In today’s world, a world saturated by social media and making sure every photo, every post shows you in the best possible light, weakness and struggles are not popular. Facebook is filled with posts showing bright smiling families and people post photos on Instagram or Snapchat of exciting adventures, laughing with friends, even of a particularly delicious meal. It is a rare occasion when someone shares instead about something they are struggling with. No one wants to portray themselves as anything less than perfect. So instead of posting about the argument you had with your husband last night over finances, you share a “Throw Back Thursday” to your wedding day and gush over how in love you are. Instead of posting about an illness that has been weighing you down, you post a smiling picture with a fancy filter to show just how great everything is. Instead of posting about a stressful day getting the house cleaned up and the kids in bed, you share a blissful picture of the sleeping baby to show how perfect your world is at that moment.
It’s not a bad thing to look on the bright side, to choose to be positive despite our circumstances, and to take care that what we share shows us in the best light and promotes hope and optimism rather than complaining. After all, isn’t that what we are taught?
“A cheerful heart is a good medicine,
but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22
And yet at times, refusing to share the struggles we face may do more harm than good. I don’t mean to say we should walk around in a cloud of doom over everything “wrong” in our lives and constantly complain to others. There is a fine line between complaining, whining, neglecting to take note of the blessings we are surrounding, and genuinely sharing a struggle we face with a friend in hopes that they will share our burden and we can do the same for them. In the second reading at Mass on Sunday we read,
“Brothers and sisters:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand,
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.
Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions,
knowing that affliction produces endurance,
and endurance, proven character,
and proven character, hope,
and hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” – Romans 5:1-5
To boast of our afflictions does not mean we complain and grumble. Instead, we boast of our afflictions to show that, despite what we may face in life, we know that we will endure, become stronger, and grow in the hope of the Lord. To hide any struggle we may face also hides the ways which the Holy Spirit works within us to overcome that affliction. It hides the ways that we have grown stronger. It hides how we have managed to maintain hope in the Lord through it all, even the darkest of times.
Not to say that our Facebook and Twitter need to show every detail of what we encounter. In fact, perhaps those social media platforms are best left for more positive sharing. But perhaps we could so better to share our struggles more, even if it is just with one trusted friend or within our own families. To share and “boast” of the afflictions we face shows others that they are not alone. We, too, have had our struggles and will walk this road alongside them to help them endure, to help them grow in character, and to help them hold onto hope. Because hope never disappoints when our hope is in the Lord.