The acronym “FOMO” has become part of our everyday vocabulary, and unfortunately, with the combined inventions of the smart phone and social media, has completely engulfed society. FOMO stands for the “fear of missing out” and is defined by The Oxford Dictionary as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”
FOMO reveals itself in a myriad of forms. We want to know something, see something, experience something, achieve something, or be with someone. It is the motivation behind the statement, “live life to the fullest.” We don’t want to be left out. It may look like a slavish desire to be married, to be in another job or to attend a particular event. It could be behind the desire to stay up till the early hours of the morning watching the Australian Open or to refresh your social media feed for the hundredth time, just to ensure you have not missed out.
At its root is the sinful belief that something else other than God or His promises hold the key to happiness. It was FOMO that gripped Adam and Eve’s heart and plunged the world into sin. They wrongly believed that to possess something that did not belong to them – in this case, to “be like God” (Gen 3:5) – would actually satisfy the deep longings of the heart. FOMO kills joy and usefulness. Once they were beset by FOMO even the beauty and abundance of the Garden of Eden looked like a desert and their privileged task to keep it for God like a bore.
We are all beset by FOMO, but how do we overcome FOMO and regain our joy and usefulness?
1) Satisfy yourself in Christ
To the Samaritan woman who lived her life in the covetous pursuit of satisfaction Jesus said that the one who “drinks of the water I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4:14). To the crowd in Jerusalem Jesus cried out saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). Jesus has created you to have an unquenchable soul thirst that can only be satisfied in Him. He is the only lasting antidote for FOMO. How do you satisfy yourself in Christ? This takes us to the second point.
2) Trust God to give you what is best
When we are satisfied in Christ it means we are trusting in God to provide what we need when we need it. Jesus’ disciples feared releasing total control to God and finding contentment in His provision. Jesus responded to their struggle saying, “For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (Luke 12:30-31). In other words, don’t live your life like the world, who spend their life chasing what they don’t have, because Your Father gives exactly what is best. With a father like that, no wonder the Apostle Paul declared, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil 4:11).
3) Know that nothing but Christ satisfies
As mentioned earlier, the lie of FOMO is that the key to happiness is found outside of God and His promises. If that was the case then Solomon, the man who wanted for nothing, would have found it. Yet, after exhausting all his efforts he declared,
all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun” Ecc 2:11
4) Obey the Lord and serve others
Interestingly, FOMO, instead of making us more productive and acting as a means of achieving our dreams, actually makes us extremely unproductive and crushes our dreams. If we are running around trying to do everything we miss doing anything. In reply to Peter’s enquiry about John’s future Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22). Shut down social media, turn off the TV and cast aside everything that causes you to covet. Then obey Christ. In your obedience you will find true joy and freedom and everything you truly need.
5) Break the bucket list
FOMO does not just affect adolescents but also permeates the hearts of those who feel as though they have tripped over the halfway point of life. They see the end looming with foreboding clarity and feel the urgency to do, see and experience more, before the end drives them to selfish and discontented exhaustion. The “bucket list” becomes a noose. Overcome FOMO by breaking the bucket list and engage in work that not only brings joy but also eternal reward. Take your eyes of this earth and look to heaven for “you ain’t seen nothing yet”! Start storing up for yourself treasures in heaven (Matt 6:21) by expending your time, talents and treasures in the service of others.
Do you live with the fear of missing out? Then let your FOMO drive you to God. Let your FOMO be laid at the feet of Christ who has crushed the power of covetousness and discontentedness. Let your FOMO drive you to godly grief and repentance with a zeal to put off sin and put on Christ. Let your FOMO rest in the knowledge that your Father gives you what is best. And lastly, let your FOMO cause you to “strain forward to what lies ahead [and] press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).