Written by Michelle Lai, Singapore
Do you have FOMO?
I first heard this acronym in my church last October, when a university student shared about her struggle to manage her time after entering university; she had to balance her studies, church activities, social activities, and quiet time with God.
FOMO stands for “fear of missing out”—in other words, it’s the fear of not being in the know of what is happening, or missing out on experiences which others seem to enjoy. You may experience FOMO in its various forms. For example, you may feel envious of what others have, so you say yes to every activity without much consideration.
When I heard the student’s sharing, I immediately recognized that I was struggling with the same thing. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I had to take two semesters off university, which meant missing out on classes, Christian Fellowship (CF), social gatherings, and other important events.
I remember feeling a wave of sadness when I realized that I was physically and mentally unable to take part in CF. As part of the executive community, I was supposed to be in charge of the Bible study curriculum. Knowing that I would not be able to implement the ideas I had for the curriculum disappointed me.
Sometimes, I felt so tired that I could not even meet my friends for a meal. Missing out on a year of school also meant that I would not be able to celebrate milestones together with them. When they graduated and started work, I would still be in university. When I saw my peers moving ahead with their lives, I couldn’t help but feel left behind.
I thought about all the “what ifs” and “what-could-have-beens”. If I did not have to take this break, I would have been able to complete my final year in school; I would have been able to contribute to CF; and most importantly, I would have been able to experience life with my friends.
As I grappled with these thoughts, I realized that the main reason why I was sad was that I was not going to graduate together with my peers. Though my friends tried to encourage me by saying that the extra time would pass very quickly, my heart was still unhappy and bitter because I knew that I would not be able to catch up with them.
But by focusing on not being left out, I lost sight of God. I forgot that serving God and being part of a Christian community was never about me to begin with. Though I had started out wanting to serve God, along the way I had become preoccupied about being indispensable to those around me. I forgot that God does not need anybody to do anything for Him. However, He delights in us and chooses to partner us in His work.
Right after that service, I prayed that God would remove FOMO from me and that I would recognize my feelings of sadness for what they were and deal with them. I prayed that I would get my priorities right. And I prayed for my friends and also for the CF even though I could not participate.
For a few months, I kept praying to God about the sadness I was feeling. He then opened my eyes to see the situation from another perspective—that this was my season of rest. He showed me that honoring Him didn’t just mean serving those around me, but it also meant resting, slowing down, and taking care of my health so that He could continue to use me for His glory.
By God’s grace, my condition has improved, and I returned to school a few weeks ago.
For everyone who fears being left behind, I would like to encourage you that although you may not always be “relevant” to the people or activities around you, you will always be relevant to God no matter what season of life you are in. God will not miss any of us out.
Each of us has our own path to walk on earth. Let’s worry about whether we’re seeking God at every moment instead of worrying about whether we’re part of the “in” crowd or the latest happening.