According to new data from the annual State of the Bible survey by the American Bible Society (ABS), regular readers of the Bible both faced more stress and more hope in 2020.
According to the survey, one-quarter of Americans reported experiencing moderate levels of stress, while 10 percent reported experiencing stress at high levels.
Nearly half of respondents said they had trouble sleeping and 44 percent reported feeling tense. Additionally, 44 percent of respondents said they were lonely and felt cut off from others, while 37 percent said they felt numb or detached.
The State of the Bible survey also found a slight increase in levels of anxiety between June 2020 and January 2021.
John Farquhar Plake, the lead researcher at ABS, told Christianity Today that Christians who regularly read their Bible “experience more stress and often higher levels of trauma.”
According to the study, “A strong relationship to the Bible often coexists with—and could even be compelled by—the hardships of life.”
Plake explained that the correlation shows that believers turn to the Word of God more during times of hardship than when everything is going well. Data reported from the study also found that people reading the Scriptures experience hope.
“Jesus said, ‘In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.’ We see that played out in the lives of real people in the data,” Plake noted.
According to results of a hope agency test, “Bible-engaged” people score 71 out of 100 when asked if the statements of “If I were in trouble, I know I could get out,” and “I can think of many ways to reach my goals” were true. Bible-disengaged people, on the other hand, scored about 14 points lower.
Marlaina Centeno, a pastor and church partnership associate with the American Bible Society’s Trauma Healing Institute, pointed out that women and minorities are statistically more likely to undergo trauma and even more throughout the pandemic.
“There are so many stresses that have happened in the past year on top of COVID, it compounded,” she said.
Nevertheless, she confirmed the study’s finding that people find hope in the Bible amid times of pain and suffering. Centeno added that people are further impacted by the Bible when it’s read in groups, as relationships are formed.
“I’ve done in-person groups. I’ve done online groups throughout this entire year with COVID, and it’s amazing what happens,” she said. “From the first session of people coming in so incredibly heavy and having a lot of stress and a lot of pain and then six weeks later or six sessions later seeing some bring their pain to the cross and being able to see that light.”
Based on the report’s findings, Plake said that church leaders must see two things: first that people are hurting, whether they show it or not. And second, the Bible provides hope for those suffering.
“It’s wild to realize that what was true 2,000 years ago is still true in the 21st century,” he said. “Just as God changed people’s lives, as it’s recorded in the Book of Acts and the Pauline Epistles, we see those same kinds of things in the data of 21st century Americans. The Bible is not out of date. It’s still relevant, and God’s still at work.”
The survey was conducted in January 2021, in which a national sample of 3,354 American adults and 91 Gen Z youth partook in the survey through online interviews.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.