There is a U.S. Marine Corps story that has been passed down over the years. The name of the Marine and the exact location have been lost over time, but this story is believed to have taken place during World War II, in the Pacific islands near Saipan.
For those of you that know your World War II history, the U.S. was engaged against the Japanese in the Pacific. The Pacific war against the Japanese was a very different war than the conflict in Europe against the Germans. Americans in the Pacific fought over hundreds of jungle infested islands with high humidity and an enemy who would rather die than surrender. Often the fighting was close combat, or even hand to hand, as the Japanese soldiers would hide in the thousands of caves on Saipan that dotted the mountainous terrain.
One particular Marine found himself separated from his unit, and after hiking several anxious minutes toward what he thought was his own friendly lines, he heard a Japanese patrol near by. Alone, and not wishing to engage the enemy by himself, he searched frantically for a place to hide. Not far away on a ridge he spotted a cave, praying it was unoccupied he dove inside with his carbine ready. The cave was empty and had a depth of about 15′ so he crawled to the back. Turning around and facing the entrance he began to pray for the Lord to protect him, and asked for a brick wall to shield him from the enemy patrol. The light from outside illuminated his cave more than he would have wished, and if a Japanese soldier leaned in and looked toward the back of the cave he would be spotted.
After several agonizing minutes with his ears straining to catch every sound, he began to realized the Japanese patrol was moving toward his location. Again he began to pray for a brick wall to protect him, but none appeared. He realized he was not going to get any help from above and resigned himself to shooting the first face that looked into his cave. During this time, while he focused on the entrance, he noticed a large spider that must have started a web across the entrance moments after he entered the cave. Minutes ticked by with sweat running down his back and off his brow stinging his eyes. The Marine listened intently to the enemy voices still in his vicinity, and all the while this spider was constructing a large web across the entrance. Shaking his head somewhat disgustedly, he thought how he asked for a brick wall and the Lord gives him a spider web.
It was not long before the voices grew louder and moved closer to the entrance of the cave. The Marine was ready, and absently noticed, with his heart pounding, that the web was almost complete. Shadows fell across the entrance to the cave, but the web was brightly illuminated from the outside light. Japanese soldiers were speaking right at the cave’s entrance and as they moved into the entrance, they hesitated, apparently seeing the large spider web. Thinking no one could possibly be inside the cave since the spider web blocked the entrance, they moved on.
It took a moment for the Marine to realize what took place. He hung his head and gave thanks to the Lord for the brick wall in the form of a spider web. 1
I wonder how many spider webs we have watched being constructed in our lives, and like the Marine, become disgusted for what we thought was a waste of time or some useless endeavor. Then over time, we find out it was a blessing in disguise. When we allow God to work in our lives, it does not mean a path of ease and comfort. He is not at our beck and call to answer prayers whenever we are in trouble. Everyone, even Christians, will have pain and suffering in their lives. These trials come in the forms of broken relationships, loss of a job, financial difficulties, chronic illness, disease, or the death of a loved one.
Sometimes our whole focus is on the entrance of the cave and we ignore the sidelines, totally missing the real work God is accomplishing in our lives. I have certainly been guilty of that and the same can be said of any Christian who has been walking with the Lord for any length of time.
Ravi Zacharias wrote, to see God working in our lives, “It must look quite different from what we would usually prescribe for ourselves. It cannot be only a journey of unmistakable blessing and a path of ease. To allow God to be God we must follow him for who He is and what He intends, and not for what we want or what we prefer.” 2
Some might say that was a miraculous story, or the Marine was simply very lucky. Chances are, sooner or later, some solider would enter a cave, have a spider spin a web in a few minutes, which in turn would save the life of the solider. If we were to look at the ‘chances’ of such an event taking place, most everyone would agree that the odds of such an event are slim. Skeptics would say to call such an event miraculous, would be silly when it is obviously just an unusual set of circumstances.
How we use the word chance in today’s world has elevated it to more than what it really is. Chance is really nothing. R.C. Sproul puts it this way, “The ontological status of chance is zero. Chance has no being. Chance is not a thing that operates and works upon other things. It is simply a mental concept that refers to mathematical possibilities, but that in and of itself has no ontology. It has no being.” 3
Philosophers realized long ago that we use the word chance when we are not sure what is going on. Card players understand what cards they are dealt depends on where each card was placed in the deck, how each card was shuffled with the other cards, how many times they were shuffled, the placement after each shuffle, how many players are in each game, who is dealt what card first, and finally the direction of the shuffle. Everyone of those factors in combination with each other will determine what cards you are dealt.
When we knock on our desk top, few consider that we are mostly knocking on empty space and why that is. Why do atoms work the way they do? Why do electrons travel at nearly the speed of light? Why we have a strong force that holds nucleus’ together? Why do we have gravity? Why does our universe have laws that govern how it functions? These laws, these elements, this existence cannot be by ‘chance’ because chance is only a concept of our mind. Chance has no power to create or to destroy, so our existence cannot be caused by chance. Some might think this sounds like a philosophical play on words, but things don’t come from nothing. To have odds, you must have a deck to play with and where does that deck come from?
There are ultimately four possible explanations to something’s existence. It is an illusion, it has always existed, it was the cause of its own creation, or it was created. Each of the possible answers can be researched or discussed at length, and some philosophers and scientists have done so, but as Christians, we know the answer is creation.
The story I shared above, and thousands of others like it may be brushed off by some as sheer luck or chance, but when you hear someone say that, ask them if they define chance as odds. If they do, (and most will), ask them where the physical materials came from which allow someone to calculate the odds of a particular event to take place. In other words, you can’t play cards unless you have a deck to shuffle and pass out. You can’t make the claim of odds unless you have something to weigh and calculate, and decks of cards don’t pop into existence from nothing any more than caves and spiders.
1. Sasser, Charles. God In The Foxhole. New York: Threshold Editions, 2008. Print
2. Zacharias, Ravi. The Grand weaver. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007. Print
3. Sproul, R.C. Defending Your Faith. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003. Print