The Good Shepherd’s Comfort

by Danielle Hitchen November 14, 2022
“The LORD is my shepherd … your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:1, 4 (ESV)

“Stop eating play dough,” I tell my 3-year-old for what feels like the millionth time.

“BE KIND,” she hollers back at the top of her lungs.

Sighing, I insist that the kindest thing I can do is ensure she doesn’t ingest the indigestible. Much to her loud and obvious displeasure, I remove the play dough and put it away in a bin out of her reach.

While her ongoing reaction grates on me, I remind myself that after persistently warning the Israelites of the consequences of disobedience, God allowed them to be taken captive and enslaved. Hopefully, most of us (preschoolers and adults alike) don’t need to experience Old Testament-level discipline before we listen and obey.

In our day-to-day usage, the word “discipline” tends to be associated with punishment — but Scripture describes discipline more like instruction and protection. Psalm 23 wonderfully illustrates this type of discipline, saying of God, our Shepherd: “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

Shepherds regularly employed both these instruments to ensure their flocks were safe:

  • A rod was a short club for prodding the sheep in the right direction and fighting off threats.
  • A staff had a long crook on the end for redirecting the sheep — pulling them away from danger and placing them back on the correct path.

As I reflect on the discipline of the Lord in my own life, I find the psalmist’s language helpful in understanding and identifying how God has been at work.

The Good Shepherd’s rod is in play every time I open my Bible. Like a standard shepherd’s rod prodded sheep, God’s Word prods me in the right direction and fends off the lies and attacks of the enemy.

The Good Shepherd’s staff is more subtle. It is most visible to me in circumstances like the unexpectedly closed doors that redirect my plans or the sermons or conversations that convict and redirect my spirit.

While I often want to respond to the frustration, disappointment, pain or discomfort of “staff” experiences like my 3-year-old did (hollering at God, “BE KIND”), I remind myself that no matter how I feel, the objective truth is that the Lord’s discipline is an act of loving kindness. In retrospect, I’m always grateful for God’s protection — for His severe mercy in refusing to allow me to eat the metaphorical play dough.

Friends, the Good Shepherd desires the flourishing of His beloved flock. His rod and His staff are there for our comfort — a persistent reminder that the Shepherd is present, watchful and protective, guiding us in the way of life eternal.

By the use of His rod and His staff, the Good Shepherd guides us deeper into His will and encourages us to cling to the promises of His Truth that we might walk in faith and repentance, following the way of life.

May His rod and His staff be a comfort to you this day and every day.

Good Shepherd — thank You for loving us enough to discipline us. Guide us with Your rod and hem us in by Your staff so that we may walk in obedience and obtain the joy of eternal life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Help your children memorize and meditate on this beloved Psalm with Psalm 23: A Colors Primer.

You can find more of Danielle Hitchen’s work — including the Baby Believer primer series — at


For more reflections on theology, parenting, life and liturgy, join Danielle on Instagram or sign up for her e-newsletter.

Enter to WIN your very own copy of Psalm 23: A Colors Primer by Danielle Hitchen. To celebrate this book, Danielle’s publisher will give away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and then notify each one in the comments section by Monday, November 21, 2022.}


Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves …” (NIV)

Hebrews 12:10-11, “… he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (ESV)

Where have you experienced God’s discipline — His rod and His staff — in the past year? In what ways has that experience produced fruit in your life?

How have you grown in your walk with the Lord as a result of His discipline?

© 2022 by Danielle Hitchen. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

What We Believe

If your life feels too overwhelming, click here for our care and counseling resources.

Join the Conversation

Study Products

There are no products to display.