We meet Leah in Genesis 29-31. She was the older sister of Rachel and the first wife of Jacob whose name was later changed to Israel. Jacob fell in love with Rachel and promised to work for their father for seven years in return for Rachel’s hand in marriage, only to find that his father gave him Leah as a wife. Jacob was then willing to work another seven years to marry Rachel who was considered more beautiful than Leah (Genesis 29:17), and Leah tirelessly sought after her husband’s affection. She centered her life around gaining her husband’s love, but she was never able to obtain it.
There was constant competition between Leah and Rachel. Leah knew that Jacob loved Rachel more than he loved her, and she strived to earn his love. She believed that if she had enough children with him, Jacob would grow to love and honor her (Genesis 29:32-34). After each child was born, she became hopeful that Jacob would grow to love her more.
In Genesis 29:35, she seemed to shift her focus, as her response to having a fourth son was to praise the Lord. After the birth of her previous children, she had remarked that she might earn her husband’s love, but she seemed to move her focus to the Lord and His blessing in her response to a fourth child.
However, it was not long before she was back to trying to earn her husband’s love through children. When she stopped having children after her fourth son, she saw that Rachel had given her servant Bilhah to Jacob as a wife, and they had a son who Rachel considered to be her own. Leah continued the competition with her sister and gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob as a wife so that they could have children who Leah could call her own. Leah was ecstatic that Zilpah had two sons with Jacob, and she considered herself lucky.
Leah later exchanged some her son’s mandrakes to be able to sleep with Jacob. She was only willing to share with Rachel when she was offered the night with Jacob. Leah had spent time in prayer that she would have more children, and God heard her prayer. She continued to believe that having children would earn her husband’s love (Genesis 30:20), even though Jacob still loved Rachel more after Leah had children and Rachel did not.
Leah never gained what she spent her life seeking. She spent her marriage longing to be loved by her husband, but she could not make him love her. It must have been an emotional rollercoaster to keep having his children, only to find that he still loved her sister more than her. She continued in prayer, and she was willing to follow her husband when he decided to leave her father’s land (Genesis 31:14-15). She spent her life longing for love that she never had.
It’s hard to blame Leah for wanting to be loved by her husband. She never gave up on earning his love. He could not fulfill her longing for affection, even though she spent her life trying to gain it from him. She could not control him or his feelings toward her. She could only control herself and her motives.
How often do we waste our emotions, trying to earn the love and approval of people who can never give us what we truly yearn for? Only Christ can fulfill our deepest longings for affection, even when those closest to us fail. We can’t make people like us, and we can’t force them to affirm our decisions. However, God loves us whether we ask for it or not. It is better to spend our lives trying to please Him than to chase after approval in places where we will never find it.