The most popular portion of the Bible is a verse urging readers not to be anxious, according to data released from online book seller Amazon. The online retailer recently released a list of the most popular passages from its most popular books. Amazon's most popular books include The Hunger Games, The Harry Potter Series, Pride and Prejudice, and the Bible. It found that the commonly highlighted portion of the Bible is Philippians 4:6-7.
In the verses, the apostle Paul admonished the church, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
For those drawn to the verse because they may be dealing with anxiety or mental stress, Christian psychologist and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Eric L. Johnson caution readers against taking the passage as a direct command.
He explained, "I think that what God is not saying to us is giving us a command that is to be implemented immediately because one of the paradoxes of anxiety is the more you try and stop it the more it makes it stronger and so I don't think we should interpret that as, you know, Paul is telling the anxious person just stop it."
Rather, Johnson believes God is inviting his creation to find freedom from anxiety though faith in Him.
"The believer is in an eternal relationship with God because of Christ's death and resurrection and because we're in union with Christ and all of our problems are fundamentally resolved in Christ, we don't have to be anxious for anything anymore."
Yet Johnson explains that freedom from worry is not immediate but rather a process.
"I see the verse as an encouragement that God wants them to be free of anxiety and has provided a way of finding freedom from anxiety but that's going to take some practice: learning how to spend some time with God, learning how to surrender our worries and our fears to Him, learning how to let go of some of our pressures, maybe redeveloping certain lifestyle patterns, learning how to meditate and pray… learning how to do meditative prayer with Christ is very key here so that we can also do another nice verse that Peter says in 1 Peter 5:7 'cast your anxiety on the Lord," he detailed to CP.
Anxiety disorders such as social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and phobias affect 40 million U.S. adults ages 18 and older, making anxiety the most common mental illness in the United States, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. While anxiety is highly treatable, only one-third of those affected seek treatment.
A 2013 Lifeway Research study revealed that 48 percent of "self-identified born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christians" believe that Bible study and prayer alone can help overcome mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Christian leaders and counselors like Johnson encourage a mix of the sacred and secular when it comes to mental health.
Johnson says to those who struggle with anxiety disorders that the Bible does not prohibit the "wise use of medications and the wise use of counseling techniques." Both medication and counseling, he said, are part of God's "common grace" given to Christians through research.
Additionally South Carolina Pastor Perry Noble noted in a column entitled "5 Myths About Anxiety and Depression" that "I often tell people that the theme song of hell is 'Do More, Try Harder!' For far too long Christians have said they believe in grace, but when it comes to worry, anxiety and even depression we rely on works."
Noble, who recently revealed that he began taking anti-depressants in 2012 to combat anxiety and suicidal thoughts, said "I take an antidepressant and I love Jesus right now more than I ever have in my entire life."