Surviving Disgrace

Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” Genesis 30:22-23

To be barren in Rachel’s culture was to live as one scorned. Barrenness was believed to be a curse, and as one cursed, you were an embarrassment to your husband. This time of disgrace wasn’t a short season for Rachel. While she languished under her veil of shame, Leah, Jacob’s other wife, bore him six children. At one point Rachel turned to an aphrodisiac to boost fertility but that proved ineffective.

Why do seasons of shame and disgrace often span a decade or two? They don’t usually last a year. God appears to be out of the picture completely ignoring the oppressed. While none of us can know the full mind of God, the stories of those like Rachel, Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth give great clues as to God’s purposes. When a wilderness marks a large portion of someone’s life, is God in the process of redemption? The answer is always yes. For Rachel, I believe it was for her to know that God was her miracle worker, her provider. Had she easily born Jacob’s children, she wouldn’t have given a second thought to things like faith and prayer. When she finally did give birth to Joseph, she credited the Lord, not the power of the mandrakes.

I have known seasons of affliction. None of them were short. While precious spiritual things prevailed at the end, the beginnings and middle of these seasons were pretty ugly. I had no clue how to navigate the years.

You may be living in an atmosphere of disgrace. Perhaps you are not the child your parents wanted. Maybe you are not the wife your spouse thinks you should be. How do you survive?  Well, God wants to change the heart of your scorner, and he will if they are willing. Many, however, live and die without knowing how to love. Hear this, however! Your survival doesn’t depend on them. It depends on God.  Living in the shelter of His wings so that His whispers are palpable is the only security against the barrage of comments coming from the other side of the room. God is your Lover and Sustainer.

I lift each person who is reading this up to You as a small child. Break through the fog of pain to bathe them in Your presence. Amen

Desperation Is A Powerful Motivator

In the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” Genesis 30:14

Is there someone near you who has everything you want? You’ve kept your distance because being anywhere near them is too painful. Now, in what seems like a cruel joke, they’ve been blessed yet again with something that would be lifesaving to you but it’s in their hands, notyours. You consider what it might look like to swallow your pride enough to beg.

Such was the story of Leah and Rachel. Leah bore Jacob many sons. Rachel had none.  This was more than agonizing for her. To add fuel to the fire, Leah’s son came in from the field with mandrakes – a plant believed to have properties that cured barrenness. Rachel was willing to do anything at this point to have children – even if it meant asking Leah for her son’s mandrakes.

When I believe that my fate lies outside of God’s providence, I just may do the unthinkable.  I’ll assume a false posture of friendship to win over my enemy, the one whom I believe is the key to moving forward. If I ask this person outright for what they have, they probably won’t share but if I pretend to be their friend and come bearing compliments, they may succumb.

Maybe you are in a desperate place today because someone who has little heart for you possesses the very thing you need. If I’m in a situation similar to Rachel’s, what do I do?  This is when it’s time to rest in life-saving theology. 

  • It is not up to my ingenuity to secure my future.
  • The timing of my blessing and the length of my wilderness is in God’s trustworthy hands.
  • Internal blessings are always mine even though externals are temporarily non-existent.  

When another has what I think I need, I must remember that God has what I need. When He gives it, there will be a celebration of His glory. But, if I force someone else to give it by prying his hands open, the party is hollow.

I know, Lord, that the test of your character in me is what I will or won’t do when I’m desperate.  Your grace is powerful enough in those moments to hold me fast.  Amen

Expected To Do What You Can’t

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Genesis 30:1-2

Jacob was in a tough spot. Rachel, the one wife he loved most was barren while the other bore him three sons to win his favor. There was no part of this story that worked well for anyone, except for Laban who benefitted two decades from Jacob’s work.

Rachel pleaded with him to do something about her barrenness. “Give me children, or I shall die!” Is there anything more tormenting than to be expected to provide something when you it’s not in your power to do so? People often look to others to give what is only supernaturally possible. It happens every day. The one who feels the pressure to play God is the one who feels the most desperate.

For three decades, I was unaware that I had the freedom to say no to what was asked of me. As a performer, I agreed to do all that was expected.  A good bit of what was asked was voiced with no regard for what was appropriate for a teenager or young adult. Feeling like I had to say yes to prove myself, my self-talk sounded like this. “I have to do this ~ but I can’t! But I have to!” The torment escalated as the performance time approached. When my name was announced, I flipped a switch, went out, and just did it. In my thirties, I assessed the damage. If I had it to do over again, I would have learned my limits and then expressed them but that wasn’t modeled for me to have learned it organically. 

Are others looking to you to do what is humanly impossible? Oh, the freedom of setting limits.  Here’s what I’m learning.  Freedom from another’s demands requires a willingness to abdicate from playing the part of God.  Pride resists it.  Humility relinquishes it.

I have nothing to prove.  I am complete in You.  Amen

The Dangling Carrot

And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Genesis 29:32-34

Leah is in an arranged marriage and is desperate for love. She believes that if she does just the right things, her husband will love her. Every son that she delivers, she believes will earn her the affection she craves.

In this case however, Jacob never dangled the carrot of approval. He never said to her, “If you give me three sons, my heart is yours.” But many do make false promises and have no intention of keeping them. There is no hurt like the hurt that comes after broken promises. Yet, there’s something in us that keeps trying.

We all want unconditional love. We’re born that way. The only person who offers it without us having to do anything to earn it is God. But because we can’t see Him, and because we can see all the counterfeits that make us feel good, we’ll trade God in for something cheap.  Sometimes we’ll transfer all our needs to another human being, and sometimes, to a deeply fallen one who has a history of promising love that never materializes.  We’ll keep trying when we see this person loving someone else quite well. We believe that this love can also be ours.

Leah saw the light in Jacob’s eyes for Rachel. She saw the joy with which he labored for seven years without a thought for the sacrifice. She saw that he was a good man, an unselfish man, with a huge heart. It was natural for her to believe that she would earn the favor of a man like this.

Whose love are you trying to win today? How many years have you tirelessly performed, believing that there will be payoff? Whether the love you seek comes from a pretty good man like Jacob or a godless trickster, the likes of whom will break another’s heart easily, the lesson is the same. Unconditional love apart from God is an empty pursuit.

It is possible to love the one who has been an idol. Love will be expressed as an outpouring of the love you enjoy in God. The payoffs are these: 1.) You will know unconditional love and be at peace because of what God offers. And, 2.) You will no longer live handicapped because someone withholds what you believe you need to survive.

Wean me off any idolatrous relationship. Amen

Jesus Was Also Once Despised

When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Genesis 29:31

How Leah suffered when she was given to Jacob in marriage! She was allowed no vote in the decision. She was simply a pawn in her father’s greedy scheme. Yes, she got to become the wife to the husband her sister loved. That might seem like a victory but was it really? Think of the week of wedding feasts and festivities where everyone celebrated her marriage. Her husband was in mourning because he woke up to find her as his wife. To add to the agony, she would have to endure another week of wedding festivities when Jacob finally married Rachel and truly rejoiced. There will be no way to emotionally block out the memory of that future celebration.

 “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.” Acts 4:11 God sees the ones others despise and he exalts them. The verse for today says that God ‘saw’ that Leah was hated. The word for ‘saw’ is the same word Scripture often uses before God intervenes for the oppressed. He ‘saw’ His people just before He liberated them from slavery. And God blessed her. She gave birth to sons who would become the twelve tribes of Israel. And the most notable was Judah – whose greatest Son was Jesus Himself.

Are you the least in your family, among your siblings? Are you the least in the eyes of in-laws?  Perhaps the least remembered in your family’s inheritance?  You wonder who in the world celebrates you. You feel either tolerated or invisible? The idea that there could be joy is laughable ~ yet is that not the same ‘laugh’ that erupted out of Sarah after a lifetime of barrenness? God saw her, remembered her, and this divine affection made her heart burst with joy.

If every Leah will look up for her affection and blessing – she will know a joy that surpasses anything the people of this earth offers.

For everyone who needs to know they are beautiful to You, show them today, Lord.

When Something Feels Futile

And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Genesis 29:25-26

I don’t know if you have ever felt like Jacob or not. He fell in love with Rachel, asked her father Laban for her hand in marriage and was told that he could purchase her dowry for seven years of labor. There was no reason to doubt Laban’s word because he was extended family and sincerity was assumed.

Jacob worked willingly, and joyfully, as he anticipated the day he would marry Rachel. He expressed something quite stunning ~ when he said that the labor he would offer for seven years would be ‘as one day’ ~ so great was his love for his bride-to-be.  But then the plot took a sickening turn. Laban deceived Jacob. The wedding veil would not cover the face of Rachel but the face of her sister, Leah. He would be tricked, and seven years of his life would have been wasted. Could God be the redeemer of lost years? That seems to be the question.

Have you ever signed up for something that would be of great cost to you only to find out later that certain information was withheld from you? You realize, too late, that you would have made a different decision entirely. Some marry under false pretenses. Many others make business decisions under a shroud of deception and end up losing everything. Some bare their soul to a confidant and later uncovers that the information has been used against them. Each of these scenarios involves great losses, one of which is time.

Jacob was forty when he went on his journey to meet Rachel. Hardly a young groom. To lose seven years on top of that must have seemed depressing but there is no indication that he plummets into despair. He loves Rachel enough to jump into another seven years of labor for the joy of finally having her as his wife.

Hindsight into Jacob’s story offers us golden insight into the plans of God for people’s lives. His blessing for Jacob wasn’t thwarted in the least by Laban’s deception. When I’m the child of the great Redeemer, what seems to be lost years aren’t even a problem for God. When others sin against me and steal from me, it is spiritual futility to fall into bitterness. The energy and despair (and the strongholds that result from it) are really what’s wasted. Don’t I know the power of the One whose child I am? For three years, I despaired over 22 lost years, years I suffered under the deception of a ministry partner, only to discover that the years weren’t lost at all. They were teachers for the great redemption to come!

I’ve also learned that joy in You confounds and frustrates the one who sinned against me. Is there any greater victory and testimony? Amen