Psychologists warn there's a new fear bombarding the minds of the next generation. The buzz word for it is, "FOMO," which stands for "fear of missing out." The definition of this newfound phobia is "anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere." And experts claim the rise of social media is to blame.
Here's the essence of how it's propagated. When someone scrolls through their favorite social media feed, they are often presented with photos, videos and messages from friends who appear to be having the times of their lives. But I stress the word "appear," because these exciting posts are often only a projection. In reality, the people's lives are far less exciting. Still, for the end user, perception is reality. And someone who struggles with FOMO begins to experience anxiety that they are missing out on something that everyone else is enjoying. "What's wrong with me?" they suddenly worry. Or worse, a Christian might begin to wonder, "Is God holding out on me?"
The Original Fear of the Original Temptation
The author of Ecclesiastes is often quoted for noting, "There is nothing new under the sun" (Eccl. 1:9b). And this is just as true in the case of FOMO. While the effects of the fear of missing out might be more traceable these days, it's just another one of the age-old tools in Satan's arsenal against us. In fact, one might argue that FOMO is the original fear of the original temptation. Allow me to explain.
When God established the first couple in the Garden of Eden, He instructed they not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). But then, as the devil is known to do, he used temptation to lure Adam and Eve into disobedience.
"'Has God said, "You shall not eat of any tree of the garden"?'" (Gen. 3:1b) Satan instigated.
Eve then clarified, "'We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, "You shall not eat of the fruit from the trees of the garden, but from the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You will not eat of it, nor will you touch it, or else you will die'" (v. 2).
Now here's the kicker: Watch how Satan responds. "'You surely will not die! For God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'" (v. 4). With this, Eve took another look at that tree and saw that it was good for food and a delight to the eyes (v. 6). And the rest is history.
Do you see that in his temptation, Satan employed the fear of missing out? Essentially, he caused Eve to believe that God was holding something back from them (knowledge of good and evil, along with greater wisdom). Then, upon a second glance, she believed she was missing out on something that appeared very desirable. In having to have what wasn't theirs to have, the first couple partook and it destroyed their lives (and everyone else's, for that matter).
3 Reminders to Defeat FOMO
The first couple's temptation is the same temptation we face today, especially in our drive-through, microwave world. Too often, the "fear of missing out" influences us to crave things that aren't ours to have—at least not yet, and some, not ever. Still, if we stubbornly pursue these—whether a career, a car or a certain someone—the pursuit can destroy us.
But like any fear, God offers us a way to overcome. And victory over the fear of missing out hinges on some key reminders.
1. Remember that God is good.
The lie that "God is holding out on you," is ultimately based in the belief that God is not always good. Many believe God afflicts us in order to punish us. Or that He interjects pain and struggle into our lives just for the fun of it. But those aren't the actions of a good Father; those are actions of an evil devil.
The Bible assures God sent Jesus to destroy the works of the devil, not to hold us hostage to them (1 John 3:8). Remember that God created you with a unique plan, and the blessings He brings in your life and the timing in which He brings them are all part of that plan (see Eph. 2:10). If you don't have what you desire right now, it's not because God is upset with you or that He's holding out on you, but it's because God has something better or a better time for you to have it. Trying to speed up the process yourself might only delay it or destroy it all together.
2. Remember that your steps are ordered by the Lord.
This next point builds upon the previous. Psalms instructs that our steps are ordered by the Lord (Ps. 37:23). It's often hard to see in the moment, but if you look at your life in hindsight, you'll begin to see God's hand throughout your journey. You'll observe that He moved you this way and that way in order to get you right here today. Even those times that seemed frustrating or took too long are often the result of God's work to develop you for something down the road.
When I begin to feel the fear of missing out try to come over me, I have to take the feeling captive by declaring aloud: "My steps are ordered by the Lord!" And you should do the same.
Sure, you might not have the house or spouse that someone else does, but remember that God has you right where you're supposed to be. At some point in the future, it will all make sense. And you'll be glad you had the path you did.
3. Remember who you are in Christ.
This third remember is crucial for most of the battles we face. As I explore in my new book, Activating the Power of God's Word, most—if not all—of our fears, insecurities and jealousies are the result of not knowing our true identities in Christ.
One of the foundational truths I teach about identity in Christ is established upon Colossians 2:9–10: "For in Him lives all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all authority and power." What this means is that anyone who is a Christian is considered complete.
Completeness to your life is not found in achieving a certain career, bank account balance or education level. And it's not about finding someone who makes your heart flutter, either. You are complete because Christ makes you complete. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.
Celebrate Your Unique Plan
When you scroll through your social media feed, and the fear of missing out begins to rise, do something to raise your faith instead. Cast that fear down and out with reminders that God is good, His ways are higher and His plans are greater.
Finally, remember that you are not missing out on anything, but you are right where God wants you to be and you have exactly what God wants you to have. And don't forget—you likely have at least something that other people wish they had, too. So make the devil mad and don't wish for a life you don't have, but celebrate the unique plan God has designed just for you.
Kyle Winkler equips people to live in victory. His mobile app, Shut Up, Devil!, is the #1 spiritual warfare app; and his book, Activating the Power of God's Word, uncovers 16 strategic declarations to transform your life. Kyle holds a Master of Divinity in biblical studies from Regent University. Get daily encouragement from Kyle on Facebook and Twitter.
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