Coping with discouragement
Learning lessons from Leah
Leah is possibly the most despised and ignored woman in the study of the Scriptures and is overshadowed by the more well-known sister, Rachel. She had a hard and unenviable life but was wonderfully compensated by her place in the forebears of Jesus Himself.
It is in Genesis 29:16 where Leah is first mentioned. She and Rachel were sisters in Laban’s family. He was Isaac’s brother, and Isaac had instructed Jacob not to marry the local women but seek a wife from his own kindred. Thus, Jacob found his way to his uncle’s family, fell in love with Rachel and agreed to work seven years for her hand in marriage. However, Laban upholding ancient practises of marrying off the older sister first, gives Leah to Jacob on his wedding night. Wow! What a shock when he discovered the wrong sister! The story continues with him serving Laban a further seven years for his beloved Rachel.
Now let’s look at Leah more closely. The meaning of her name is unsure but most commentators favour “weak” or “weary”. This term can refer to her eyesight being poor or to the dullness of her eyes as opposed to Rachel’s brightness and beauty (Genesis 29:17). She was the older child of Laban, her mother is not mentioned, and they dwelled in Haran, Mesopotamia (modern day Syria and Iraq).
Imagine how Leah must have felt to be unloved. In keeping with the custom, Leah had a husband for one week before Rachel snatched Jacob away. We can only presume her feelings and thoughts and many can identify with being in an unloving relationship today.
However, God was aware of this unfortunate position, had compassion on Leah and rewarded her with children. The names Leah subsequently gave to her children showed she had faith, hope and trust in God. We can be assured God sees the suffering and heartache of His children.
After all, six sons Leah produced, (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun), she hoped Jacob would love her but to no avail. It is interesting to note the name “Judah” means “praise”. In her discouraged state Leah determined to praise the Lord (Genesis 29:35) and this very action lifted her spirits.
So, what can be learned from Leah?
1 Leah put her total faith in God and did not give in to the circumstances of life. She gave credit to God and thanked Him for his providence. When she felt alone and unloved, she prayed and trusted in God. She held on to hope and saw God was blessing her and in the course of time after Rachel had died, Jacob did indeed live with her.
2 Leah’s line was blessed, as indicated in the verse Ruth 4:11, and she with Rachel produced the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel and Judah’s line follows through to Jesus Himself (Matthew 1:1-17). God looks beyond human imperfections to bring about His plans and purposes.
3 She revealed piety and a sense of obligation to the Lord. Homely Leah was seen by God to be a better channel through which to work than her more worldly – minded sister, Rachel.
4 The woman lacking in loveliness remained loyal to her husband. God does not look on the outward appearance but sees the heart attitude. Behind many a plain or unusual appearance there can be a lovely disposition.
There is little more said of Leah and Genesis 49:31 it tells us she was buried in the Cave of Machpelah (also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs) along with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca.
Discouragement is not easy to bear and unless it is dealt with, it will be a never-ending downward spiral which can fester and boil beneath the surface of life hindering every step taken along the Christian pathway. Leah learned to praise the Lord despite her situation and to look forward in faith to the future (Philippians 4:6). It required determination and discipline to reach beyond the present and to press toward a glorious future in God (Philippians 3:14, Jeremiah 29:11).