In my first year at university I used to stay up until silly-o’clock in the morning with friends, because I didn’t want to be the first person to go to bed. There was a fear (at least on my part) that if I left early, suddenly everyone else would become best friends without me. Facebook had just arrived in the UK, which provided another means of social anxiety – constantly checking it to make sure I wasn’t missing out on any invitations or conversations that might be going on.
With the arrival of smartphones, it seems that this fear of missing out has reached new heights. This isn’t an original thought (see this Huffington Post article or this infographic), but for Christians it goes beyond mere social anxiety. The world tells us constantly that we are missing out. Whether it’s in seeing friends getting smashed together on a Friday, or the housemate whose boyfriend always “stays the night”, the Christian life seems to be summed up by all of the fun we’re not having.
The world may tell us we’re missing out, but we do our best to prove them wrong. We can start to prioritise the things of this world – a good job, a nice house, finding a husband or wife – and forget God’s call to “lose our lives for Christ’s sake”. We can’t quite commit ourselves to the work of growing disciples – it all seems so fruitless. Our friends don’t become Christians. Our small group still struggle with sin. Why do we even bother?
When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, there were some who were thinking similarly. They were saying that this life is all there is (1 Cor 15:12), and so following the way of the cross was foolishness. Paul agrees with the logic, saying “if just for this life we have hope, we are to be pitied!” (1 Cor 15:19).
But this life is not all there is. There is a certain hope in a resurrected life in the new creation that is guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15:20-23). Elsewhere Paul says that our present sufferings are “not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed” (Romans 8:18). The message is clear: it’s worth it.
Whether it’s minor anxieties around social events and cinema trips, or big-picture worries about wasting our lives, the medicine for our fear of missing out is the same: the gospel of Jesus Christ, the crucified and resurrected king. Our resurrection hope frees us from fear and liberates us into costly service of our saviour. We don’t need to worry about missing out on fun, friendships, sex or success – the Christian receives heavenly blessings without measure from a Father who never ceases to do good to his children. He knows what we need, and will abundantly provide.
So Paul can write in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”