We all go through tough times in life. Maybe you’re struggling at work and filled with self-doubt, or perhaps the loss of a loved one has left you wondering if you’re strong enough to carry on. In those dark hours, it’s easy to fall victim to feelings of helplessness. But, fortunately, there’s hope, and it’s as close as your bookshelf.

I’ve found that when I need strength, I can always turn to the Bible or anything else that’s handy.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. During my long battle to get well, I often took comfort in the Good Book or whatever other book was nearby. When chemotherapy left me too exhausted to even get out of bed, I would find myself picking up the Bible, if that’s what happened to be on my nightstand, and reading a favorite verse or two. But if there happened to be a copy of The Hunger Games there instead, a couple of chapters of that would also do the trick.

God is our strength, we read in Psalm 18, and as powerless as I felt during those agonizing months, I discovered courage in His wisdom when it was within arm’s reach, just as I did with Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and David Baldacci’s thriller Stone Cold.

Throughout my life, in fact, the Bible or some other reading material has been there when I needed it most. When I lost my job and worried about how I was going to scrape together next month’s rent in the middle of a brutal recession, I often relied on the Bible, A Tale Of Two Cities, In Cold Blood, The Audacity Of Hope, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Seabiscuit, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a pocket road atlas of the Great Lakes region, The Oxford Companion To Ships And The Sea, or Fodor’s Montréal And Québec City 2009.

Anything lying around, to be honest.

Whenever I’ve felt stretched to my breaking point, I’ve found solace in turning to the New Testament, or just turning my head a bit until my gaze fell upon the framed cross-stitch on my wall that reads “Bless This Mess.” Or any calendar.

I distinctly remember one moment during my divorce. I’d just been sitting in my room all day with the shades drawn, crying and wondering if I’d be spending the rest of my life unloved and alone—if I died right there, who would even know? But in those bleakest hours, I was lifted from despair by my Bible and my 2006 Ford Focus owner’s handbook. According to Scripture, “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9), and according to my car’s manual: “The defroster turns off automatically after 14 minutes or when the ignition is turned to the OFF position. To manually turn off the defroster before 14 minutes have passed, push the control again.”

It’s hard to think of words more comforting than those.

We all wish there was no pain in life. But at least I know the ingredients list on a box of Grape-Nuts, the word of God, or anything at all written on someone’s T-shirt are there for me. I am so, so grateful that I can find peace any time I need it by writing a phone number or drawing a little star on the back of my hand and looking at it, or just by staring at the asphalt on my driveway. Yes, our demons rise up again and again, but we can answer them just as often by turning to the Bible or running a blender for hours on end until the motor burns out or throwing old clothes and hats into a river or doing anything else, without exception.

Try it, whatever it may be, and you might find an inner peace you’ve never felt before.