This past summer, the folks at the head offices of the Oxford English Dictionary added the word FOMO to its storied book of definitions, officially recognizing this newly invented word. The letters are an acronym for “fear of missing out,” a phenomenon that has become exacerbated by the ever-growing social-media universe of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
People who suffer from FOMO have an acute anxiety they are missing something that is going on—a conversation, a party, an opportunity. FOMO usually keeps people glued to their smartphone, tablet, and laptop. What if someone posts something on Facebook that everyone else will know about but not me? What if something significant happens in the news tonight and all my coworkers know about it except me? If you’ve got a teenager at home, you’ll know about this anxiety and the constant monitoring of texts and status updates. But more and more adults are on edge and suffering from FOMO. What if I miss that big investment or real-estate opportunity? I’d better check my email before bed in case my boss sent me something.
All through the Bible, as Jesus’ listeners became believers, an anxiety of sorts set in among them. They often fell to their knees, desperate to be saved, baptized, and preached to before it was too late. Crowds of people followed Jesus, worried that they might miss out on a healing and desperately hanging on his every word. A rich man asked Jesus earnestly, “What . . . must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16, NLT). A woman sneaks up to him and touches his clothes to heal her bleeding (Matthew 9:20-21, NLT).
When Jesus was deserted by his friends and crucified, it seemed that everyone had lost interest in this prophet who called himself the Savior of the world. Even his most faithful disciple, Peter, denied knowing him, not once but three times. Jesus died, and for a couple of days all seemed lost. But then Jesus arose and defeated death, and many people renewed their belief in him. He sent out his Holy Spirit to his believers, and the Jesus phenomenon began spreading. Paul, a Christian killer earlier in his life, was converted and began to preach the gospel of Jesus and to build the church. More and more people—Jews and non-Jews—began showing up to listen to missionaries preaching the Good News, knowing that their lives were empty and that they were missing out on something that would bring them peace and eternal life.
A sort of FOMO set in when these people saw and heard about miracles that Paul and his fellow missionaries were conducting. The commentary in The Life Application Study Bible points out that “almost everywhere Paul and Silas traveled, they found people open to the gospel message.” The Holy Spirit had already been at work in people, nudging them and giving them a sense that they were missing out on something. Then Paul and Silas arrived and filled them in on what they were missing!
The message that Paul and others spread echoed Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John 3:16: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
As I said at the beginning of this article, many people have a fear of missing out. There are even more people who don’t know what they’re missing! But they are searching and longing for something. It’s deep within their hearts. Maybe it’s a feeling deep inside of you.
Know that the only fear you need have in this life is that of missing out on the promise that Jesus is your Savior, that he died on the cross for your sins, and that he wants you to believe in him so that you can spend your days in eternity.
Other than that, you’re really not missing anything!
Let’s end our time with Michael W. Smith’s famous song Above All, which says, in its refrain, “Like a rose trampled on the ground, you took the fall and thought of me above all.”
By Ron DeBoer