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