindness towards her led her to repentance (Romans 2:4). Though she deserved rebuke and chastisement from him for lashing out so strongly against her closest friend, for accusing her other friends of the very things she herself was guilty of and for accusing and blaming God, all the Lord showered upon her was his love and grace as he spoke with her and answered all her questions.

When she finally stopped questioning and resisting the Lord she collapsed into his big, strong arms, for her trial was very long and difficult and she no longer had the strength to walk. Lovingly and gently, he picked her up like a weary lamb and faithfully carried her all the way through her time of deepest suffering.

As she looked back on the one set of footprints she began to weep upon the Lord’s shoulder……..for she was so thankful that they were not hers.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by the fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly  we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

(See also “Christ The Rock” (Believer’s Road Series 2), “The Peace, Love and Presence of God in The Senseless Storm” (Spiritual Warfare, Victory, Freedom, Healing Series) and “Submission To The Breaking From The Hand of My Master” (Believer’s Road Series)).