Peace in the Midst of Chaos

By the time we were situated with our son in his hospital room, equipped with bracelets and badges identifying us as his parents, it was past 10:00 p.m. A nurse checked on us and turned down the lights. Our boy lay in his hospital bed, and my husband and I were crammed together in the chair in the corner with a thin hospital blanket pulled over us. All of us still wearing the clothes we’d put on that morning. We’d thought we were taking our youngest in for an appointment. And we’d ended up here.

It had been so much. So much more than we’d planned with so much uncertainty ahead. We were all exhausted. Our teenager had an MRI and a biopsy scheduled for the next day. It was best if we all got some rest.

But I couldn’t sleep. The beep beep of one of the monitors hooked up to our boy punctuated the silence. The thoughts in my brain whirled like a tornado. I wanted to pray, but the combo of exhaustion and worry made the words hard to come by. I trusted Jesus—mostly. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t scary, that my heart wasn’t beating too fast, that I wasn’t anxious, that having zero control in a situation as critical as my son’s health wasn’t freaking me out a bit.

As I wrestled my swirling thoughts, trying to create some headspace to pray, almost reflexively, subconsciously, Psalm 23 began in my head. “The Lord is my shepherd. I have everything I need.”

Everything I need. Everything I need echoed in my heart.

I knew these words were true, because I believe the Bible is truth, but there were so many things I felt we needed—answers, perfect and complete healing for our son, a pillow, a different reality than this one. Maybe if I repeated this psalm in my mind enough times it would be true.

The Lord is my shepherd. I pictured a green meadow, and Jesus keeping me safe, watching over my husband, protecting our son.

I have everything I need. We were here together. We were getting the best care. The medical team had found the source of our son’s pain. They were taking the next steps to come up with the best plan for healing. God was with us—everything I needed was in this building.

My mind recited the entire psalm, lingered on words and phrases, then returned to the beginning and started all over again. I felt so much calmer, more at peace.

At some point I actually dozed off.

Sleep was interrupted throughout the night when a nurse took our son’s vitals or my husband shifted in our chair, but I continued to fall back asleep with images of a kind and strong shepherd standing calmly watching over us in my dreamscape.

Groggy, I woke to a new nurse turning up the lights, introducing herself, and flushing my son’s IV.

The Lord is my shepherd. I have everything I need.

The words of truth were still there, the first thoughts in my mind that morning. God was still with us, looking over us. He was still providing everything we needed even though I felt unprepared and helpless. And even though I love our son fiercely, even though I wanted to hug away his pain and fear and make everything okay, but couldn’t, even though we were still facing two procedures and a lot of uncertainty today, I felt God’s love and presence in the room. I believed He would look after my boy. I believed we had everything we needed. The repetition of that memorized psalm had soothed my psyche and cemented the truths deeper in my being.

Psychologists recommend having a positive or calming affirmation or phrase memorized for when you feel unsteady, panicked, or anxious. Mental health professionals call this practice of calming your soul “using scripts,” but I call it “using Scripture.” What better positive or encouraging phrase to have memorized than one straight from the living Word of God?

Mental health professionals are catching up to something God knew all along. They suggest repeating an inspiring script or using visualization to picture a positive scenario (for me a green pasture with a caring Shepherd) and focusing on it in times of trouble. These words or images in our brains redirect our thoughts from stressful worrisome ones to the positive words or image we’re meditating on. Scripts and visualization have been proven to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression, and help reduce problems with sleeping.

God wants to ease our pain, calm our anxious thoughts, fill us with joy, and give us rest. And He knows focusing on His word is a powerful way to do this. So God put it in the Bible (on repeat) how important it is to meditate on His word, to use it as a script to calm our anxious souls, in hopes that we’ll follow His instructions and tap into His peace.

 God speaks of it through His prophet Isaiah:

My word that goes out from my mouth:

    It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

You will go out in joy

    and be led forth in peace” (Isaiah 55:11-12).

A psalmist proclaimed it:

Your word is a lamp for my feet,

    a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Paul instructed the early church (and us) to protect ourselves by taking

the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

Moses instructed the Israelites:

Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Jesus repeated those words verbatim to fend off the Devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4).

Jesus also told us if we hold tightly to His words we can stay steady and solid like a rock:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

For the record, our boy is on the mend. God’s provision and protection were everywhere we looked. He received excellent care and is on the road to recovery. Praise Jesus. But those five days in the hospital were intense. Repeating Scripture truly brought me peace in the midst of chaos.

You can do this, too.

You can use Scripture as a script to bring you peace and joy, as a light for your path, as a rock to stand on, as food for your soul, to calm your anxious thoughts and fight your battles.

Pick a verse or two that remind you of the goodness, faithfulness, peace, power, or grace of God. Make it your screensaver. Write it at the top of your journal every day.

Stick it to your mirror where you’ll see it each morning and night (unless you unexpectedly spend the night in the hospital). Underline the words in your Bible. Visualize what that verse looks like in your life. Before you know it, you’ll have it memorized.

Then next time you’re feeling anxious or depressed, when your mental health feels shaky, when it’s difficult to form a prayer, pull that verse out of your brain, say it over and over the best you can remember. Picture how it applies to your situation. Let it calm you. Let God remind you how much He loves you, that He’ll never leave you, that He only wants goodness for you. Let God use His living word to soothe your soul.


Laura L. Smith is a best-selling author and speaker who leads women to tear down lies so they can walk in Christ’s truth. Her newest book, Holy Care for the Whole Self: Biblical Wisdom for Mental and Spiritual Well-Being, reminds us how much Jesus cares about our mental health. Laura lives in the college town of Oxford, Ohio. Her favorite people in the world are her loving husband and four awesome children. Visit to learn more.

—Written by Laura L. Smith. Used by permission from the author.