Contrary to what you might think, our English language is not static. It is always changing; new words are added because of scientific development as well as societal changes and trends. Within the last few years FOMO came into common use and has been added to our dictionary some time since its origin in or around 2004.
What is FOMO you ask? For those of you my age who may not know, it stands for the fear of missing out. That feeling you get when you hear all your friends got together for a social event you were unaware of, or when you wait to make plans just in case something better comes along.
The term is interesting in itself – an acronym for the phrase that defines it. It is also peculiar in that who ever thought missing out on something would produce fear? This was the line of thinking which brought up the following question: Why is it that there are people we don’t ever care to hang out with, yet when we see them in a gathering with our peers we feel jealous or sad or left out?
This happened recently as I scrolled through a social media account. A picture rolled by of friends gathering. Although none of these were my close friends, somehow I felt left out. What? Why? It made no sense. I don’t even desire to be in a social setting with any of these people. Our values are different. Their humor more cruelly sarcastic than fits my tastes. And the times I’ve been around several of them, I go away feeling somehow sad and like I have been untrue to myself. Do you have acquaintances like that?
As I contemplated these feelings I realized how deeply the desire to belong, the longing to be a part, and the need for significance runs within each of us. That’s why the drive for success and social acceptance is so prevalent in our society. We all hunger to matter, to be known, to be in community with others.
Isn’t it interesting that God offers us that! Community! Family! When Jesus came to this earth He reconciled us to God, and scripture tells us He gave us the ability to become part of the family of God. The New Testament speaks of God as our Father, us as co-heirs (brothers and sisters) with Jesus, and of treating all believers as family. It’s as if God made us knowing we had this emptiness within us that would one day be termed “FOMO.” Ah surely not, He just created us you know.
What is Jesus’ cure for FOMO and all those left out, I-don’t-fit-in feelings?
Two things. He Himself, our Father, and His church, our family.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3
But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:38
…Its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:25-27
He tells us He loves us, we are His, and we are invited to come to Him. To be a part. When we do come to Him, we find the unconditional love and acceptance and welcoming that we often lack from our human families, and we find that community of belonging.
If we take this to heart it will drive us to a deeper relationship with the Father. If we reject these teachings of His Word, we will find ourselves trying to fill these longings in inappropriate ways to drown out those feelings of FOMO, of lack of acceptance and belonging. So once gain we are left with a choice: to entrust our deepest longings to this unseen Creator of the Universe or to grovel around in the clay with other earthly creations living at the lowest level, covered in filth, and desperate for a Rescuer. What will it be?
Choose wisely. What appears to be meeting our need only meets the surface needs. And what seems it could not possibly be good – to face our desperation and lay ourselves at the feet of or Savior – actually turns out to be the point at which we experience God on a whole new level and find that He is more than enough to meet our deepest longings.
Perhaps FOMO is a term the enemy planted in our hearts to make us feel that God is holding out on us, just as the serpent did with Eve. Perhaps a mind focused on FOMO has no room and no energy to love its neighbor as itself. Perhaps our magnifying lens is focused at the wrong thing: self, not our Savior. Perhaps it’s time to quit buying into this mentality and instead have the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5-9)
“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
– Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII(425)