“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you forever,” (John 14:16)
I started writing about comfort today, not realizing at the time that it is actually Shabbat Nachamu (Sabbath of Comfort) today. Wow! How cool is that! I believe God has a Word to speak to us about comfort today.
God has promised that He would not leave us as orphans in this world; but would send us the Holy Spirit as a ‘comforter’. How desperately we need comfort in this uncomfortable world in which we inhabit outside the Garden of Eden where trouble and tribulations abound. The Hebrew word for comfort is naham נחם
Noah’s Hebrew name, Noach, נֹחַ means comfortable. Noach would somehow bring comfort to the world. “ Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and had a son. And he called his name Noach, saying, “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD has cursed.” (Genesis 5:28-29)
Other derivatives of this root word are: To comfort, to console, give ease, alleviate discomfort, and make comfortable.
God calls us, through the prophet Isaiah, to comfort His people, Israel:
Nahamu, nahumu Ami (Comfort, comfort My people), says your God. ( Isaiah 40:1)
נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ, עַמִּי--יֹאמַר, אֱלֹהֵיכֶם.
Yeshua actually carried out a great deal of his ministry in a place called KFAR NAHUM,
which means ‘Village of Comfort’. You may know its English translation: Capernaum. It was a small town chosen to be the center of Yeshua’s three-year ministry after leaving Nazareth.
It was in this village (kfar) of comfort (nahum) that Yeshua healed a man possessed by an unclean spirit. He also healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever (Luke 4:38-39), healed the servant of a Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5), as well as healing the paralytic man whose friends brought him to the feet of Jesus (Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26). Healing brings comfort; it alleviates our pain and distress.
God is interested in comforting us; He is called ‘The God of all comfort. He also wants us to comfort or console others with the same comfort He has given us.
” Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
I would like to share with you my personal experience of being comforted after the death of my son, Clayton Jacob, in hopes that it will in some way comfort your heart.
My first - born son, Clayton Jacob Stockford, was born on March 4th 1981. His grandfather predicted that he would ‘march forth’ into the world in a mighty way.
That probably would have been true; except that the enemy seeks only to steal, kill and destroy; and his plan of destruction came to pass in my son’s life in a terrible way. He died, alone in his apartment, at the age of 36 on December 2nd, 2017. His body was not found until several days later by the building caretaker.
Our relationship had been strained to say the least, since my divorce and his subsequent drug use during his teenage years set into motion events that could not be reversed no matter how many tears were shed or how many times I said I was sorry.
He dropped out of school after grade nine (even though he was incredibly brilliant and had aspirations of becoming a brain surgeon). He tested 99.9 percentile in IQ tests and was not only a highly gifted individual; but also had a knack for making people laugh.
He got kicked out of the house for his drug use; he lived on the streets or at friends’ places. He got beat up and messed up. He tried coming home but it didn’t work. I remarried and he couldn’t get along with my new husband.
We made aliyah (moved to Israel) when he was 17 and he refused to join us, saying that Israel is the craziest country in the world and you would have to be crazy to live there. He went back to Canada, had two daughters with 2 different mothers, tried to survive on his own. I am sure he felt abandoned and betrayed.
He worked as a paramedic & EMT and later, even successfully achieved a nursing degree. I will always regret missing out on all those years of his life.
Clayton as an EMT
Clayton with his girlfriend (also a nurse) at graduation ceremony
He started getting sick around that time; anxiety and digestive issues. Actually he had health issues with his stomach since he was a baby; but they had been brought under control through avoiding certain foods. Now they flared up again. He couldn’t eat anything without being sick.
They tried a stomach tube. It didn’t work. He became more and more ill and in pain. The doctors put him on prescription narcotics to which he built up a tolerance and quickly became addicted. They turned him into a junkie and totally changed his personality. He became angry, bitter and impulsive; self destructive, suicidal. My heart goes out to anyone with a loved one struggling with addictions.
Clayton with his daughter, Amelia, shortly before his death
In 2015, we felt led to leave Israel to spend time in my hometown where my son lived. He was in desperate shape. I tried to help but it was too little too late… My interactions with him were a nightmare. He would yell and rant and rave; banging his head into the windshield of the car as I would drive him to yet another doctor’s appointment.
The last time I saw Clayton, he flew into a rage, saying horrible things to me that broke my mother’s heart.
I felt like my son was drowning and pulling me under along with him. I had to give him over into the hands of the Father. I surrendered my first born son to God and said, “Abba, not my will but Thine be done.”
Then I did something I will always regret. I blocked him. I had intended it to be just a short break for us both to cool down; but a few days later, when I went to see him at his apartment with a Chanukah card (I had been praying for a Chanukah miracle), I was met by the police who told me that he had been found deceased in his apartment.
How does one go on after something like that? I didn’t know how to live with his last words to me still ringing in my ears - so I lost myself in denial. Instead of sitting shiva (the traditional seven days of mourning), I escaped shortly after the funeral with my other two kids & we flew to Florida, toured Sea world, Disneyworld, took a cruise to Bahamas… anything to drown out those words and the knowledge of my unforgiveable failure to save my son.
caption on headstone reads, "Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal"
There comes a time to face reality, however, and when the force of my grief would crash over me like waves of a tsunami - I couldn’t breathe. I needed God’s comfort; but didn’t feel that I deserved it. And yet God is merciful. God of all comfort and mercy met me at my point of need.
The Butterfly Migration
Photo of butterfly migration by Liat Nesher www.liatnesher.com
The first message of comfort came through an amazing butterfly migration. Butterflies had always been Clayton’s thing….although I didn’t really know it until going through his things after his death. He had all kinds of butterfly pictures; and even a collection of dried butterflies under glass. I found this interesting, since I had a thing for butterflies too when I was a little girl; and had kept dried butterflies in a little treasure box for over 40 years.
Clayton's butterfly under glass
My dried butterflies I had preserved since childhood
Butterflies have always been a symbol of transformation, joy, hope and freedom. So it was so my delight when our village in the hills of Judea (we moved back to Israel after Clayton’s memorial service), happened to be right smack along the navigational route of hundreds and perhaps thousands of butterflies as they travelled through the Middle East to Africa on their annual migration pattern.
Every day throughout the month of May, hundreds of beautiful butterflies would flitter around and land on our purple lavender bushes that lined our walkway. I would sit for hours, just watching them, being entranced by their beauty.
Then, I read in a book that butterflies are also a symbol of rebirth and life after death. We crawl through this life on earth like a caterpillar, eating and sleeping and creeping along as best we can; but after we go through the transformation of the pupa in the cocoon (symbolized by the grave); we emerge into the freedom of eternal life as a butterfly.
New Creation Butterfly cards by Liat Nesher www.liatnesher.com
As a young teen,, Clayton gave his life to Yeshua (Jesus), attended a Christian Church, was baptized and even went on several mission trips - to Mexico and to help build an orphanage in Nazareth with Teen Missions.
When Clayton went through so much suffering, he blamed God and was very angry; so I was not sure of his salvation; but through this butterfly migration, I felt that I was being sent a message from Heaven, saying, “I am alive, well, and free; and I love you.”
Yeshua said to the thief who turned to Yeshua as he died on the cross beside him, “This day you will be with Me in Paradise.” I believe that even in his last moments, before Clayton breathed his last breath, he turned to Yeshua and said, “ Remember me.” (Luke 23:42-43)
At Least You Tried
Although this brought me a great deal of comfort; still the grief, guilt and shame over my mistakes and failures concerning Clayton’s life and death continued to torment me. One night, I went to a Messianic congregation in Jerusalem where a guest speaker, Zvi Randlemann, was speaking about his faith - based drug rehabilitation centers in Israel. He related several success stories with addicts who had turned their lives around.
I went up to him after the meeting and asked, “What about the ones who don’t make it?” Then I told him about my son. He admitted there are many more who don’t make it than the few who do; and he prayed for me - a simple prayer that God would comfort me.
That night I came home and in the quietness, I clearly heard these words, “At least you tried,” I knew exactly what these words meant. As a teenager, we had moved to an acreage near a river. One day, a guy who had too much to drink drove his ATV into the river and began to drown. Clayton jumped in and tried to save him.
Clayton receiving medal of honor from Canadian Governor General for bravery
Although the man still drowned, Clayton received a medal of bravery for his efforts and his picture was in all the papers. I asked Clayton how it felt to be a hero? He replied, “Mom, the guy drowned.” And I replied, “Yes, son, but at least you tried.”
I knew this was a message of comfort from Heaven that only God and Clayton would know its meaning. I felt like I had failed to save my son; but Clayton was saying, “Yes, Mom, but at least you tried.”
Sometimes when a loved one dies, it is difficult to reconcile this loss with our faith in God’s unlimited power - especially His power to heal. We can be disappointed in God and this can even threaten to shipwreck our faith. I struggled with this for a long time after Clayton’s death - why did God let him die?
On the anniversary of Clayton’s death last December, I was again wrestling with these issues; and grieving over how terribly he suffered. That morning, as volunteers with the local animal rescue organization, my daughter and I were called to help rescue a cat in distress in someone’s garden. By the time the person had called and we arrived it was obviously too late.
The cat had been injured and could no longer walk; the poor creature was barely alive. We rushed it to the veterinarian; but after a quick examination, he said that the best and most merciful thing would be to put the cat to sleep (euthanasia). It is called hamavet chessed המתת חסד in Hebrew (mercy death). It was not the first cat that we had found in such a horrible condition that the most merciful thing to do was to put it out of its pain and suffering. But it is always hard. I cried all the way home.
That afternoon I sat in a doctor’s waiting room with a mild ailment; but my heart was in agony over all the suffering in the world. I looked up and there in front of me was a wall mural of colorful, painted butterflies. Suddenly I received a powerful revelation!
It was like God was telling me that as the ‘Great Veterinarian in the sky” (that’s how he put it to me); He knew that the most merciful thing to do for Clayton in his condition would be simply to put him out of his misery and end his suffering. It was not the punishment of a harsh and unforgiving God; nor was it evidence of God’s indifference to my son’s pain; but proof of His great mercy.
Through this grace, I came to see Clayton’s death in a new way - as an act of kindness - and it helped to restore my faith in the goodness of God.
I’m sorry from the Other Side
So I knew my son was alive and well; free of all pain and suffering; and that God is a loving Father - but there still remained the pain and anger of our last angry argument before he died. How could I live with it left like this - with no closure - with those words still piercing my heart like a sword?
When all my children grew up and left home; I found myself lonely so I got myself a TV with chrome cast and I watched a clean movie just to pass the time….I don’t know about you, but God finds many ways to speak to me - sometimes through a song or a movie.
In this movie (I don’t even remember the name), a girl’s mother had died in a car accident. In one scene, she sings a beautiful song about seeing her ‘on the other side’ which really ministered to my heart; but later in the movie she confesses that they had a terrible argument the day that her Mom had died; and she will always regret not being able to say sorry.
The worst part, she said, is that she tried texting her a message; but it didn’t get through in time. Now God really had my attention. It sounded so much like my situation. If Clayton had tried to text me at the end, even this message could not have gotten through because he was still blocked.
In one scene in the movie, an angel sets up a special portal between earth and Heaven so this girl can reconcile with her Mom. She pours her heart out to her, telling her how sorry she was that they argued. She admitted that her anger was a problem; and that things came out of her mouth that weren’t even her! She said, “I’m so sorry Mom. I love you and miss you.”
When I heard this, I broke down and wept. I know people will say, “It was just a movie.” But my God knew exactly what my mother’s heart needed to hear - what would bring me comfort in a way that nothing else could - My son’s words of love and forgiveness - from the other side.
I know that one day I will see him again. I am so thankful that God knows how to comfort us. He is the God of all comfort.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Yeshua to bind up the broken-hearted:
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; (Isaiah 61:2-3)
On this Sabbath of comfort (Shabbat Nachamu), trust Him to comfort you today. And then extend that healing comfort to others. Shabbat Shalom.