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How the War in Ukraine Dominated This Year’s Online Searches for Bible Verses

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"Shifts in Ukrainian Bible Usage" Graphic courtesy of YouVersion

(RNS) — Ukrainians’ online engagement with the Bible rose by 55% after the country was invaded by its neighbor Russia in February, according to YouVersion, creators of the popular Bible app and Bible.com.

Their favorite verse? “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,” a passage from the prophet Isaiah.

Ukrainians weren’t alone in seeking out that verse, as “United with Ukraine” seemed to prove true for many when it came sharing, bookmarking and highlighting Bible verses. The verses from chapter 41 of the Bible’s Book of Isaiah, were the most trafficked in 2022 by users both in Ukraine and around the world.

YouVersion Founder and CEO Bobby Gruenewald said in a statement that the verse’s popularity “speaks to our desire to be reminded that even when we feel like we’re alone in our struggles, we’re not.”

“As this verse says, God is our strength and He’s always with us,” he said.

Engagement with the Bible in Ukrainian rose even higher in other European countries as Ukrainians fled the war in their country. Ukrainian-language Bible engagement jumped by 241% in Poland, 682% in Slovakia, 733% in Germany and 1060% in the Netherlands, compared to third-quarter data from the year before, YouVersion said.

At the beginning of the war, YouVersion’s most popular search terms in Ukrainian were “war,” “fear” and “anxiety,” according to the app’s creator. As the war progressed, they were replaced by searches for the word “love.”

“These 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,” Gruenewald said.

“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.

Bible Gateway, a website that allows users to read and search the text of multiple translations of the Bible, also released its most popular Bible verses and keyword searches of 2022.

Many of those verses (John 3:16Jeremiah 29:11) and words (“love,” “peace”) are the same as in previous years. But it’s not unusual for some to jump as users search the Bible online to see what it has to say about major events in news and pop culture, representatives for the website have told RNS in the past.

Last year, for reasons related to biblical Greek and the COVID-19 pandemic, searches for the words “sorcery” and “sorceries” saw the biggest spike on Bible Gateway. In 2020, the most popular terms were associated with pandemic, protests and politics.

This year, the website said it “won’t expound” on why one Bible verse jumped more spots than any other in its rankings. Rather, it encouraged people to study for themselves a verse from the Book of Hebrews, which climbed 30 places on its list of most popular verses.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart,” it reads.

This article originally appeared here