We don’t always like to admit it, but we’ve all been there: you don’t get what you want, and someone else does. As much as we may think we feel genuinely happy for our friends when they get that promotion/boyfriend/baby/dream house, the cold fingers of jealousy and envy can poke into our hearts with disturbing force.
The Old Testament is full of stories of people fighting through everyday life’s ups and downs. Through these stories we can learn a great deal about God’s heart and how much he cares about our daily pain and struggles. The story of Leah in Genesis 29-30 teaches us that we can’t defeat jealousy and envy unless we deal with the disappointment and pain underneath it, and that only God has the power to take away that pain.
Deal with Disappointment
There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face. 18 Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”
I don’t know about you, but I would rather be the Rachel in this story; she’s beautiful and she got the guy. But on a daily basis I think we usually feel a little more like Leah – not quite good enough. The meaning of the phrase “no sparkle” is uncertain but some Bible translators think it was a nice way of saying Leah was not that attractive. Leah was overlooked and overshadowed.
Have you ever felt that way before? At work? In your friendships? With your siblings? How do you respond to those feelings?
Disappointment can lead to a lot of insecurity and negative thoughts about ourselves. Before we defeat jealousy and envy, we have to admit to ourselves and God the negative insecure thoughts that can lead us to desire what other people have.
Deal with your Real Desires
Eventually Leah’s father tricked Jacob into marrying Leah, and then eventually taking Rachel as another wife. Though he married both women, he made it clear he loved Rachel more than Leah. Left feeling unloved, Leah searched for affection and security in having children:
When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he enabled her to have children, but Rachel could not conceive. So Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “The Lord has noticed my misery, and now my husband will love me.” She soon became pregnant again and gave birth to another son. She named him Simeon, for she said, “The Lord heard that I was unloved and has given me another son.”
Leah was gripped with a desire for affection and tried to get it from her husband and having children. Each time she hoped she would finally get what she was searching for, but to no avail. Finally, in verse 35, she stops mentioning her husband and focuses on God, and she is freed up from her constant search for love and security.
Leah had to deal with her real desires and had to learn that only God could give her what no person truly could. Her insatiable desire was actually for unfailing love, which she thought she could get from having a husband and children. While marriage and family are great things, scriptures teach that there is a place in our hearts that only God can fill. This is empowering because no matter how people may treat us or what things we may not have in life, we can always be satisfied and confident if we are friends with God.
Leah had to deal with her real desires and look to God to fulfill them. He gives us the security that even a person with the best intentions may not be able to provide; he never leaves, he never fails, he never rejects.
What are some things you turn to to fulfill your desire for security and affection? How could God be a more stable source of love and affection than any of those things?
Deal with Your Feelings Toward God
When Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She pleaded with Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” Then Jacob became furious with Rachel. “Am I God?” he asked. “He’s the one who has kept you from having children!” Then Rachel told him, “Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me,and through her I can have a family, too.” So Rachel gave her servant, Bilhah, to Jacob as a wife, and he slept with her.
Ultimately jealousy and envy are rooted in how we feel toward God, and have little to do with the people around us. When we don’t believe or trust that God cares about us and will give us what we need, we will be constantly unhappy, afraid, and taking matters into our own hands. Rachel did this when she gave her maid to her husband out of desperation for a child.
Are there any areas of your life, dating, career, or family that you have taken into your own hands instead of trusting God?
Sometimes Rachel and Leah didn’t get what they wanted exactly when they wanted it, but God always cared and remembered them:
Then God remembered Rachel’s plight and answered her prayers by enabling her to have children. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. “God has removed my disgrace,” she said. And she named him Joseph, for she said, “May the Lord add yet another son to my family.”
Rachel overcame her jealousy and envy when she focused more on God than herself and her husband and realized God cared for her.
In what areas of your life do you need to resolve feelings of mistrust or unbelief towards God? What areas do you need help and encouragement believing that God cares and will take care of your future?
Dealing with our disappointment, our real desires, and our feelings toward God will ultimately help us defeat jealousy and envy and trust God’s plan for our lives and futures.