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A Good Lesson from a 95-Year-Old Warrior

There’s a French phrase that the American soldiers picked up from the French people in WWII. It’s a phrase of a people who had been occupied by foreign armies many times. It’s a phrase that acknowledges that stuff breaks, bad things happen, plans go astray, it’s a hard world. It’s a phrase of resignation. The phrase is “C’est la guerre” (which sounds like say-la-gare). C’est la guerre means literally, “It’s the war.” It is a way of saying we have to accept things as they are because that’s just the way life is.

My 95-year old dad, JJ, who landed on the beaches of Normandy 30 days after D-Day, spent a good amount of time in France in the War. He said when a soldier was wounded or they couldn’t get supplies, or they had to sleep in muddy trenches, they’d simply shrug their shoulders and say, “C’est la guerre.” Hey, it’s the war, what do you expect?

My Dad is in the hospital now. He fell on ice and broke his ankle in 2 places on Dec. 16 last year. At first this tough old soldier refused to let me take him to the ER, saying “It’s only a slight sprain.” When the pain became unbearable he consented to go to a clinic which showed he’d fractured his ankle. He endured intense pain for a couple days as they adjusted the levels of his blood thinner before they could operate.

They inserted a steel plate and 11 screws. After week in the hospital they transferred him to a skilled care facility where he had to continue to endure much pain and physical discomfort. After a couple weeks there he was finally beginning to improve when two Sundays ago he had a small heart attack and was taken back to the hospital at 4 in the morning.

About 4 days into his second hospital stay his ankle was bleeding out through the bandages and they discovered he has MRCA, a bad infection, in the wound in his ankle. He’s also experienced severe pain in the ankle, and often winces and groans as it shoots up his leg.

Dad doesn’t complain. A few times in this ordeal he has sighed and said, “Oh boy,” and said he wished he could be transported to one of his two homes – either his earthly one or his heavenly one. But he doesn’t complain. Yesterday morning when I visited, I said, “Dad, I’m so sorry you have to go through all this suffering and misery.” He smiled slightly and shrugged his shoulders and said, “Cest’ la guerre.” The old warrior laying in his bed, connected to tubes, covered with purple bruises from his blood thinner, foot in a boot, wincing in pain. “It’s the war.”

It’s the war. Yes. This world is broken. This world has been infected by sin. Powers and principalities in heavenly places wage war against us. “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” We who believe in Jesus have tasted the powers of the age to come, but still experience the pain of this age.

Yet so often we’re surprised when we suffer. Sometimes we even ask, “Why is this happening to me?” Why am I suffering? Why do things go wrong? Why don’t I have enough money? Why is my teen rebelling? Why am I mistreated at work? Why?

Cest’ la guerre.

It’s the war. We should expect things to happen, to go wrong, to not always get what we want. We should be prepared to suffer. Not in an Eyore “I-guess-I’m-just-doomed-to-suffer” way, but in a “this-is-hard-and-sad-and painful-but-I-know-God-is-working-this-for-my-good” way. It’s the war. We have powerful enemies. We walk through spiritual minefields every day. We have cravings and desires we must put to death. We have to flee temptation.

But we have a Great High Priest interceding for us. We have power of God within us, the Holy Spirit himself. We have powerful weapons – the gospel, prayer, God’s promises. And we have a great hope. Hope that will not disappoint. A hope of glory. An eternal weight of glory awaiting us. No one in heaven will say, “This wasn’t worth what I went through.” We’ll say, “All I endured that seemed so long and heavy was momentary and light compared to this glory!” We have a hope of seeing Jesus’ face and hearing him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

My dad may be close to hearing those words. I don’t know. On one hand I hope Jesus heals him, because I love him and love to be with him. On the other hand, he’s been fighting this war a long time, and it’s far better to be with Jesus.

It’s the war. It’s a fight. But it’s a good fight. Keep on fighting. Keep on looking to Jesus. Our Conqueror on his white horse isn’t far away.

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Mark Altrogge is the original triple threat: singer, songwriter, pastor. He has been the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA for over 25 years, and is the author of many well known worship songs such as “I Stand In Awe”, and “In The Presence”. When not pastoring or writing songs, Mark can be found consuming vast quantities of coffee. Unfortunately, Mark is not particularly gifted in the area of athletics.