Praise Instead of Pain

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If Jacob thought that he had escaped the intrigue by running away from home and going to live with his relatives, he was sadly mistaken. The lies, manipulation and deceit continued in his uncle’s home. He worked for seven years in order to gain the hand of Laban’s daughter, Rachel, only to end up with Rachel’s older sister, Leah. Then he worked for another seven years to finally get Rachel. This story is recorded for us in Genesis 29.

But it is Leah that captured my attention this morning. Her father basically “sold” her into a loveless marriage. His excuse was that tradition dictated that the oldest daughter marry before the youngest, but it does sound like he bothered to find her a husband during the first seven years that Jacob spent working for Rachel’s hand.

In any case, we see the hand of God in all this mess. “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren” (Genesis 29:31). God gave her someone to love and someone who would return that love. Leah's mistake was to believe that producing sons would cause her husband to love her. “Surely my husband will love me now” (29:32). He didn’t—not even after the third son was born: “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons” (29:34). It was not until the fourth son was born that Leah was able to let go and praise God (29:35) though jealousy would continue to plague her for the rest of her days.

Back in Genesis, God pronounced this punishment on Eve for her sin, the consequences of which women have borne since that time: “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).

Women will even stay in abusive relationships because somehow they think that if they try harder to please their men things will change for the better. Usually it doesn't, and some women pay for that false hope with their lives, refusing to leave until it is too late. In the culture of Leah’s day, women had few choices. Leah was trapped in a loveless marriage. She couldn't disobey her father and she couldn't walk away from her husband. But emotionally and spiritually she had other choices. With the birth of her fourth son, she made one of those—she chose not to wallow in her grief and bitterness, and struggle to please a man who refused to be pleased. She chose to praise God instead.

In whatever difficult situation life finds us in, that’s a good lesson to learn. We may not be able to change the physical circumstances but we can choose our attitude toward those circumstances and the people involved in the situation. We can choose to let go of all the negatives and praise God instead.

Leah would not have known it then, but it was through this fourth son, Judah, that God would send His Messiah, Jesus Christ, into the world to redeem mankind, to deal with those consequences that had come with the punishment pronounced on Eve and her descendants. Her praise was well justified. So is ours.

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