Jacob is a very well known Old Testament patriarch. He also has a beautiful love story. In Genesis 29 we read the story of Jacob wanting to marry Rachel, Laban's youngest daughter. Because Jacob loved her, he worked 7 years to be able to marry her. As the familiar story goes, Laban tricks Jacob and instead gives him Leah (the oldest daughter) to marry. Upon this realization, Jacob works another seven years to be able to finally wed Rachel. That's true love, people! Devotion at its finest for sure.
But in reading this familiar story, it's hard not to feel sorry for Leah. I mean really, how often do you think about Leah when you think about Jacob? It's not that often! Instead, we think of Jacob and Rachel, of the love that they shared, and the way he demonstrated that love to her children. So where does Leah come into that picture? Here's why I feel pretty bad for her:
1: Jacob didn't want her. Now this one is mostly Laban's fault, as he shouldn't have fooled Jacob into marrying Leah, but that's beside the point really. While I know that times were different then and that people didn't commonly marry for love, Jacob wanted to. And guess what? He didn't love Leah. So how would you feel knowing that your now husband not only doesn't love you, but loves your sister?? When I was in high school, one of the guys I was dating thought that my sister was the most gorgeous female on the planet. Even though this was just a high school puppy love type of thing, it still devastated me, because she was my sister. Maybe it's just a sister thing, but there is this jealousy/self-esteem weirdness involved and I just flat out feel sorry for Leah having to deal with that.
Not only that, but the Bible makes it seem like Leah wasn't as good as Rachel. When reading their first descriptions, the Bible says, "Now Laban had two daughters, the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah's eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance (Gen.29:16-17)." While I'm not 100% positive what the "delicate" or "soft" eyes comment means, from the "but Rachel was beautiful.." makes it seem like it was not a great quality to have. I imagine that Leah has felt inferior to her beautiful younger sister for her entire life, and now she's going to be subject to those feelings for the rest of her life. Don't you feel sorry for her?
2: Jacob loved Rachel's children more. So I don't have kids yet, but from what I can deduce, having kids is a game changer. Suddenly, you'd rather people hurt you than hurt your kids. You'd rather suffer or have less of something than to have your kids go through that. Now look at Leah: she's been the lesser of the two wives (and probably the lesser of the two sisters all her life!), and now her kids are the 'lesser' ones. Jacob shows favoritism to Rachel's kids in very obvious ways (see coat of many colors). All of the children can tell that their father loves his sons by Rachel more (see entire story of Joseph's life). How do you think this made Leah feel? Like I said, I feel pretty sorry for her.
But, when I read the story of Leah and Jacob and Rachel, if I will only step back, I can feel at ease with Leah's lot in life. If you've read the story of Esther, you see that God is directly involved, though not directly mentioned. I feel that it's the same in Leah's life. God is directly working in this story, but we don't always take the time to find out where. So that's what we'll do now.
1: God provided for and blessed Leah. While it's completely my own speculation, I feel that Leah (as normal women do) may have worried about getting married. Her physical limitations probably made her nervous that she may never be married, and if you didn't get married back then, it was a bad thing. But God took care of Leah. While the circumstances that led up to her marrying Jacob might not have been the best, and even though her situation throughout life might not have been ideal, God took care of her. He provided for her and met her needs.
Even though Jacob loved Rachel more, God opened Leah's womb. For the first time in Leah's life, she had the advantage over Rachel. No doubt this was God continuing to look out for her. He knew that Jacob loved Rachel more, so He gave her children that she could love and be loved by. And it wasn't just the children that she was getting to spend time with; obviously she was getting Jacob's attention and affection during this time. Sure, the situation still isn't ideal, but God was blessing Leah's life.
3: Leah's family endured. This is basically the end-all argument for feeling sorry for Leah. Now we know that once Rachel had Joseph and Benjamin all of the other kids were mostly forgotten, or at the very least neglected. I mean, they were so bitter that they tried to kill Joseph. But, while Jacob had always favored Rachel and then always favored her children, God favored Leah's child. Judah was the tribe that lasted; the tribe that Jesus would come from (Lion of Judah - Rev. 5). So Leah had it a little worse off than Rachel in this life, but her family's legacy would be the lasting one. It would be her lineage that would one day save the world. We can obviously draw from this that Leah trusted in God in her life. Just like God blessed Abraham, He blessed Leah. God takes care of those who trust in Him--even if there earthly life doesn't seem blessed (though there are always blessings from God).
I think we can learn a lot from Leah's situation. God is going to take care of you and me no matter our lot in life. No matter if the situations and circumstances are against us, God is going to be there for us, and He will never forsake us. If we're limited in this physical world--it doesn't matter, because God will provide for us eternally.
The more I think about it, the less I feel bad for Leah. God took care of her, and He promises to take care of those who are faithful to Him...which makes me realize I should probably never feel bad for myself, either.
And one more nugget of thought: don't let bitterness overtake you. It is so easy to become bitter because of what we go through in this sinful world. Choose to look on the bright side, and like we learn from the story of Leah, know that God will provide for you and take care of you. You will no doubt have many physical blessings while you're on earth, but even if you don't have any...God will bless you eternally: "Heaven will surely be worth it all."