Anxiety. Healing. Love. 2022 was a difficult year in the United States and across the globe, but these search terms and others tracked by the YouVersion Bible app once again show how God’s word provides hope and help in times of trouble.
Each year, YouVersion dives into the Bible app’s top data trends. In 2022, Ukraine provided one of the most interesting Bible engagement stories.
Following the Feb. 24 invasion of the country by Russian forces, Bible engagement rose in Ukraine by 55%. As Ukrainian people fled the war and relocated to other European countries, YouVersion saw Ukrainian-language Bible engagement across Europe increase by 76% when comparing year-over-year third-quarter data.
Turning to the Bible
In several countries, Ukrainian-language Bible engagement increased by triple digits. For example, Poland saw a 241% increase and Germany saw a 733% increase when comparing third-quarter data from 2021 and 2022.
At the beginning of the war, YouVersion searches in the Ukrainian language nearly doubled compared to the previous month. Initially, trending search terms were words like war, fear and anxiety.
As time passed and the war progressed, the top search term in Ukrainian became love.
“These [Ukrainian] families are going through something most of us can’t imagine. In the middle of what’s likely the most difficult time of their lives, they’re turning to the Bible for comfort, peace and hope,” said Bobby Gruenewald, founder and CEO of YouVersion. “It’s an honor that we get to be a part of making God’s word available to His people in their greatest moments of need.”
‘Do not fear, for I am with you’
The verse people in Ukraine engaged with most in 2022 is the same verse the global YouVersion community shared, bookmarked and highlighted the most.
Earning the top spot as YouVersion’s 2022 Verse of the Year is Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
In a year where news of political unrest, financial instability and natural and humanitarian disasters were all too common, it’s not surprising a verse highlighting God’s presence, strength and help emerged as the most popular.
“The popularity of this verse speaks to our desire to be reminded that even when we feel like we’re alone in our struggles, we’re not,” Gruenewald said. “As this verse says, God is our strength, and He’s always with us.”
Among global YouVersion users, Cuba stands out as the country with the greatest increase in Bible engagement with an increase of 76% compared to 2021. The fastest regional growth for Bible engagement is in Europe and Africa.
In the U.S., Isaiah 41:10 was the Bible verse shared, bookmarked and highlighted most often in the YouVersion app during 2022, followed by:
- Jeremiah 29:11
- Romans 8:28
- Philippians 4:6
- John 14:27
- Joshua 1:9
- John 16:33
- 1 Peter 5:10
- 2 Timothy 1:7
- John 3:16
Bible Gateway, another popular Bible reading app, reports similar results for 2022. John 3:16 continues to be the most popular verse on Bible Gateway, with verses from Psalm 23 dominating the site’s Top 10 list.
YouVersion’s 2022 analysis shows millions of users are engaging with Scripture via the app. Last year, 2.3 billion verses were highlighted, bookmarked or shared.
But Bible readers are engaging with Scripture in others ways too.
Though podcast numbers are harder to pin down, the team at toppodcast.com reports that two of the top three most popular podcasts in the religion and spirituality category are daily Bible reading podcasts: The Bible in a Year (with Father Mike Schmitz) from Ascension and D-Group’s The Bible Recap hosted by Tara-Leigh Cobble.
While surveys continue to show a low percentage of American Protestant churchgoers engaging with the Bible daily, any increase in regular reading will have positive results, according to Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research.
In an interview with the Southern Baptist Texan, McConnell noted that people who are in Scripture on a regular basis enjoy it more and see a greater impact of God’s word on their lives.
“We continue to see that Bible engagement is predictive of walking closer to Christ, so knowing that spending time in His word has an impact definitely gives us confidence to encourage others and to want to be in God’s word ourselves,” McConnell said. “In this day and age, we have so many options for how to do this.”
The speed at which one reads through the Bible seems to be less important than reading it regularly, he said, noting the value of reading plans and Bible study communities, whether Sunday School or other small groups.
Statistically speaking, he said, people who are engaged in small group Bible study on a weekly basis are more likely to be serving in their churches and communities, but there are other positive benefits as well.
‘Growing closer to God’
“They’re more likely to be giving to their church. They’re more likely to be engaged in spiritual disciplines. They’re more likely to have friends at church and relationships with others at church.
“They’re more likely to be peacemakers at church,” McConnell said. “So many ways that we want to be growing closer to Christ happen when we study God’s word in community.”