Have you ever been in a situation where you just wanted circumstances to go a certain way? Or for a situation to be a certain way? Or for a person to act a certain way towards you?
I think on some level we all struggle with this, but I look at the story of Jacob with Leah and Rachel and I can’t even begin to imagine the pain she suffered in this relationship. Imagine having your father marry you off to a man who does not love you (and we know this still happens often), and then have your sister join the family just mere weeks later, the woman that he truly loves. How she could bear to share his bed is beyond me! I have a feeling my sister and I would have killed each other in a similar situation (no joke).
The Bible tells us that the Lord saw that she was hated. How his heart must have ached for her. All she wanted was to bear sons, hoping that would make Jacob love her, and the Lord fulfilled that request, knowing full well that it wouldn’t change anything. How long did this period of her life go for? She bore 4 sons for Jacob, hoping each time that his heart would be turned towards her. But this never happened.
Was she bitter? Was she angry? Was she tired and wishing for a way to end the relationship? Did she feel used and more like a servant than a wife: being used merely to fulfill selfish lusts while her sister enjoyed the love?
The Bible doesn’t record her emotions for us, but we can see from the above verses that she definitely wished for more. That there was probably a good amount of pity for herself being felt on a daily basis.
During four pregnancies she prayed for deliverance, prayed for love from a husband who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, give it to her. The first two times she prayed at their births “Surely the Lord hath heard…” and, “…the Lord hath heard that I was hated…;” and the hope that accompanied those prayers was that her husband would now love her. The third time, it was like she began to lose hope. She doesn’t mention the Lord and is almost begging, “Now this time will my husband be joined unto me.” Her heart is beginning to break under the strain of a relationship like this.
I don’t care what culture you live in, if you live in a home without love, you won’t be able to bear it for long. Women are emotional creatures and they need to feel the security that comes from being loved. I had a friend years ago who I shared an apartment with who struggled severely with being away from her family. After talking with them on the phone she would say that it had put a drop back in her “love bucket”. It was a joke between us, but in reality, it isn’t a joke. Our beings are made for love.
But can I tell you something? As much as we crave human companionship, there comes a place in our lives when we begin to understand that friends and family will fail us. Leah learned this lesson as her dad married her off to a man who didn’t love her to live with a sister who possibly hated her.
It was a prime example of someone being stuck in a place they didn’t want to be in, in a relationship that was completely unfulfilling, with people who didn’t want her around. Possibly even in an abusive relationship (when it came to her sister, Rachel).
And, Ladies, if you think children will fulfill you, take note of this story. Leah had 3 sons now and still struggled with feeling fulfilled.
But, THERE IS HOPE.
There is always hope in a desperate situation. That hope is Christ.
In the midst of her darkest moment, when hope failed her that she would ever know a husband’s love. God walked in. It brings tears to my eyes every time I read verse 35 of Genesis 29.
No, it doesn’t say that Jacob loved her after she bore a 4rth son. We don’t read that Rachel suddenly discovered sisterly affection. But she found love – in the arms of the One Who Never Fails.
Out of the pain of bearing a fourth child, she spoke these words with confidence and with an understanding that “there is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
Now will I praise the Lord…
Readers: my heart has broken over and over in recent days for friends and family that are struggling in hard situations. Some are facing marriages that aren’t what they “signed up for”; Some are struggling with financial problems that don’t seem to ever change; Some are struggling with failing family members – all situations (and others) that can seem dark and hopeless. It may seem like there is nothing to praise the Lord for. What do you have to be thankful for when the world seems to be crashing down around you?
Remember, praise isn’t just for the easy times. I heard a song recently where the chorus said something to this effect:
Because You are Able, Because You are Faithful, I will sing in the Valley as if I were on the Mountain!
I believe that this attitude of praise changed Leah’s entire outlook on life.
We are not always going to be “happy” people. We suffer grief and sorrow and I think it’s good to embrace those emotions from the Lord. But it’s not good to stay in those emotions. That’s when the “root of bitterness” can spring up in our hearts. Praise will pull it out. You can’t be bitter and thankful at the same time.
Leah learned this aspect of praise and it changed how she interacted with the people in her life. It changed her relationships, although probably not overnight. I would imagine it took years of careful cultivating before she saw any results from it. Paul wrote that he had “learned…to be content.” An attitude of praise will not happen overnight. It will take a lot of work and effort.
I’ve questioned recently, in my own life, how much more I could bear. Dealing with doctors appointments for two members of my family (one having many unanswered questions), wishing I could be there to support friends from away who were/are struggling with hard situations – and I knew the Lord was, and is, in control of it all, but I didn’t know how much more I could handle. I read something someone else had written about having faith, but that faith getting stretched thin – and that’s exactly how I felt. And then I remembered this passage.
I WANT to praise the Lord. And at times my whole being NEEDS to praise the Lord. Have you ever felt that?
There’s a beautiful ending to this story. We know Leah died and was buried. But did you know, at the end of Genesis, Jacob was buried beside Leah, not Rachel? It’s true. Somewhere, through the years, Jacob’s heart was turned to Leah’s, and in the end, he chose to be laid beside her, not his “favoured” wife. The Bible never tells us when that happened. It never records for us if she even knew before she died that there was even a possibility he loved her. But I think the lesson we can see from this is that when Leah changed her attitude, her living situation changed as well. Not that everything suddenly became roses and honey…but her attitude dictated her outlook on life. If she had become a bitter, old woman, would Jacob have grown to love her? I seriously doubt it.
This year as I work on cultivating a deeper prayer life, I have come to recognize that praise an integral part of that. You cannot have prayer without praise. And there are so many things I am thankful for today. Is every day a good day? Not hardly. It’s a process…I’m learning…and I’m sharing my learning process with you in the hopes that it may encourage you today in some small way.
Let’s work together on becoming a Leah this year and learn to Praise: Let’s Just Praise the Lord!