Advent, Advent Devotional, Christmas, Promised Hope

First Doesn’t Always Win

GENESIS 29

Leah was Jacob’s first wife, not his first choice. Not the wife he wanted nor the wife he loved.

But…

“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.”

GENESIS 29:31

When God saw Leah, the unloved wife of Jacob, He was moved to compassion toward her. While her heart was broken, her womb would be full.

With her body swollen with life three times, she gave Jacob three sons. She hoped with each birth that she would win his heart as well. But Jacob’s heart was for another.

Ripe with life a fourth time, Jacob’s heart still knotted to Rachel’s, Leah praised the LORD.

“And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the LORD.”

GENESIS 29:35

And she named him Judah, which means praised.

Rejected and unloved, Leah lifted her hands and heart to praise the LORD. She surrendered to Him what she could not have. When she could not win the heart of her husband, she sought the heart of her God instead. A God who saw her. A God who knew her. A God who loved her.

Hope always sees.

The tension between the sisters escalated. Fueled by jealousy, the hostility grew. Insecurities and infertility. Heartache and longing. Desired desire. And no resolution came for the sister-wives. The family dripped dysfunction.

Life was still so hard outside the garden.

Leah gave Jacob six sons and one daughter. His beloved Rachel would later give Jacob his most favored son, Joseph.

But Leah gave him Judah.

REFLECTION

Can you imagine being passed off as a wife in a matrimonial sham, not even someone’s second choice? Bound to the terms of a marriage contract just the same. Forever trying to win a heart that belonged to another?

It’s the kind of dysfunction upon which soap operas thrive.

For years when I read this story, I saw Rachel as the victim; the cheated one. I’m embarrassed to admit that I never really saw Leah.

But Leah’s life was fashioned by her pain. Rejected and unloved, but used just the same.

Perhaps you have experienced the pain of rejection as well. Maybe you’ve felt second-choice or second-best, or simply not best enough.

Rejection stings so sharply it misshapes a heart. Only a perfect Love can reshape it.

Or perhaps you bear another kind of pain altogether. But pain by any name weighs heavy and dims the light of our souls. And Christmas, the season of joy, escapes us.

If you are hurting today, I wish you weren’t, and I am praying for you as my fingers find the keys. (Prayers are not bound by time; they do not expire! Maybe that’s why God too often seems slow in His answer.) God sees us in our pain, and He does not ask us for one minute to ignore it or pretend it isn’t real!

God saw Leah and was moved to compassion, and God sees you right now. He is not surprised by your circumstances. Yes. He sees you, my friend. And I am confident that His heart is moved by your pain.

When I am in a difficult season, it’s easier to wring my hands than lift them in praise. I prefer closing the curtains and locking the doors. To my house and my heart. So tempting to soak in a vat of pity.

But the shortest path to the heart of God is through lifted hearts and hands in praise. And believe me, in the heart of God is where you want to rest.

PRAYER

Father, I pray to have a heart willing to praise You in the middle of my pain. Lord, it is not easy for me. I usually pout in my pain. Cry out in my pain. I too often question You in my pain.

But I know, Lord, that when I surrender what I cannot have, You give me more than I could have imagined. May I always have a heart willing to offer You my most profound praise.

Lord, I ask that You make Yourself undeniably real. Right this moment. Father, comfort my hurting friends with Your presence so significantly that they cannot help but know You are with them. Amen.

WORSHIP

Praising the LORD during pain and suffering is the purest form of praise. The praise of greatest sacrifice.

To say to the LORD, “You are good when nothing else around me is. I trust that you see me, know me, and love me. I believe You have my best interest at heart.” That is worship.

One of my favorite hymns is It Is Well With My Soul. What unspeakable faith it took for Horatio Spafford to pen those lyrics after the drowning of his four daughters. What courage it takes to sing them. And believe them.

My favorite song borrowed from the original is Bethel Music’s It Is Well, written by Kristine Elizabeth Dimarco. I’ve linked the song below.

May the Spirit of the LORD enable you to sing with extraordinary faith. With hands lifted high, a heart postured toward Him who sees you, knows you, and loves you.

Right where you are! Lift your hands. Bend your knee. Let yourself give way to worship! Experience His presence. God with us. This is Christmas! Every day of the year!

It Is Well

If your joy is full and running deep this season, check on your friends who might be struggling. Call them. Make space for their pain. You don’t need to fix anything. Be present.

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