YOLO: “You only live once.” It seems like a harmless, possibly helpful motivational slogan. It sounds kind of like an updated version of Carpe Diem, and “Seize the Day.” But YOLO has an insidious underbelly. If you’re not careful, it could wreck your faith.
Two Foundations of Faith
Here’s what I mean. There are two principles that should be grounding, guiding premises of every Christian’s life.
- First, that God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. As children of God’s kingdom, we live present-future lives. We know that this life is not all there is. In fact, this life is merely preparation for the life-unending. Death is not the end. Disappointment, pain, and suffering do not have the final word (Psalm 145:13; John 11:25; Revelation 21:4).
- Second, that “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5: 7). Faith, by definition, is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). In other words, a hopeful, joyful patience—an optimistic ability to delay gratification—should be a basic mindset of believers.
On the other hand, YOLO
- says that these 80 years (plus or minus) are all we get so there’s no time to waste, not a moment to lose.
- promotes fear and panic: because you only live once, you must grasp and grab everything you can before you make your final exit.
- encourages self-centeredness—you deserve to fulfill all your dreams, and you deserve this now (even if you have to push ahead or step over others to get there). *
- leads to discouragement and despair over lost opportunities and failures because YOLO doesn’t understand or expect redemption. Because we only live once, we must get it right the first time.
I sound like a killjoy, I know. But bear with me. What happens if you really believe in YOLO? How does that affect your hope? Your joy? Your faith?
Abraham didn’t believe YOLO.
If Abraham had believed in YOLO, he wouldn’t have waited 25 years for an heir and then been willing to sacrifice him! But Abraham didn’t believe that we only live once. He “reasoned that God could even raise the dead” (Hebrews 11:19).
If Abraham had believed in YOLO, he wouldn’t have given up his comfortable lifestyle in Ur and wandered around in tents for decades—continuing to believe God’s promise even on his deathbed, even though he never received so much as an inch of the Promised Land in this life. But Hebrews 11:10 says that Abraham “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”—Abraham knew that this life isn’t all there is. There’s so much more that lies ahead.
The Benefit of Hindsight
Grandparents pray for their grandchildren for decades, often without seeing results. They sometimes die before seeing their loved ones come to faith or return to the Lord. But haven’t we all been amazed by testimonies from people who attribute their spiritual rescue to the prayers of their faithful grandparents—even after those grandparents had passed on?
Missionaries have sometimes spent their entire lives in foreign lands without seeing fruit from their labors. Yet, God promises that His word will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11). Amazing stories have been told about groups of people who have come to the Lord as a result of those faithful ones’ witness—but years after. The missionaries themselves died without knowing. They were like the people in Hebrews who “died in faith, without having received the things they were promised. However, they saw them and welcomed them from afar” (11:13).
People (like me) have prayed earnestly for their loved ones’ healing. They have prayed in faith, believing. They have persevered and not given up. Yet sometimes their loved ones died without receiving that healing. How does that kind of disappointment work in a YOLO world? Isn’t it a faith destroyer? But for those of us who reject YOLO, who believe in an eternal kingdom and life-unending, and possess a faith whose results don’t need to be immediately visible, we can joyfully anticipate the happy day when we will see our loved ones whole again, with perfect bodies, completely restored, body, mind, soul, and spirit.
The Benefit of Future Sight
I need God’s timeless perspective on my life, on my prayers, on my labors. He sees it all from the vantage point of eternity—which looks a whole lot different than my temporal view. He reminds me that for those of us who believe in Jesus, though we die, we shall yet live (John 11:25). He promises that He will make all things new (Revelation 21:5). He proves that He can use the worst circumstances to bring about good (Genesis 50:20). He remembers our work, our prayers, our suffering—and He is will not let it be in vain. If we don’t see it in this life, then we will see it in the next. And then it will be glaringly obvious how mistaken the idea of YOLO really was.