3 Things We Can Learn from Leah When We Feel Less-Than

In high school, I wanted to be a cheerleader. I wanted to be out on that field or court, shouting my head off, kicking my legs up, waving my arms in that sharp, synchronized fashion cheerleaders have. So, working up the courage, I tried out my junior year.

But I was neither pretty (my nickname back then was the four-eyed, buck-toothed beaver, if that gives you an idea). Nor was I popular. I was not—nor ever would be—of that privileged set of “in” girls.

Needless to say, I did not make the squad.

I then tried out for the cheer squad for the wrestling team and made it. I was finally a cheerleader, even if it was second best, less than what I really wanted.

In this way, I can relate to Leah in Genesis 29-31. Unlovely Leah. Leah with the “weak eyes.” She, too, was second-best…at least in her husband’s eyes.

When I look at Leah’s life, there are a number of lessons I learn that I can apply to my own life, which, I think, would surprise even Leah herself. While Leah likely did not have much regard for herself, she truly is an example to me—and to you—today. Here are 3 reasons why:

1. Leah teaches us that even though others may reject us, God never will.

Before we get to Leah, we need to begin with some backstory, because that sets the stage for what is to come.

In Genesis 29, we see that a weary male traveler has come to a deep well with a stone across it. This traveler had been on the road for months. He was foot-sore but hopeful, having come to Haran to find a wife from among his mother’s relatives. His name was Jacob.

While Jacob rested at this well, some shepherds were there waiting to water their flocks. Shortly, another shepherd came along, with his flocks. But, upon closer inspection, Jacob realized this was no shepherd at all, but a shepherdess. And she was lovely to behold, “beautiful in appearance and form” (v. 17). Jacob was instantly smitten.

Jacob could not believe his good fortune, either, when he learned that this woman, named Rachel (“ewe”), was family. His family! Rachel’s father, Jacob learned, was Laban, Jacob’s mother’s brother. Overcome with emotion and tears, Jacob gave his newfound cousin the familiar Middle Eastern greeting, a kiss. Rachel then fled to tell her father the news of the sudden appearance of Jacob. Jacob was invited to sojourn with Laban and was even given the task of co-shepherding Laban’s flocks with Rachel.

A month later, Laban offered to pay his nephew for his services and asked what Jacob’s price would be. Rachel for his wife, Jacob quickly answered. The bride price of seven years of service was then agreed upon.

Those seven years flew by as if they were just a few short days, such was Jacob’s love for Rachel. Finally, the wedding day came. After the day-long feast, the moment Jacob had long anticipated arrived: the time to truly make Rachel his own. Into his darkened tent he led his beautiful, veiled bride.

But come morning, Jacob got the shock of his life. It was weak-eyed Leah who lay beside him, not his lovely Rachel.

Jacob realized he had been duped, and he was furious. When he confronted Laban, he was told, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish [Leah’s] bridal week; then we will give you [Rachel] also, in return for another seven years of work” (vv. 26-27).

Jacob had no choice; he agreed. After six more agonizing days, Rachel finally became his cherished wife.

Within the span of a week, Jacob had two wives. But only one he really wanted. Only one he truly loved. Rachel.

While Jacob continued to perform his husbandly duties toward Leah, he resented this unattractive, unwanted wife. He did not love her. In fact, verse 31 says he “hated” her.

At this point in the story, my heart hurts for Leah. How painful and demoralizing it must have been to be rejected and be unloved by your own husband. Yet, we know that God did not hate Leah, nor did He reject her. God loved Leah and accepted her just as she was. Unconditionally. Weak eyes and all.

In fact, because of Jacob’s rejecting her, God took pity on Leah and opened her womb. She conceived a son, an heir, which, in that ancient culture, was extremely important. An heir meant the continuation of the family’s line and legacy. Leah rejoiced at the birth of this son, whom she named Reuben, because, she thought, “now my husband will love me” (v. 32).

Jacob did not.

Even after Leah bore Jacob three more sons—Simeon, Levi, and Judah—Jacob still could not find it in his heart to love Leah. Rachel held that honor. Always would.

Leah, in Jacob’s eyes, was second best. Always would be.

Rejection hurts, doesn’t it? No matter who it’s from—a husband, a child, a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker—no one likes to feel like they are not good enough, that they are less than.

Through Leah’s life, we learn that while others may reject us, even hate us, God does not. He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). He loves us unconditionally. Nor will He “leave us or forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5). God will never reject His beloved, redeemed children. Ever!

2. Leah teaches us that our worth is inherent; it does not need to be earned.

Remember Leah’s statement from above, “now my husband will love me”? This is very telling. She was so desperate to earn Jacob’s love, and she mistakenly believed it would come through childbearing. Children, she thought, will make Jacob notice me. Children will give me value in his eyes. Then he will transfer all of his affection from Rachel to me!

That did not happen.

And therein lies the problem. Like Leah, we too are prone to think—likely because of our culture or a dysfunctional upbringing—that people will value us because of the things we do (i.e., our careers, our ministries) or have (i.e. money and material possessions), or produce (good grades, skyrocketing sales, or, in Leah’s case, children).

That could not be further from the truth in God’s eyes. To Him, our worth is inherent. It simply exists as an attribute of our being. Even before we were born or had done a single thing our worth existed (Ephesians 1:4). Therefore, our worth is not based on our beauty or brains or brawn…or babies. We have worth just because we are created by God. Each and every person—regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity—is “fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are [His]works.”

Let your heart dwell on that fact today. And every day.

3. Leah teaches us that we need to be content in our circumstances, not grasping or competitive.

Further into the narrative of Leah’s story (Genesis 30:1-24), we find that she “ceased bearing.” For whatever reason, the Lord closed her womb after bearing four sons. It seemed that it was Rachel’s turn now. But because Rachel was barren (a travesty back then because it connoted God’s disfavor), Rachel offered her servant, Bilhah, to Jacob. In that culture, female servants acted as surrogate wives, but any children they bore belonged to the legitimate wife. Bilhah bore two sons through Jacob. Dan and Naphtali.

Enter Leah, now green with envy. She was not about to lose the advantage she had once had. So began the competition. She, likewise, offered her servant, Zilpah, to Jacob. Zilpah also bore two sons through Jacob. Gad and Asher.

Then, to up the score even further, Leah “purchased” a night with Jacob when Rachel asked for some of Leah’s son’s mandrakes (a plant believed to increase fertility). It worked. Leah conceived and bore her fifth son, Issachar. Then another son, Zebulun. Finally, her last child by Jacob was a daughter, Dinah.

In total, Leah produced eight sons for Jacob (two through Zilpah), whereas Rachel produced only four (two through Bilhah, but then Rachel eventually conceived and bore two sons herself, Joseph and Benjamin).

If we were keeping score based on births, Leah won. But did she really? Sadly, it wasn’t Leah’s looks that made her unattractive at this point, it was her grasping, competitive heart and attitude toward her sister.

When we measure ourselves or our circumstances with another person’s, the Bible says we are “without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12). Interestingly, in Greek, “understanding” translates as “realization.” In essence, when we compare, we lose sight of reality. We can’t see our own lives and circumstances correctly, as they really are. We see them through skewed lenses.

That’s why the comparison game is always—always—a losing game. No one wins. Except Satan, because, through comparison, he successfully steals our focus, our attention, our peace, our joy, and the “reality” of the many blessings God has already given us, and those He will give us in the future. And we certainly don’t want to miss out on those!

But we will if we continue to play the comparison game.

May I suggest three ways that can help us combat comparison?

3 Ways to Combat Comparison

1. Fix Our Eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2)

Jesus is the only person to whom we are to measure ourselves. He alone is our standard for life and godliness. We’re called to emulate His life (no one else’s) in the areas of humility, mercy, gentleness, compassion, love, joy, sacrifice, and so many others.

Also, Jesus is gracious and kind when it comes to our character flaws and sins. He is always forgiving of the repentant, whereas the world is not.

Furthermore, as the author and perfector of our faith, He is the one who will “perfect” us, not the world and its ever-changing, hypocritical standards (Philippians 1:6).

So, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, and never take them off.

2. Learn to Be Content (Philippians 4:12)

Leah was not content. She wanted more children, thinking they would earn her Jacob’s love and attention. We know it did not.

So, learn from that. Learn to be content with what you already have, because “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17). To compare (or complain) is to insult our gracious God.

3. Practice Thankfulness (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Give thanks for the way God made you, flaws and all. Yes, thank Him for even the “unlovely, weak” things about yourself. They, too, are gifts, for through your unloveliness and weaknesses, God’s grace and glory shine. So, say with the Apostle Paul, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Thank Him, as well, for everything He’s already given to you—family, friends, a job, food, clothing, shelter.

When you see realistically who you are and all that you have, you will then be able to understand just how truly blessed you are!

Denise is a former newspaper reporter and current freelance writer. She has been published in numerous online and print publications. She is also a former Women’s Bible Study teacher. Denise’s passion is to use her writing to bless, encourage, and inform others. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children (another has grown and flown). You can find Denise at denisekohlmeyer.com.