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Bible-engaged Americans more hopeful, despite suffering trauma and heartache: report

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Courtesy of American Bible Society

The third chapter of American Bible Society’s State of the Bible report released this week reveals that those who read Scripture have more hope than those who are less engaged, and shows how the Bible brings healing to people who are suffering. 

The “Hope for the Hurting” chapter released on Wednesday shows how “Scripture Engaged” people over-index for hope though they experience stress at average levels. 

“Just because people are in the church, just because they’re deeply engaging in Scripture, that doesn’t mean they get a pass on stress or trauma,” John Farquhar Plake, director of ministry intelligence for American Bible Society, told The Chrisitan Post in an interview. 

“In fact, oftentimes they over-index for experiencing both stress and trauma in their lives,” Plake said. “What’s different and really hopeful for us is, we discovered that those same people who are experiencing really high levels of stress and trauma are also experiencing very high levels of hope, and they have a deep ability to forgive those who have hurt them [if they engage with Scripture]. And that’s really different. It doesn’t mean they have a different experience in life, but they experience life differently.” 

The findings from the report come from data collected by ABS in January through surveying over 3,300 Americans nationwide.

“Scripture-engaged people, though they have average levels of stress, they have way above average levels of hope,” Plake explained. “I just think of Jesus talking to His disciples and saying, ‘In this world, you’ll have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.’ There’s a way that God’s Word and God’s presence gives us that allows us to live differently in the midst of the same circumstances, and that is really transformative.” 

Plake said that in the midst of stress, trauma and a national increase in stress over the last year, Americans are finding hope in God’s Word. 

“Americans are finding comfort in Scripture," Plake said in a statement. “While being part of the Church doesn’t mean hardships disappear, our study found that when Americans are rooted in Scripture, we are better able to forgive and to cope with trauma or stress. We’re seeing in real-time how the Bible shows us that our story does not end with hurt and pain — we have hope beyond our suffering. As people consistently interact with truth found in the Bible, they see a way forward toward a brighter, more hopeful future.”

The chapter also highlights the relationship between trauma and forgiveness.

Marlaina Centeno, a church partnership associate with the ABS' Trauma Healing Institute, said the Bible helps others understand how to suffer through observing Jesus. 

“American Bible Society recognizes the trauma indicated in the State of the Bible as a major barrier of full relationship with God and the Bible,” she said. 

“We know that trauma separates people from God and from their communities, but the trauma healing program at American Bible Society, we know that healing is actually found in Scripture. So you have this tension of trauma separate from the Scripture, but also the Scripture brings healing, so how do we do that? Well, our trauma healing ministry incorporates the truth of the Bible in a very gentle way in a community setting with trained facilitators in the Bible.” 

Centeno explained how the Bible provides a model of how to deal with trauma and heartache. 

“Our trauma healing model has been globally proven, transforming community after community as hurting people from every walk of life encounter our own wounded Savior. So when we see Jesus as one who has gone through suffering and how He was able to overcome it, we have a model through the Bible,” she added.  

Plake said Chapter 3 deals with the hardships that people are experiencing, such as heightened stress and trauma, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic and social and political unrest. Next month’s chapter will focus more on the good news, he said. 

“I think maybe Chapter 3 is in some ways the bad news, [but] the good news is coming,” he said. 

ABS released its first two chapters of the State of the Bible report earlier this year and will release the remaining six chapters of the report between July and December. 

“The thing that I would just want to not miss in all of this is that a quarter of Americans are really experiencing very high levels of stress, and it can be difficult to understand that when we’re all in it together,” he said. 

“I think pastors, church leaders, and people who care for others need to recognize there’s a lot of stress and difficulty that people are enduring, and we’re not done with it yet. So we need to be looking for, how does the Bible equip us and how does Chrisitan community equip us to care for others and love them through their hurt to the point where they experience God’s hope and God’s healing,” he added. “I trust that this chapter will help point some of our colleagues to really good resources.”

Emily Wood is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: emily.wood@christianpost.com

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