In a moment that is sure to force any parent to eat humble pie, my son (unaware of my desire to keep up parenting appearances) threw his cup on the floor and stared me in the face. “I want more juice,” he said defiantly.
“Well, you definitely aren’t having juice now,” I said.
After a conversation about the behavior, my friend looked at me with a sense of relief. “It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one whose kids act like that sometimes.”
Earlier this year, I read through 2 Corinthians and was struck by Paul’s transparency.
Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
In sharing in his suffering, they also share in his comfort. How can they be encouraged if they don’t first know about the difficulty he endures? How can they pray if they don’t know the specifics? How can they serve him if they don’t know his needs? Like we are so often comforted when we see we aren’t the only one suffering or struggling, so the Corinthian church would be strengthened and encouraged by Paul’s honesty about his trials.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot as it relates to the various outlets for sharing our struggles (both personally and online). What is too much? What is too little? It’s a hard balance. If you share too little, you can be perceived as having it all together when you don’t (nobody does). If you share too much, it can be overkill.
This is where Paul is helpful. While we are all reading his letter, this was a letter to a specific church. He had a relationship with them. There was history among them. There was proximity. This doesn’t mean we only share with those who are close to us, but it does mean that those who are closest to us get the most transparency and the priority of our sharing.
There is a specificity to his requests, that’s certain, but do you notice who is requests are about? Himself. This helps me as I process what I’ll share publicly, or even among friends. For example, I may share with my bible study group that I’m dealing with some discipline issues with a child, but I might not share which child (unless they make it painfully obvious). Online I will not. But I might be honest about the general difficulty of parenting. Life is hard and we need others to bear our burdens with us. We don’t serve anyone by vagueness, especially ourselves. If the apostle Paul could share his greatest struggles with those he was serving, we will be served by sharing ours with our brothers and sisters.
So the question then comes, what about online? Sure, we can make a case for the local church, but what about the scattered church that we interact with on social media? There are a lot of opinions on this, and wisdom and conscience clearly prevail here. But I think adopting principles is helpful. The apostle Paul saw transparency as vital for the comfort and growth of God’s people—as we share in suffering, we share in comfort. I know I’ve experienced this acutely in my own life. As I’ve shared my struggles, I’ve found familiar friends. As I’ve shared our joys, I’ve seen God’s people rejoice. This journey is a mixture of happy and sad, and the more honest we are about that, the more we serve all who interact with us in public and in private. Some will share more than others online, and that is okay. But the burden is on all of us to walk humbly before those who are watching, always acknowledging that we are a broken people walking in a broken world, but redeemed by a perfect Savior.
No one likes to feel alone, in parenting and in life. Sometimes you just need to see that someone struggles like you to find hope. God’s displays his glory through weak people, so he gets all the glory. We all are served by opportunities to see his power working through weakness, whether you choose to display it publicly on social media, or privately among your local church family, the most important thing is that we see that our struggles are not just our struggles and our joys are not just our joys.