A few weeks back, my wife, Sidney, and I were out to dinner at a trendy restaurant in Houston. One of the drinks that we ordered advertised itself as “smoke infused.” As the waiter brought it to our table, there was a whole presentation that went with it of opening a vessel, letting the smoke pour out, and then pouring the drink into the actual drinking glass, so one could drink it. Prior to this, the waiter asked if we wanted to get out our phones. This baffled me for a minute. Usually, I’m having to remind myself to put my phone away for a meal. Why did this waiter want me to get my phone out? Then, it clicked. He thought that I would want to post this smoking drink process to my social media. Or rather, the restaurant designed this process not just to make a drink taste a certain way but to give their customers the ability to post something interesting to their social media feed. They conceptualized the drink to confer on its drinker the potential for social media clout.

This may all sound a little farfetched, but for people attempting to market to folks under 50, creating experiences that can be posted to social media is the name of the game. Social media of one form of another has been around for close to 20 years. What we’ve seen in these two decades of experience is that people tend to curate their social media presences to appear interesting, well put together, vibrant, or some version of a desired vision of what the world sees. It’s become a place where people post a filtered and tweaked version of themselves that they want the world to see. In our restaurant example, you post the drink billowing smoke to accentuate the projection of a hip, well heeled, urbanite persona. People looking at your social media feed see this cool experience that you had, feel like their missing out on life, and seek to have their own experiences that they can have in order to also appear interesting, cool, hip, sophisticated, with it, or whatever your adjective of choice is. The social media companies know this, so they build their system so that you will see and react to other people’s experiences. Marketers, restauranter, hucksters, and anyone else trying to sell something in the 21st century know this too and design whatever they’re selling to appeal to your desire to appear desirable on social media.

This social phenomenon has been giving the name the Fear of Missing Out or FOMO for short. Scrolling through one’s social media feed makes one feel like they are missing out on all the cool experiences that their friends and peers are having. You start to belief that the grass is definitely greener in other people’s lives. Their experiences seem so much cooler. Their families look so much more put together. Their so much more fashionable. Their existences look so much better than the utter mess that is my life. It’s all lies, but social media makes you feel it.

The reality is that we only post what creates the persona that we want to project – not the rest of the mess. We don’t show the thousand times that our children look an absolute and unattractive mess. We don’t show the angles of photos that make us look fat. We don’t show the thousand times a year we had the same boring leftovers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Social media only shows us a narrow window into someone’s life, but we don’t see that.

I’ll freely admit that our text from the Second Letter to the Thessalonians is about the end times and not about our modern social media nightmare. Certainly, the Thessalonians are afraid that they’ve missed out on something – specifically Jesus’s return. The letter seeks to reassure them, “Don’t worry. You’re not going to miss it.”

As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 NRSV)

The salvation of the world and the grand setting right of all things will not pass you by.

The letter deploys another way of reassuring the Thessalonians that I do think speaks straight into our FOMO addled age. Most of Paul’s letters contain one blessing or benediction. Both of the letters written to Thessalonians contain an extra one.

But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 NRSV)

Not only will you not miss Christ’s return because it’ll be obvious, but you also won’t miss it because God loves you, chose you, called you, offers you comfort and grace, and, thus, wouldn’t leave you behind. In God’s eyes, you a beloved child, and for that, we can be forever thankful.

God sees us just as we are, from the angles where we are fat, in the boringness of our day-to-day life, in the perpetually terrible behavior and general mess and stickiness of our children and grandchildren, in the thrown together last-minute bland meals and leftovers, and in our brokenness. God’s keenly aware of all the things that one wouldn’t show on social media, and God loves us. The thing we actually need the most, God’s love, is the one thing that we don’t have to fear missing out on. It’s always there for us. We may crave the attention of our peers and neighbors, but that need only leads to more need. True peace is always at hand if we can know that we are enough in God’s eyes and that should be enough for anyone.