Straddling the border between Switzerland and Italy, the Matterhorn is known for its unique shape, and historic difficultly to climb. Many of the world’s top climbers attempted to scale the Matterhorn, but few even got close (and may died in the attempt). The common belief was that the mountain was unscalable from the Swiss side (the side usually shown in photographs). The Italian side appeared significantly easier, so every serious climber made their attempt from the Italian side. After failing eight times to ascend from the Italian Edward Wymper decided to take a second look at the Swiss side. After substantial study he concluded that while the Swiss side looked unclimbable when viewed with the naked eye it was actually a much easier climb. Wymper concluded that the apparent unscalability viewed from the Swiss side was an optical illusion, and that if one actually tried to climb from the Swiss side they would find it to have a natural staircase. Wymper’s theory proved correct, with him successfully scaling the Matterhorn from the Swiss side on July 14th, 1865.
It amazes me that no one had ever bothered to check out the viability of scaling the Matterhorn from the Swiss side. They simply took one glance and wrote it off as impossible. As Christians, I fear we often do the same thing. We look at someone in our lives and see them as unreachable. We look at problems in our world and communities and believe them to be unsolvable. Like those early mountain climbers we declare defeat before we actually check things out. There is a great example of this in Numbers 13. The people of Israel have just made it to the border of the Promised Land, and Moses sends spies to explore the land. They reported back that the land is as grand as they had all imagined, but there is a major problem. The land is inhabited by warlike peoples that they could never defeat. The spies conclude they should stay out of the land. There was one spy, named Caleb, who saw things a bit differently. Caleb did three things upon seeing a difficult task that I think all of us need to do.
- Envision the good: Caleb saw all of the positives in the land: its great soil, its beauty, its size, and its abundance of crops. He could envision his people thriving there generation after generation. When you see a difficult situation don’t just ask “what if I fail” ask “what if God makes this happen?”
- Name the difficulties: Instead of just saying its too hard, too much work, or that we don’t have enough time actually name the specific problems. In verses 28-29 we see a pretty detailed account of the difficulties the people would face. Name the specific problems you will face, and pray to God for assistance and guidance in facing them.
- Be God’s servants: Caleb declared: Let us go up at once and occupy the land, for we are well able to overcome it. Numbers 13:30. Sometimes we just need to serve God, even when it seems impossible. We do so knowing that while we may not be able to accomplish the task, but that with God’s help it may well be possible.