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When I have sin FOMO

By Michael Roop

I wish I had found Psalm 73 during my early college years. At least it would have given me some language to explain my experience. I had some serious FOMO (fear of missing out), but I couldn’t see it.

When I arrived at my freshmen orientation, I was surprised to find a party scene already in full swing. Many of my peers, having grown up in the decade of college party movies, showed up believing that the good life was found in the endless pleasures of unmoderated alcohol and sex. After all, you only live once, as the kids used to say.

The problem was, I believed the lie, too. I didn’t often go to parties, and when I did, I didn’t drink any alcohol. I wasn’t sleeping around. I went to Cru meetings and occasionally to church. I was known to be a Christian, and my actions set me apart. But what almost no one knew was that my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to search for the good life in the college party scene, a life of all fun and (seemingly) no consequences. I just wasn’t brave enough to try.

I found myself much like Asaph, King David’s chief worship leader. In a moment of stunning vulnerability (especially for someone in his position!), Asaph admitted, “I was envious of the arrogant” (Ps. 73:3). He goes on to muse on the life lived apart from God, the life that seems so good on the outside: “They are not in trouble as others are” (5), “Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies” (7), “always at ease, they increase in riches” (12).

Then comes the stunning confession, the thought he feared to verbalize yet nurtured in the privacy of his mind: “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence” (13). In other words, by following God and obeying Him, I’m missing out on the good life.

Of course, this mirrors the original lie. Satan, approaching Eve and Adam in the garden, sweetly whispers that a whole life of meaning, knowledge, pleasure, and power is to be found in the fruit that God has so selfishly restrained from their lips. To follow God, the logic goes, means giving up all hope of living a life of joy and happiness.

As Asaph wrestles against the temptation of this lie, his thought pattern takes a turn when he, to paraphrase the line, goes to church (73:17). In the worship gathering, as he sings praises to God alongside God’s people, Asaph realizes the truth: it is the worldly who miss out on the good life, not the godly. Doomed to chase one fleeting moment of pleasure after another, each less fulfilling than the last, the worldly miss out on the greatest joy available to us: to walk in an intimate relationship with God. Just as Asaph’s boss David once proclaimed, “in [God’s] presence there is fullness of joy; at [his] right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).

Asaph realizes that, by choosing to walk with God, he gains a far greater joy than the worldly delights he has given up. The very presence of God, our sweetest source of abundance, is the true location of lasting happiness. In the gathering of God’s people, Asaph proclaims to God, “there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you…it is good to be near God.” (73:25, 28).

We will all look upon the lives of our neighbors, coworkers, family members, classmates, and friends with an eye of longing. After all, the heart wants what the heart wants, and our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9).

So, when the temptation falls on you, and you might believe that there is a better life to be lived apart from God…

…come to church.

Sing God’s praises. Remember through song who He is, and who He is for us. Hear His word proclaimed. Be nourished at the Table. Be reconnected to brothers and sisters who are struggling just as you are. And remember, like Asaph: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (73:26).