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2020’s Most-Read Bible Verse: ‘Do Not Fear’

In an uncertain and difficult year, a record number of people searched for healing, fear, and justice.
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2020’s Most-Read Bible Verse: ‘Do Not Fear’
Image: DigitalVision / Getty

During the hardest moments of a particularly difficult year, Bible searches soared online, and a record number of people turned to Scripture for passages addressing fear, healing, and justice. The popular YouVersion Bible App saw searches increase by 80 percent in 2020, totaling nearly 600 million worldwide.

Isaiah 41:10 ranked as the most searched, read, and bookmarked verse on the app: “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.”

“Through every hardship, people continue to seek God and turn to the Bible for strength, peace, and hope,” said YouVersion founder Bobby Gruenewald. “While 2020 is a year so many say they’d like to forget, we see it as a year to remember how God used the Bible App to help so many people who are searching for answers.”

Bible searches spiked corresponding to major events, with “fear” becoming the app’s top search term in the first few months of the year, “justice” in the spring, and “healing” trending throughout the year.

The Bible Gateway site reported similar search trends. Pandemic-related verses about God taking away sickness got around 90 times more queries than average when US COVID-19 lockdowns began in March.

The site also saw queries related to racism, justice, and oppression spike to 100 times the average in the week following George Floyd’s death, and verses related to government authority up at least 50 times the average on Election Day.

Image: Bible Gateway

While John 3:16 and Jeremiah 29:11 topped the Bible Gateway rankings for the top verses—as they have in most years—2 Chronicles 7:14 jumped up to the No. 3 spot: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” The passage has been commonly cited in prayers for President Donald Trump and was the top-searched verse around his election in 2016.

Bible Gateway searches for “fear” and “fear not” grew this year over last, with “fear” ranking sixth on the most popular English keyword searches.

Isaiah’s assurance to “do not fear,” which was the Bible App’s top verse globally both this year and in 2018, also ranked as the No. 1 verse in the US, India, South Africa, the Netherlands, and the Philippines. In Ghana, the top verse was Philippians 4:8 (“Do not be anxious …”), and in Kenya, Romans 8:28 (“in all things, God works for the good …”).

Both countries were among several nations in sub–Saharan Africa where overall Bible reading surged on the app in 2020—up more than a third over last year. In Ethiopia, Bible engagement grew by 61 percent, according to YouVersion.

Overall, the app tracked 43.6 billion chapters of the Bible read in 2020, with half a billion verses shared, its highest on record.

In the spring, CT reported how Easter Sunday was the app’s biggest day ever and how YouVersion was able to offer online worship platforms to stream services to millions of Christians during the early weeks of the pandemic.

The app continued to show steady and growing engagement, even as surveys on Bible readership indicated a decline due to COVID-19.

An American Bible Society (ABS) survey found the percentage of daily Bible users dropped to 8.5 percent in June, down from 14 percent at the beginning of the previous year, according to its 2020 State of the Bible report. According to ABS, 65 percent of Bible readers said they prefer to read the Bible in print over digital.

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