Have you ever typed something into Google that you hoped no one would ever see? I sure have. It feels safe to reveal our hearts in the questions we ask a search engine. You can’t raise your hand in small group and ask something like this: “What if I desperately want to be Rachel, not Leah?”
Yes, someone typed that into that blank white bar and found my website, specifically this original post on Rachel and Leah and beauty.
Now, I don’t want to leave this truth-seeker hanging, with only the answers from the last post. Her question is one that I, myself, would have typed into Google if we had had anything like Google when I was a younger person. (We didn’t. Accordingly, looking that sentence up in the card catalog would have been ineffective and just plain weird.)
When you really want to be physically beautiful.
This is a noble goal for most women in our culture. Beauty is valued above all else. If you look good, you are good. That’s what our media leads us to believe.
But then there’s Leah in the Bible. Poor, dim-eyed Leah.
Genesis 29 tells us her story. God’s word actually juxtaposes her looks to those of Rachel, her younger sister, who was beautiful in form and face.
Rachel was hot. Leah was not. The Bible tells us so.
Yikes. Isn’t it kind of rude for God to say that about Leah?
I sure thought it was. And, then to compare her looks to those of her sister? Is there anything worse that could happen to a woman.
Oh, yes, yes there is. It happened to Leah.
Her daddy decided to trick the man who was in love with Rachel into marrying her. It’s bad enough that her father felt he had to fool a man into marrying her. But, couldn’t he have chosen a man other than the one who spent all day ogling her sister? Why that guy? Doesn’t that make the sting of rejection even worse?
Leah. Poor, Leah.
In some ways my heart breaks for her. Who would want to be Leah in this epic of sister bride versus sister bride? Anyone want to sign up for that? Me neither.
But the story of Rachel and Leah shows us a beauty that is less obvious but more meaningful than Rachel’s physical appearance. The story of these two sisters reveals a great truth about beauty and body image that we often overlook.
That is: What we look like doesn’t matter nearly as much as we believe it does.
Now, I know that’s kind of hard to swallow. But, bear with me for just a second.
What if the beauty of Leah’s story foreshadows the story of another to come: Jesus?
Scripture tells us that Jesus was nothing to look at. He was a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:2-3). Sounds a bit like Leah, right? Scripture doesn’t give us great detail on how she felt growing up, but we can see through the end of Genesis 29 that Leah desperately hoped bearing children would garner her better standing with her husband. Here’s what she says when she has her first child, Reuben.
“Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.”
But, apparently, having one baby boy didn’t change much. So, Leah tries again. And bears another son, named Simeon. (Gen 29:33) And the scripture records her response:
“Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.”
Third times a charm, right? Another son (Levi) will certainly give Leah the love she craves. (verse 34)
“Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”
Alas, nothing poor Leah could do would win her the heart of Jacob. See what she says when she bears a fourth son, Judah. (verse 35)
“This time I will praise the LORD.”
I’m not sure what your struggle is.
Maybe it’s its the mirror or with that stubborn twenty/thirty/fifty pounds you keep gaining and losing. Or, maybe it’s in your marriage: You, like Leah, desperately want the attention and love of your man–yet he seems distracted and distant.
It’s kinda nice to know that Leah experienced the same thing. But, what’s even more reassuring is that Jesus did too. He wasn’t just misunderstood and ignored, he was despised and rejected.
Ouch! Let those words sink in. Despised and rejected? It’s one thing to not feel like others care to make a fuss over you, it’s quite another to be despised.
The beauty of the story of Leah is that we can get a clearer picture of how God works. It’s not in the ways we’d expect. Rather, he uses the broken, the banged-up, the dim-eyed, and the hurting to accomplish his purposes here on earth. And, lest you think Leah was the only sister struggling, I’d encourage you to read Genesis 30. Beauty didn’t make Rachel’s life a bag of Hershey’s Kisses either.
Does God Know What He’s Doing?
I wonder if our struggles with beauty and wanting to be a Rachel in our story instead of a Leah uncover a deeper struggle. The same struggle that Adam and Eve faced, the same struggle that got Satan kicked right out of heaven. That is: Does God know what he’s doing? Does he really want what’s best for us?
Like Eve, we’re tempted to want to know the whole story–the truth about what’s good and what’s evil. Little did Even know that through partaking of the fruit, she’d experience things like shame, guilt, and sorrow–all feelings that tax the human soul. And now, thousands of years later, her daughters face the same sin of wanting to know what God knows. Interestingly enough, it often results in the same outcome: shame, guilt, and sorrow.
We don’t know why God made some women physically beautiful, while others were born with physical deformities. We can’t control our culture that tells us 5’10” weighing 100 pounds with 2% body fat is perfection. But, we can control how we respond.
What if we determined to just trust God with how he made us? Or, what if we could, like Leah, stop trying to do things to win the love and approval of others and instead, start everyday with a “Now I will praise the Lord.”?
Could it be that God has a tremendous plan for our lives that doesn’t require us to have thin thighs or great shoulders or even flat abs? What if God needs willing temples more than he needs physically beautiful ones?
In case you don’t know the whole story, that fourth son, Judah, is a great-grandfather of Jesus Christ. Yes, Leah is in the lineage of Jesus–not her sister Rachel. God had great purpose for her life. Leah’s dim eyes and “uglier than my sister” status didn’t stop him from accomplishing them.
I wonder what he has planned for you?
I am a guy who is struggling with body image it’s not just women to
I’m so sorry, JJ! Yes, I absolutely know that men struggle with this too. I wish I had a great site to send you to that speaks more directly to men. Alas, if you can get through the female pronouns–I’ve had several men tell me they found my book, Compared to Who? helpful. Praying you can find your path to freedom from the bondage that is body image struggles!
This is oh so good! Thank you for addressing the Rachel and Leah story more than once!