Each of us has heard a rumor or two in our lifetime. We may have even been the one to spread a rumor. And sooner or later, we will likely be the target of someone else’s slander or careless words. Unfortunately, many of us will experience the reality of having our reputation tainted in the church and/or in the community. When words of attack swirl around (and it always will) the normal reaction is to run frantically to everyone we know to try to set things straight. The problem is, once a reputation is tarnished, it is hard to speak to the issue without making things worse.
When these times of disillusionment and confusion have come into my life, the best thing that I know to do is to run to God. (Ok, maybe I run after a good cry or mini tantrum!) What a privilege it is to have the Almighty God of this universe holding my hand - and my tongue. But, it is still a very painful experience to live with day to day, especially when you come face-to-face with those individuals who are behind the criticism, judgment and slander at the grocery store, at the ball field or even in church.
Through the years, my husband and I have both had our reputations put under question, scrutinized, challenged or just thrown under the bus. There are likely many different motives for why it happens - misunderstanding, selfishness, jealousy, anger, etc. Gossip and conjecture are prevalent whether through one-on-one conversations, by phone or on social media. A little seed of untruth can turn into a giant web of accusation and distrust in a very short period of time. At times, my husband and I can laugh about the craziness of the accusation or falsehood, but at other times it is nearly suffocating to try to lead a normal life. Your inner soul yearns for someone to come to your side and listen – to really hear you and understand your heart, motives and actions. Unfortunately, restoring a reputation isn’t usually quite that simple to do.
My mom always encouraged me that rumors usually have a way of being brought to right sooner or later. Either your reputation and faithfulness in the days ahead will 'prove' your character or an opportunity will come up to speak truth into the situation (by you or someone else). Standing firm in the knowledge that God knows the truth is hard, but also comes with much freedom!
If you are dealing with the pain of a tainted reputation today, I pray that your heart will not become hardened as you wait on God to restore you. Instead, I pray that you can find peace to persevere and trust that God will work in your life the way in which He did for Joseph - bringing good in spite of the situation. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20
Just as in Joseph’s situation, God’s restoration of our reputations and relationships often took time. Righting wrongs don't typically happen overnight, and often it takes months or even years. During those valleys, God was always at our side, and we found comfort and strength in the fact that He knew the truth. God also searched our hearts to weed out any areas that we needed to work on. He has proven His faithfulness to be sovereign in our lives and in control of all of the hurtful situations we face. When we are able to see truth restored, we are always grateful and humbled, but we also know that restoration on this earth isn't always a reality.
Trusting God to restore us – whether on earth or in eternity – is a discipline of the heart. Do I believe that God is sovereign? Do I believe God has a plan for my life just like he did for Joseph? We must come before our Father with our pain, our fears and an open heart to rest in the words of 1 Peter 5:6 which says, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."
Those are powerful words, and the verses that follow can give us tremendous hope, direction and peace as well -
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen." (vs. 7-11)
May you too rest in the hope that the "God of all grace....[will] restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast!" May God give you peace to trust in Him as He brings to light the truth in His will and in His way. Amen.