Around age eight or so, I came upon my mother and my older sister in the midst of a discussion. They stopped talking as soon as I appeared. The demon of FOMO seized me.
“What are you talking about?”
My sister walked away. No point in continuing a private conversation with a curious little kid around. My mother just said, “Oh, nothing important.”
“What?” I persisted.
“It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans,” said my mother.
But it did! I wanted to know what I was being left out of! She wouldn’t tell me. In later years, I suspected it was about “big girl stuff.” Quite likely. When I was ready, my mother gave me “The Talk,” too.
No one wants to miss out. It’s why gossip thrives. We are irresistibly drawn to what we feel others know but we are deprived of knowing. It’s an urge, like an itch.
But we can, on the other hand, willingly—or carelessly—deprive ourselves of knowledge indispensable for life and death.
When our neighbor’s wife died, we reached out to him. Though I had had previous, friendly contact with her, they had rebuffed our attempts to get to know them better as a couple. They were, they said, “private people.” But after her death, our widowed neighbor was suddenly appreciative of our attention. We invited him for meals and he readily responded to our invitations. We sent food home with him because he didn’t have a clue about cooking. He could tell we cared. He had a burning question: could his wife communicate with him?
We told him what we believed about persons who had died. But we could not tell him what they can do or can’t do, since we don’t have that information. However, as soon as we brought up the matter of knowing what God tells us about death, he shut down the conversation. “I will not talk about God with you!” I asked him what he was afraid of. “I won’t even talk about that with you.”
We left the subject alone. And kept inviting him.
But it’s curious, isn’t it—that on the subject of death and what comes after it, people should ignore the natural FOMO that’s part of all of us. Death is the one big subject of life. There seems to be a fear, in this case, of finding out. FOFO.
I remember another time as a child, equally curious about a conversation I seemed to be missing out on, when after begging (and probably whining), my mother did tell me. It was nothing at all I was interested in. (And nothing I can even recall.) I learned that there are, after all, some things I thought I was missing out on that didn’t really matter. I whined for nothing.
The subject of death is not one of those. If we don’t have a clue, shouldn’t we be whining and begging and pleading for someone to tell us? Or at the very least, for someone to help us find out? We ask and research and dissect the internet and badger our friends and argue and leave no stone unturned over much lesser things. We tuck our cell phones into our back pocket just to cross the street in case we might miss a call or a text. We get out our atlases and road maps and Google maps and install GPS in order to get from point A to point Z, even though we can read the highway signs all the way. In Hungary, where I lived for sixteen years, I could not read the signs. I also did not have a GPS. Sometime, ask me how many times I got lost.
Without the road signs to the end of life and beyond, shouldn’t we be afraid of getting lost?
Oh, we prepare for death in some ways: we talk to our lawyer, make sure our living will and our insurance policies are up to date. We may even set aside funds for the nursing home and the funeral, as well as buy our burial plot. We’re pretty concerned about leaving this life.
But after that? Is there anything on the other side of death we need to prepare for? Do we have a continued existence? Go somewhere? If so, where? Shouldn’t we try to find out?
FOFO could lead to missing out on the one thing that truly matters.
If there is no certainty about what happens after death, the direction of life is guesswork, at best. We are left to cope on our own—to hope that the universe will reward our efforts, to hope that the end will come out okay. That is a perilous hope. There is little comfort in guesswork.
Arguments also ensue over the origin of life: was it an accident? Was there a cause? The answers to those questions have an acute bearing on the arguments over the end of life: if it was an accident, even “caused” by the explosions of gases, it was still just an accident. If life had a cause that was not accidental, then it must have had an intentional cause. If life had an intentional cause, then it stands to reason that there is also an intention for what comes after death.
Don’t we feel this in our innermost being? Our neighbor feels it. He wants to be able to communicate with his deceased wife. He feels innately that there is a sort of cruelty to lose someone dear to death with no reference to a future life of some sort.
Unsurprisingly, the God of the Bible has answers for those who look for them.
The very fact that there is a Bible is an indication that God is knowable and that he wants to be known. The Bible tells the story of how we came to be here in the first place and where the history of the world and its people are going. Like the best stories, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end.
If we discard the Bible as being irrelevant, then we have no adequate road map to what lies beyond death.
Death, in fact, came into that lush and perfect garden where the first man and woman had their private paradise. God had warned them that death was the price to pay for not taking him at his word. And, sure enough, they did ignore what he told them. Spiritual death opened a chasm between them and God. And death continued to plague them: in their marriage, in their work, in the jealousy of one of their two sons that led to murdering his brother. (Don’t we catch glimpses of our modern world in this microcosm?)
My husband, a theologian and teacher of the Bible, has a way of putting one finger in the early pages of the first book of the Bible and his thumb toward the end of the last book of the Bible, and, holding it up, says to his classes, “What’s between my two fingers is the story of how we’ve been dealing with death ever since.” That’s the “middle” of the story. It’s not pretty. It’s us.
But God has turned the ugliness on its head with the end of the story. However pervasive death may be (“We won’t get out of here alive,” as the joke goes), we find indications—not only in the Bible but also in our longings—that there must be something on the other side of death. Surely something other than a black hole. We like to think of our loved ones “looking down” on us. We talk about “joining them up there.”
But—where is “there”? And how do we get “there”?
The end of the story is that God has prepared an eternity— an “afterlife”—without death and pain and evil. Something even greater than an earthly paradise awaits those who take him at his word. For those who do not, it won’t be paradise.
If the Bible contains the truth about this, then we definitely should have Fear Of Missing Out!
For peace of mind now, and for certainty of what lies beyond death, we must not allow ourselves to be seized by the demon of Fear Of Finding Out.
What are we afraid of?1
1 For those who are serious about seeking answers, of the many places in the Bible you could look, look at least at these verses in I John 5:9-13.