PROBABLY everyone hears rumors at one time or another--hints that a couple will get divorced, that jobs will be cut, that someone's ethics are questionable, that a government will fall. How do we deal with rumors? How do we keep rumors from hindering the work of honest people--even ourselves or someone close to us?
There was a man many years ago whose enemies deliberately spread rumors in order to keep him from rebuilding the walls of the great city of Jerusalem. These rumors ranged from attacks on the competence of the builders to innuendos about their motives and questions about the man's integrity.
Instead of getting angry, or reacting to the rumors, this man turned ever more firmly to God in his prayers. He trusted in God's goodness and in His willingness to help those who turn to Him in need. Through this prayer, the man was able to act with discernment and to keep the people who were working with him from being discouraged. Eventually, to everyone's joy (except the enemies', of course), the wall was restored.
This man's experience is given in the Bible in the book that is named after him--Nehemiah. The account offers much food for thought for anyone who is facing malicious rumors that threaten to interfere with an honest and constructive endeavor. One of the story's chief points is that at no time did Nehemiah allow himself to be drawn into argument with the rumormongers. Four times his enemies asked him to meet with them, clearly planning to do him mischief, but he refused to go. He replied, ``I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?'' (6:3).
We too can ask such a question when we are confronted by rumors at work, at school, at church, or even in our neighborhood. To make our asking effective, however, it needs to rest on trust in God, on a certainty that God will help us do what is right. This was the basis for Nehemiah's efforts. Without this trust in God, his work truly would have been useless.
God is Truth. He provides an absolute standard that can inform us even when we are trying to sort through the sometimes ambiguous aspects of human ``truth.'' Perceiving God to be divine Principle, unchanging Truth and Love, gives us a standard for our thoughts and actions. For Nehemiah this meant recognizing that the evil attempts of his enemies could not put a stop to his work, which was done out of love and with enormous selflessness. The purity of his motives helped him to perceive God's presence and direction while he was working to rebuild the broken-down walls of Jerusalem.
Christ Jesus' teachings and ministry bring out even more clearly the concept of God as Truth. Certainly the Master faced enemies no less vicious than Nehemiah's, and those among the Pharisees who tried to trap him were far more subtle than the enemies who were after Nehemiah. Yet Jesus' reliance on spiritual truth --on the understanding that creation is spiritual and that man is the image of God--strengthened him in the face of many challenges. It even sustained him through the crucifixion and resurrection.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, captures the essence of how God helps us deal with rumors when she writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Step by step will those who trust Him find that `God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble''' (p. 444). I experienced the truth of this statement during a period when a large number of employees was being let go at the place where I work. Although the unit I worked with remained mostly intact, our work was going to change, and getting correct, ``rumor-free'' information seemed impossible at times.
During this period, I found myself turning more and more to God, to divine Truth, and asking a question similar to Nehemiah's, namely, ``Why should our work cease because of these lies and rumors?'' And the answer I got each time was that the work did not need to stop. So I would go forward as far as I could with the information that I knew was uncontaminated. Then I would pray further. As I did this, I was led to take steps that would lead me to the next bit of information I needed in order to move forward again. I can't say I found it easy to discipline myself in this way, but as I continued to do so, the path became clearer and clearer until we had safely made the transition to our new work.
Each of us can prayerfully turn to God for help in times of stress and for guidance in the midst of rumors. God, Truth, answers our questions by speaking to us in our hearts and our thoughts, and guiding our thought to know the right way to go. This doesn't mean it is always easy, but since God is with us as our refuge, we aren't making our journey alone.
In thee, O Lord,
do I put my trust . . . .
Let the lying lips be put to silence;
which speak grievous things
proudly and contemptuously
against the righteous.
Oh how great is thy goodness,
which thou hast laid up
for them that fear thee;
which thou has wrought for them
that trust in thee before the sons of men! . . .
Be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen your heart,
all ye that hope in the Lord.
Psalms 31:1, 18, 19, 24