The Shadow of Death by Hannah Campbell Gustafson


"Light and Dark 1" by "Edward Adams" Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC By 2.0).

written by Hannah Campbell Gustafson

I thought I knew what I would write about for today’s post. And then, my 3.5 month old daughter entered into a phase of screaming every time we set her down and refusing to nap. And then, a white supremacist killed two African-American people in Kentucky. And then, a neo-Nazi slaughtered eleven Jews in Pittsburgh.

I know that there are things happening every day that could, should, and often do bring me to my knees. But for some reason, this combination of new-parent-exhaustion with the horrific news of the week is feeling almost unbearable. I’ve tried to be logical and tell myself things aren’t any different than they were a few weeks ago, but I know that my anxiety and depression don’t follow always follow logic, as much as I wish they did.

These are the times when I’ve found I need to double down on my self-care. So, I went for more walks with my dog yesterday, went to bed earlier last night, and allowed myself plenty of baby snuggles this morning. My husband knows I’m struggling a bit, and I’ve reached out to a few friends for support too. 

And, while scripture isn’t always where I go for comfort, I’ve had words from Psalm 23 running through my head the past few days, including as I fell asleep last night. There are countless other passages that I could go to for reminders of God’s presence, no matter the state of the world or the screaming of my baby or my mental health status, but for now, Psalm 23 includes the ones on my mind and on the tip of my tongue “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not be afraid, for you are with me.”

Thanks be to God.
Hannah Campbell Gustafson is director of Family Promise of Grant County, a nonprofit that uses a network of volunteers and faith communities to serve families experiencing homelessness.  She teaches one class a semester at University of Wisconsin-Platteville in social work, and chairs the Lafayette County Homeless Coalition.  Hannah is treasurer of the UCC Mental Health Network board of directors, and is a Member in Discernment with the Southwest Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the UCC.  She lives in the beautiful Driftless region of Southwest Wisconsin with her husband (an ELCA Lutheran pastor), their young child, and their standard poodle puppy, Óscar Romero.