If there is something which is almost guaranteed to horrify people in contemporary society, it might be the fear of missing out on some significant life-experience. The thought of going through one’s years without something which many others enjoy is a highly disagreeable one to most North Americans and Europeans. As a result, there is a frantic rush in our society to do all those things which are commonly accepted as making life worth living.
Parents, for example, are concerned that their children not miss out on the commonly accepted activities of childhood. As a parent myself (and now grandparent as well), I have always wanted my kids to have as many positive experiences and helpful tools as can be provided. Many parents share this seemingly legitimate desire. Hence we enroll our children in a myriad of sporting events, music lessons, clubs and enrichment activities. We take them to fairs and outings and spend a significant amount of money on vacations and educational events.
Or what about all the material possessions on the “must have list”? The newer car, the larger home, the more fashionable clothing, the more exotic vacation are always topics of conversation and comparison. For many people these things truly dominate mental activity. I also have experienced the gravitational pull of things on lists like this. I certainly wouldn’t make the claim that the things on such a list are necessarily wrong. Nice things are just that: nice things. To acquire some of them can be quite legitimate pursuits.
Even so, I am wondering whether this fear of missing out on something is in itself the cause of losing other, more lasting benefits. In our frenzy to acquire a chunk of the “good life” we may have lost sight of some of the things, which make life truly good. Consider this: The generations now coming into their own such as GenX (born after 1965) and the Millenials (born after 1985) have clearly had more advantages than any previous groups. At the same time, they are also the generations with the least amount of religious training of any kind. I should know: I have taught young people from these generational groups on a college-level for the past two decades in courses such as philosophy, world religion and western civilization. These younger people certainly have plenty of opinions. It is just that many times, they lack the factual framework and formal religious training on which to base a valid opinion.
I have also wondered whether there is any link between the trend away from religious training and the rising rates of teen suicide, drug use, sexual activity and alcohol abuse by these same generations. Or what about the broken marriages and disjointed lives, which are so common? How about the staggering numbers of lawsuits and the flood of recent legislation designed to ensure that people get what they believe they rightfully deserve?
Now contrast this picture with the profound inner peace, simplicity of lifestyle, and clarity of life-focus which are promised in the New Testament to those who fully put their trust in God. There is also the sense of relaxation about having the things needed for daily living, the ability to weather the storms of interpersonal relationships and the ability to bravely face the uncertainties of life. All of these things are offered to those who take up their crosses and follow Jesus.
Many people are missing these very things because of their desperate desire not to miss out on the “good things of life”. It would seem that the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24 turn out to be right: A person cannot serve both God and mammon (riches). He or she will end up loving and serving one or the other, but not both (my paraphrase).
Missing out? The comparison of these conflicting pursuits begs an important question: Who is really missing out on things which are of true importance?