By David Cannistraci

Once you experience the love of God, you’ll never feel unloved again.

They thought she was fast asleep, but Leah heard everything—Rachel’s flirtatious invitation, Jacob’s coy reply, and the hushed sounds of her husband stealing a moment of passion with his other wife.  The warm night air carried the unwanted report to Leah’s lonely tent.  Such news had the same effect each time it came, deflating her hope of ever being the cherished one.

Though Leah loved Jacob desperately, she felt completely invisible to him. Her desperation to attract her husband’s attention was so intense that it often blurred the line between real life and wishful thinking.  Had Jacob stolen a glance at me the other day?  Did he wink approvingly, or am I imagining it again? Leah’s heart ached to be desired by the only man she had ever loved.

The silent stars shone brightly above, but offered no hopeful signs to her famished heart. Her reality was cruel and unavoidable: As the older, less attractive of two sisters, Leah had been forced on Jacob by her father.  She was his first wife, but would never be his first love.  

How do you survive emotionally in a world where you know you’re unloved?  As a pastor, I’ve seen many women face this heartbreak. Some are wives who go to desperate ends to win the love of their indifferent husbands.  Others are single and feel invisible to men in the church.  They wonder what might happen if they relaxed their spiritual standards and got out more —would anyone notice them then?  

Many women deal with the devastating lie that they are unattractive and unwanted by building protective walls around their hearts.  They shield themselves with the busyness of a career, the refuge of perfectionism, or the comfort of some guilty self-indulgence.  When the isolation becomes too painful, they might resort to provoking a conflict with those they love, hoping to prompt a breakthrough.  Others may run away, praying to be pursued.  Nearly all struggle with sadness because their attempts to write a new life-script always wind down to the same tragic ending: They are alone, unseen, unloved.

The story of Jacob, Leah and Rachel is an inspiring chapter in the larger narrative of the Christian faith, but it also communicates a special message to women seeking emotional fulfillment:  A man can never fully satisfy a woman’s heart.  He is not meant to fulfill her deepest needs.  Only God sees a woman’s need, and only He can meet it.

Waking Up with Jacob

Laban’s awkward daughter grew up in the painful shadow of her younger sister Rachel, a stunning beauty with a stormy personality.  The Bible says “Leah’s eyes were weak and dull looking, but Rachel was beautiful and attractive” (Genesis 29:17, AMP).  It wasn’t easy being the plain one.  Everyone knows the world is nicer to pretty girls, and ugly ducklings aren’t crowned as prom queens.

Jacob had fallen for Rachel at first sight.  He never gave Leah a second look, but he was willing to work seven long years to seal a deal for Rachel.  When their wedding day finally came, Jacob was eager.  The ceremony was grand; the applause of family and friends delightful, and Rachel looked picture-perfect.  The couple would soon be alone.

Imagine Jacob’s alarm when it was the bridesmaid Leah, not his bride Rachel, who lay beside him in bed the next morning!  Laban had switched Leah for Rachel in the night, anxious that his homely daughter would never get a man otherwise.  Jacob erupted when he discovered the fraud.  He was now obligated to two wives: Rachel, who was attractive, and Leah who was not.  

At the core of every woman lies a desire to be loved and cherished.  She wants to feel beautiful to her husband; wanted and needed as an equal.  She needs to know that her heart is safe and that she will always be respected and desired above all.  

What must Leah have felt that morning as she overheard Jacob complaining to Laban: “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I?” (v. 25)   If Leah had ever hoped for love—if she had ever dared to think she could compete with her beautiful sister—her illusions were dashed that morning.  When Leah woke up with Jacob, she was also waking up to a world of hurt: she was an unwanted bride, trapped in a loveless marriage.

Catching the Eye of God

Leah’s first months as a newlywed were overshadowed by three emotional clouds: she felt unsightly, she felt unwanted and she felt unloved. But in her pain, she would encounter a ray of hope that would eclipse her years of rejection and fill her with new self-worth:  Leah discovered that she was attractive to God.

The Bible says, “Because Leah was unloved, the LORD let her have a child, while Rachel was childless.” (Genesis 29:31, NLT)It is one of the most striking ironies in all of Scripture: Rachel the beloved was barren, while Leah the unloved caught the eye of God and became fruitful.  The tables were turned, and in a culture where childbearing was the highest mark of divine approval, Leah was suddenly holding all the cards.  Though Leah had been undesirable to Jacob, she was irresistible to God.  

It’s not the admired or the beautiful that capture God’s heart.  God prizes the Leahs.  He favors the empty, not the self-satisfied.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

God has always been attracted to unloved, overlooked people.  He explained to Jacob’s descendants, "The LORD did not choose you and lavish his love on you because you were larger or greater than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! It was simply because the LORD loves you…” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8, NLT) 

He chooses those that others overlook.  Writing of the precious diversity in the Body of Christ, Paul reminds us that“…the parts that seem weakest and least important are really the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care…So God has put the body together in such a way that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.” (1 Corinthians 12:22-24, NLT).  As if to illustrate this truth, Scripture reveals that it was Judah, the fourth son of Jacob and Leah, whose tribe eventually produced a descendant named Jesus Christ.  Rachel was eventually able to give Jacob two sons, but The Desire of All Nations came from Leah, the least desired.  Christ was the stone which the builders rejected, but He has become the most important stone of all (Matthew 21:42). 

If you have ever questioned your value or beauty as a woman, you need to understand something.  In the eyes of God, you are more exquisite and rare than you can imagine.  You may have seen yourself as flawed, but God’s take on you is something entirely different.  Never forget that “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV) 

In His eyes, you are well worth pursuing.  He is chasing you, breaking through the walls that you have built to protect your heart.  His favor is overtaking you and healing your seasons of neglect, rejection and pain.  And whether you are in a loveless marriage or no marriage at all, your Creator is today your Husband (Isaiah 54:5).   His promise in the midst of your pain is “you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood…the Lord has called you back from your grief—as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband” (vv. 4-6, NLT).  You don’t need to catch the eye of a man—you’ve caught the eye of the King of Kings.

Learning to be Loved

Now it was Rachel’s turn outside the tent.  While she watched and wrestled with feeling second-best, Jacob and Leah began a family. Leah began to heal, and with each new child, her heart grew stronger. The progression of her children’s births reveals her journey as a woman learning to be loved by God.  As time passed, and each child was named, another step in Leah’s passage from pain to praise is revealed.

Leah named her first son Reuben—The Lord Sees—for she said, “The Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now” (Genesis 29:32). Leah knew she was not first in Jacob’s heart, but she was hopeful that Reuben’s birth would change things. 

Still looking for her husband’s love, she gave birth to Simeon—The Lord Hears— saying, “Because the Lord heard that I was not loved, he gave me this son” (v. 33).  She was still unfulfilled, but she had learned an important lesson: God’s goodness could address her feelings of rejection.  This was a major step toward wholeness.

She called her next son Levi—Connected—saying, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have born him three sons” (v. 34).  She longed for intimacy and was hungry to connect emotionally.  That need would soon be met in a surprising way.

Jacob’s affection for Leah may not have changed much, but something was changing in her.  She named her next son Judah, which means Praise, saying, “Now I will praise the Lord” (v. 35). With this fourth son, Leah was able to shift her perspective. Instead of looking for Jacob’s love, she learned to look to the One who always had loved her.  At that moment, praise was born.

Leah’s journey reveals that a woman must learn to let God love her.  She begins by believing the Lord sees my pain and the Lord hears my cry.  This kind offaith is the foundation of her healing.  Her next step is to redirect her need to connect with a man and bring it straight to God.  A woman’s heart is changed the moment she says, “Though I haven’t connected with Jacob, God is enough for me.”  When Christ truly becomes her everything—when He is all she needs—her heart is finally filled, and she begins to birth to true praise.  

Leah’s entire way of thinking changed.  She moved from the vulnerability and misery of “I am unloved and unwanted” to the joy of “I am beautiful to God.”  Her focus shifted from what she lacked in life to what she possessed in God.  Her shame and pain lifted instantly.  Sorrow and abandonment became fading memories. 

Leah had looked to a man for validation. It never came.  If it had, she might never have recognized that God’s approval was all she needed.  When a woman places a man at the center of her life, she cannot avoid misery and disappointment. But when she learns to give her heart completely to the Lord, she becomes fruitful and enters into a life of complete satisfaction.  

If you’ve become tired of waiting for Jacob’s love, why not embrace God’s love and find your place of praise and healing?  No one can care for you like Him. He satisfies the deepest need. He heals the wounded heart and teaches it to be loved.  If you’ve been feeling like Leah waking up with Jacob, it’s time to hear that you are attractive to God.  When you learn to let Him love you, you’ll never feel unloved again.