A Nudge From The Shepherd’s Staff



Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me? (PS 23.4).

In college I watched the movie Wait Until Dark, a spine-tingler about a blind woman terrorized in her home by a murderer.? In one scene, he suddenly lunges at her out of the darkness with a dagger.? It so startled me I shot back in my seat, and smashed my funny bone on the armrest.? Darkness is scary.

A sheep in the desert would dread the darkness.? Predators lurk in the dark.? Pitfalls lie unseen in the inky blackness.

All Christians will trudge through deep valleys of the shadow of death from time to time.? The darkness of depression or the gloom of loneliness.? The overcast days of caring for a sick child or raising a rebellious teen.? Pitch-black places where we can’t see the next step.

But God promises that even in the valley of the shadow of death we will fear no evil.

No matter what kind of darkness you are experiencing, if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, there’s a reason you need not fear – your Shepherd is with you.? Your Great Shepherd who is stronger than all your enemies.? The One to whom night is as bright as day.? The one who conquered Satan, demons, sin and death itself on the cross.?? Because he is with you, you need not fear.

How do we know he is with us?? First of all, because he’s promised never to leave us nor forsake us.

But his rod and his staff also remind us he’s there.

His rod and staff comfort us by reminding us that our Shepherd is with us.? In the darkness he taps us with his rod and nudges us with his staff.? Jesus gently pokes me with his staff when a brother exhorts me.? He says, “Mark, I’m here,” when a friend sends a note of appreciation.? He prods me with his rod when my wife asks heart-searching questions.

Jesus wants to use you to be his “staff” to comfort a brother or sister in the darkness.

“The most subtle use of the staff is to ‘be in touch’ with someone who may just need a word of encouragement or a hug.? These are ways of saying, ‘Everything will be OK’ or ‘I’m right beside you.’? These statements echo two of the most common messages God speaks to people in the Bible: ‘Do not be afraid’ and ‘I am with you.’? The staff represents these messages.? A post-it note on the computer screen.? A treat left in the lunch bag.? A surprise party… A call on the anniversary of a loved one’s death.? A passage of Scripture read at someone’s bedside.” – Timothy S. Laniak, While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks

How does God nudge you with his staff in the darkness?? How does he make you aware he is with you?

photo by Reza Vaziri


  • Ron Reffett says:

    Wow Mark!
    I really needed this today! What a great post. I have been struggling greatly with the birth of my stepson’s child, it has been having a very negative effect on my marriage and I know that the problem lies with me. I also know that, Jesus is bigger than how I feel about the situation and He is with me in the midst of it, even in the midst of my sinful reactions to the situation. I like what Jeremiah Burroughs has to say about afflictions, “God has given a Christian such power that he can turn afflictions into mercies, can turn darkness into light…that is to turn the water of your affliction, into the wine of heavenly consolation.”
    The Lord is my shepherd and I am His sheep, I am dumb at times and I tend to wander off the path, I’m thankful for His staff that leads and disciplines me at times, but always out of His love for me does that discipline come. I desperately need His help in applying that here in my situation and loving the people that I have been given, I am thankful for His presence and guidance and I am thankful for you Mark!
    Ron Reffett

  • Hey Ron,

    Thank you for your humility to share your struggles so openly. Thanks for sharing the comment that “the problem lies with me.” If only we could always remember that our problems don’t come from outside us, but from our hearts and how we are reacting to our circumstances. I love that quote from Burroughs – I recently read it as I’m re-reading the Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. May Jesus fill you with fresh joy today, Ron!

  • Rachel McC says:

    In response to your closing questions, God used a song you might be familiar with when I was leaving the dr’s office with the ominious “Well, I really think we should do some more testing to check some things out”. Knowing I would have to wait a bit for some answers felt overwhelming at the moment. Backing out of the parking lot with the what-if’s bombarding my head, my heart was suddenly comforted by the music “randomly” :) playing in my car:
    In a little while the wait will be over
    In a little while the night will be past
    There?ll be singing, there?ll be dancing and laughter
    And we?ll see the Son at last
    As it has turned out over the past month, all of the troubles have been minor things so far, but the faithful work of other believers (yours in music) and the encouragement and prayer of close-by believers has really been used by God to strengthen me in this little trial. This is actually the second time your music has been an encouragement to me in connections with medical stuff– the last time it was my son & the dentist. I was going to send a message to encourage you, but I guess this blog post will do!
    Another way I see God nudge me in the darkness is when my Bible reading plan “just happens” to coincide with clear guidance for some specific area I’m praying about or difficulty I’m facing. I love the soveriegnty of God!

  • Hi Rachel,

    Thanks so much for encouraging me. I’m so grateful the Lord would encourage you as well through the worship songs. It’s really cool to hear how God providentially and specifically uses your Bible reading plan to speak to you in such timely ways. And I agree – the sovereignty of God is so wonderful, comforting, and soul-strengthening!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Came across your website, when reading Ps.23 this morning searching for answers on what is a shepherds rod and staff like, and how does God’s rod and staff comfort me. I have been so comforted by what I have read, especially because I was feeling so discouraged and that I do not know how to be in God’s will moment by moment and feeling like a failure. But now I can understand, that I can relax really, because my Shepherd will prod me this way and that in the direction He wants to take me and will not let me vere off the course (too much)that He has for me.

  • I’m grateful that the Lord would use this post to encourage you. Jesus is personally taken your cause upon himself and he is guiding you in directing you with his eye upon you. He loves you more than you can even love yourself, and has demonstrated his love by giving himself for you on the cross. Yes, you truly can relax, because Jesus will make sure to guide you in the direction he wants to take you. And he will guide you in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake — for his own glory. Because he so desires your life to glorify him he will make sure to guide you in the way you should go. Thanks for your comments.

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