Tracks Of A Fellow Struggler – John Claypool
The first chapter of Tracks of A Fellow Struggler is the first sermon that Claypool delivered after learning that his eight-year old daughter had acute leukemia. Claypool uses Romans 8:28-39 as his Biblical text for the sermon. He tells of three things that his faith gave him during this time of questioning. The first is the challenge to go on living. Using the Garden of Eden as his backdrop, Claypool illustrates that God ordained for life to be lived before being thought out. The second thing that his faith gave him was to be aware of superficiality and quick labeling of situations. Claypool said that one cannot always judge an event by the initial appearance. He illustrates this point with the story of Joseph being sold into slavery. Finally Claypool stated that his faith showed him the reality of God, in that God is active in the world and breaks through to be involved in our world.
The second sermon was given days after Claypool’s daughter went into remission for a second time. This time the Biblical text was Isaiah 40:27-31. This sermon deals with the question of whether or not faith in God makes a difference in trials. Claypool cautions against false expectations. Christians sometimes have the idea that God will always work everything for their own good, when in fact God purposes to work things for His own good. Claypool then admonishes those in times of trials to get on with some task, and not to sit around and sulk. God promises in Isaiah 40:31 that “those who run will not grow weary”. This moving on can come in the form of running or walking. There are times of deep hurt were running is not an option, and one can only move slowly. In these times God comes and gives strength and help. It is not just in the times of running or soaring.
The sermon recorded in chapter three, with Genesis 22:1-14 as its text, is the first sermon delivered by John Claypool after his daughters death. Claypool begins his discourse by chronicling the similarities of his last eighteen months to what Abram faced when told to sacrifice Isaac. The two stories have drastically different endings. Abram sacrificed a ram, and left the mountain with his son; Claypool did not leave his trial with his daughter. This death left Claypool in a state of darkness, out of which he saw three paths to traverse. The first of these paths is the path of unquestioning resignation. This highly regarded path is a dead end; it does not lead to any forms of growth. The second path is also a dead end; it is the path of total intellectual understanding. This path either ends in failure or a distorted view of reality. The emptiness and failures of these paths led Claypool to the path of gratitude. This path views life as a gift from God; a gift that is to be celebrated and lived and seen as an awesome gift from God. As with all gifts, the gift of life is to be viewed with gratitude towards God. This path assists the grief stricken one to move out of the darkness into a place of light.
The fourth and final sermon was delivered three years after the death of Claypool’s daughter and puts the whole ordeal into perspective. Using various passages from the account of Job, Claypool illustrates the stages of grief. The first stage is that of numbed shock, which is followed by coping, and then by coming to terms with reality and going to memories of the past. Stage four involves being angry and feeling resentment. This stage brought Job a new understanding of the past and a fresh vision for the future. Job learned to look on his past in a new light, and learned that God had a future for him, and still had things in store for him. Moving along this path allowed Job the chance to become a stronger and richer person.
Incredible! John Claypool’s insight into the process of grief is highly beneficial. He is not writing as an academic expert in the field but rather as one who has walked down this road. This makes what he has to say very applicable and very trustworthy. One of the strongest features though is that he not only shares his own account, he shares that account through the lens of the Bible. He uses the Old Testament to demonstrate more about God’s nature and our response.
I do not find much that is weak in this book; the only major thing is that the material was originally presented as a sermon. Thus there are times that it is difficult to ascertain what Claypool is saying. This is easily remedied by reading the book aloud.
This book has already had an incredible impact, with over one million copies sold. Claypool makes a phenomenal contribution to the arena of dealing with grief. Learning how to grow through grief is a challenging and difficult process yet Claypool demonstrates it well. The rest is left up to the reader to apply.