When I was a teen, I read John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life—and I took it to heart. I was a new Christian and consumed it in a few days. It spoke to the deepest longings of my newly changed heart and solidified my desire to serve Jesus—no matter the cost. Next, I devoured Wild at Heart, Crazy Love, then a few years later Radical and Wide Awake.
I continued to grow spiritually, consuming any Christian resource I could get my hands on. Sermons were full of stories that glorified missionaries like William Carey and Hudson Taylor, who gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel. More times than I can count, those services ended with my knees hitting the altar, my heart burning and my prayers asking Jesus to send me the four corners of the earth and that I would gladly join the great adventure that is it to follow Jesus and if need be, die a martyr for Him. Like Isaiah, I shouted, “Here I am, Lord. Send me!”
Then adulthood came.
Now my days are filled with office hours, taxes and the most efficient way to heat my house. There are moments when I sit in my overpriced recliner, cold drink in hand, in the midst of a Netflix marathon at my 40” flat screen, and I realize: What happened to that passionate teenager I used to be? Am I missing God in my life?
And more importantly, where do these thoughts come from? Is this holy discontentment or just discontentment?
I know I’m not the only one. This dissatisfaction mirrors a growing cultural tendency.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) is infecting young adults everywhere. We look at our social media feeds and the anxiety of what we’re missing builds. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, we now know what career that kid in our French class undertook, where that girl from our freshman orientation class ended up living and who ended marrying who—because it’s all available with the point and click of a mouse.
But we also know which parties we weren’t invited to. We also become privy to pictures of old friends backpacking through Europe, moving to New York City, jet skiing in Cancun or going to law school, and we can’t help but feel deflated in comparison to where our lives are going.
We start to think: My life isn’t as exciting as theirs. Maybe I’m missing out on the best parts of life.
But I’m beginning to wonder if the Church is actually feeding this idea. I’m beginning to wonder if we have cultivated our own fear of missing God.
Are my feelings of spiritual discontentment fed by those Facebook photos of my old classmate and his water well building effort in Zambia? Or perhaps that tweet my friend sent out about volunteering at the homeless shelter?
Are these modern-day super saints coupled with those don’t-waste-your-life-themed books and sermons causing me to look in the mirror and think, “Wow, I’m boring”?
Young Christians are leaving the Church because they’re disillusioned. The exciting and adventurous Christian life as painted by our predecessors looks starkly different than our present reality. And this bleak contrast creates a shadow of guilt that looms over us as we sense that we have sold out—we’ve shamefully traded the Great Commission for life’s demands and comforts.
The great tragedy is that everyday Joes like you and I can sense that we are somehow subpar Christians, because we’re not doing as much as we should be. We are the ones who clock in for 40 hours a week, or teach seventh grade math or drop off your mail. We remember our passionate youth, we live in our present reality and we quietly suffer in wondering if we’re missing out on God.
May I offer some encouragement from someone still trying to figure all this out?
God loves and accepts us as we are, though that is very hard to accept for many of us. He does invite us to a radical life—a life marked by selflessness, grace and love. But you can be radical in a soccer camp in Zambia just as much as you can be radical in a 9-5. We need not beat ourselves up because we are not doing what others are doing, but we can ask ourselves, “What can I do now?”
I used to be green with envy at my friends on the international missions field. I spoke to my wife about how I wanted to reach people who were far from God, and she suggested that I start playing basketball with the teenagers at the park across the street. So I did. I started right where I was, and I have been blessed in building these relationships and sharing Christ’s love right in my own neighborhood.
By focusing on this one question to keep ourselves available to Him—in the workplace, at home, going about our daily routine and errands—we can combat our crippling fear of missing God. I have found more often than not that His Kingdom is found in the commonplace, not the hype.
We don’t need to live under the fear of missing God. His promise in Jesus is that He is Emmanuel—He is God with us. He is near, wherever the unpredictable road of life takes us.
Eric Hoke is a Pennsylvania transplant living in New Jersey. He is the youth pastor of Faith Discovery Church and student at Alliance Theological Seminary. In his free time, he does CrossFit, reads and tweets @erichoke. He and his wife Sarah live in Washington, NJ.