FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out- has become a bit of an epidemic. Largely fuelled by social media and the endless opportunities for comparison it provides, FOMO can be a source of anxiety as we see what others are doing, where they are going or the gadgets they have, and are left with the sense that somehow we are missing out.
It’s often pretty destructive, and in many cases, ironically, it leads to us missing out. We miss out on fully appreciating the people we are with and what is happening for us now, because we are distracted by what other people are doing.
However, I also think there are times when FOMO can be a very positive thing, and I would go so far as to say it has been behind some of the best decisions I’ve made.
If you’re doubtful about the idea of FOMO being a good thing, there’s even an example of this in the Bible!
Esther, a Jewish girl, becomes Queen of Persia as a result of winning a beauty contest, but when one of the leading officials, Haman, is offended by Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, the situation becomes dangerous. Haman (not realising that Esther is a Jew) decides to take revenge by persuading the king to issue a decree, which orders the annihilation of all the Jewish people.
Mordecai pleads with Esther to use her position as queen to do something to alter the decree, but Esther is reluctant. Even as queen, she has no right to approach the king without invitation. Anyone who approaches him uninvited is doomed to die unless, when the King sees them, he holds out his golden sceptre.
It seems too big a risk to take, so initially Esther refuses, but Mordecai is not satisfied, and sends another message:
“Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all the other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)
Straight away, Esther replies, asking Mordecai and the other Jews to fast and saying she will do it.
We don’t really know what lay behind her change of heart, but it seems likely that FOMO played a major part:
Fear of missing out on what God was doing. Fear of missing out on playing her part in his plan. Fear of missing out on the very reason she had been brought into this position as queen.
Esther bravely steps up to the mark, and as a result the Jews are saved, but without Mordecai’s FOMO-inspiring words, who knows what the result would have been? God may have found another way to save the Jews as Mordecai said, but Esther would have missed out.
I have been there too. Not in a life or death situation like Esther, but in situations where God was asking me to do the very thing I was most terrified of doing and, despite the fear I felt about the task, the FOMO was just strong enough to make me do it. I didn’t want to miss out on what God was calling me to, or on being part of his plan.
I’m in that place again.
When I consider what I sense God is asking me to do just now, it seems too big; it seems too risky. I worry that people will disapprove or react badly, and there are no guarantees of how it will turn out.
It was the same for Esther- there was no guarantee that the King would welcome her into his presence. This story could easily have ended with her execution.
But she stepped out in faith anyway, trusting God. The FOMO carried her through.
As Jennie Allen puts it in her book “Anything”: “We don’t risk because it’s safe. We risk because God is bigger and worth the risk.”
And because Esther was willing to take the risk, God used her to do something amazing.
I hope and pray that in my situation the FOMO will be enough to carry me through too- that I will take my eyes off other people and my worries about what they might think, and that I might fix my eyes firmly on God and step out in obedience to him.
I don’t know what his plan is in this: it excites me to think of what he could do, yet at the same time it terrifies me to consider how badly it could all go wrong.
But I’m seeking his voice and holding on to the FOMO. Whatever the outcome, I don’t want to miss out on playing my part in his plan. I’d hate to think that I refused and he had to find someone else.