Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
To have a rod and a staff comfort me is a confusing thought. The thought of correction and rebuke being the source of strength and encouragement is counter intuitive, but it runs deep with truth. In his discipline God strikes an amazing balance we could not have anticipated. In the midst of the valley of the shadow of death, God makes his presence known, even if it is not that for which we were expecting and hoping. Rather, in our pain and confusion, he makes himself known discreetly.
The shepherd would not beat with his rod and staff, he would silently and gently guide through dangerous areas. The advent season points us toward the same truth. In the midst of a confused and pained world, Christ discreetly breaks in and guides us through our valleys. Ultimately, he leads the world through that valley to new creation. All the while, he did this by creating and leading his church through guidance, not force or violence. We the church still know the deep reality of valleys, but we continually look back to God made flesh, knowing in his word, his rod and staff will be made evident.
Thanks be to God for a savior who, this advent season, removes all fear; who we trust to guide with rod and staff, for he felt the full brunt of them.