Psalm 37:23,24 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand.
In 1985 mountain climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, climbed the treacherous Siula Grande, in the Peruvian Andes. They were the first to make it up and nobody since has attempted the climb. On the descent Joe fell and broke his leg and, through a train of bizarre events, became separated from his partner. Simon made it to base camp with no further incident, but Joe faced a near insurmountable task. Somehow, not even certain of his direction, with a severely broken leg, in freezing, tempestuous conditions, he had to find his way back to base camp over five miles of ice and snow, then over maze-like ice bridges, then a long stretch of rocky terrain.
Sitting on the ground, pushing himself backward a foot at a time, Joe eventually made it past the snow to the jagged rocks below. Here with miles yet to go he stood to his feet and attempted to hop forward. Nearly every time he hopped he fell into the rocks, screaming in mortal agony. Joe’s trek lasted three days. He could proceed no further. His final resting spot? By the smell wafting into his nostrils, Joe realized he had arrived at the latrine area he and Simon used, just 300 yards from base camp. Pleadingly, he cried out Simon’s name several times, but lost strength, concluding he would die alone, a wretched and defeated man, for surely his partner left days ago! Simon did hear Joe and eventually found him. However, it was not until Joe felt Simon’s arms around him that he knew he was rescued. Joe’s miraculous misadventure, in mountaineering lore, is regarded as one of the greatest in the history of mountain climbing.
We all are like Joe. We each have a destination to reach that ultimately ends in the latrine we call death. Through “much tribulation” we make our way toward the Kingdom of God. It is a lonely trek, full of misadventure and pain. And yes, along the way we fall repeatedly. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…” ‘Steps’ imply forward movement. We stumble as we move forward through life.
What does it mean to fall? I fall into sin or I fall through trials and temptations. Scripturally, falling is sometimes equated with failing, sometimes with being severely tried. King David failed regarding Bathsheba; Paul fell to the ground through many beatings and trials.
How do I leverage my fall to an advantage? If Joe Simpson had consistently fallen to the side or backward, he would have perished! So also, when I fall I must remember to fall toward the grace of God, toward hope rather than despair. God will be there to correct and comfort me, and when I die He will hold me close until I know I am rescued forever.