A number of years ago I read “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff ... and it’s all small stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life” by Richard Carlson.
In the book, Carlson reveals ways we can learn to calm down in the midst of our incredibly hurried, stress-filled lives. His advice is meant to help us learn to put things in perspective by making small daily changes.
I read Carlson’s book during a very hectic and stressful time in my life. I was raising two children, director of a young adult Sunday school department at church, leader of a large communications team for a Baptist state convention, and teaching public relations and advertising courses as an adjunct instructor at the University of Missouri and Columbia College.
There was a lot of big (and small) stuff going on in my life at the time, and Carlson’s advice – along with a heavy dose of Scripture and prayer – helped me to put it all in perspective.
I recently finished another book that has impacted me as much – if not more – than Carlson’s book.
It’s “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You” by Tony Reinke.
In spite of its timeless (and biblical) message, Reinke’s book could not have been written prior to the introduction of the smartphone.
Reinke argues that our smartphones and social media feed our existential “fear of missing out,” or FOMO for short.
He states the way social media works is that we are forced to constantly compare our lives with the lives of others, which creates anxiety and anxiousness – resulting in creating a desire to “flaunt our relevance over one another’s irrelevance.”
Today’s nature of the 24-hour news cycle reinforces this notion, stoking our fears about the world as it provides immediate access to “all of the world’s major tragedies, sorrows, bombings, and acts of terrorism.” This is a burden, it can be argued, that God never intended us to carry.
“We live in what has been described as an ‘attention economy,’ and the Sunday morning sermon seems weak in comparison to an Internet-surfing session,” writes Reinke, adding, “And we forget about big, glorious realities like the inbreaking new creation of God.”
It should come as no surprise to Christians the origin of FOMO, which Reinke writes is a primeval human fear with origin in the Garden of Eden and the fall of man.
“What more could Eve and Adam want – to escape creaturehood, to become their own bosses, to preserve their own independence, to define their own truth, to become all-knowing, and to delight in autonomous regality?” he writes. “In other words, FOMO was Satan’s first tactic to sabotage our relationship with God, and it worked. It still does.”
Reinke writes the longest-running FOMO story was told by Jesus in Luke 16:19-31 about the rich man and Lazarus, a poor man. Ultimately, the rich man, who has everything, loses everything, and the poor man, who has nothing, gains everything.
“(This) FOMO cuts through all the other FOMOs of life: the fear of eternally missing out. God’s wrath is real. And apart from Christ, there is only eternal destruction,” he writes.
The truth of the story is that the poor man learned the truth that God is the eternal response to all of the FOMOs in life.
“Heaven will restore every ‘missing out’ thousands of times over throughout all of eternity,” Reinke concludes.
What a powerful message and important call to be alert to our times, being careful not to get caught up in the fashion (or technology) of the day that can result in steering us away from God!
Tim Yarbrough is the editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News.