Never give up
Never give up
The tide is high, but I’m holding on
I’m gonna be your number one
I’m not the kind of girl who gives up just like that
Oh, no

It’s not the things you do that tease and hurt me bad
But it’s the way you do the things you do to me
I’m not the kind of girl who gives up just like that
Oh, no

The tide is high, but I’m holding on
I’m gonna be your number one
The tide is high, but I’m holding on
I’m gonna be your number one
Number one
Number one

Every girl wants you to be her man
But I’ll wait right here ’til it’s my turn
I’m not the kind of girl who gives up just like that
Oh, no

The tide is high, but I’m holding on
I’m gonna be your number one
The tide is high, but I’m holding on
I’m gonna be your number one
Number one
Number one

Every time that I get the feeling
You give me something to believe in
Every time that I got you near me
I know the way that I want it to be
But you know, I’m gonna take my chance now
I’m gonna make it happen somehow

And you know I can take the pressure
A moment’s pain for a lifetime’s pleasure

-excerpt from “The Tide is High” (Atomic Kitten version)

If ever a girl aspired to be a man’s “number one”, it was Jacob’s first wife, Leah. But just like the song, she was up against a high tide – one terribly lopsided love. Still, her mantra was that of “never give up”, for she chased after her husband’s heart all her days. You know the lopsided love story of Jacob and Leah…

of how Jacob held a candle for Leah’s sister, Rachel. How Jacob made a deal with the sisters’ father for Rachel’s hand in marriage. How Laban pulled a bait and switch on Jacob, replacing Rachel with Leah on what was to have been Jacob and Rachel’s wedding night. How Jacob called Laban out on his deception, and demanded Rachel as his wife in addition to Leah, though Jacob had to strike another deal to do so. How Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, no matter how hard Leah tried to gain his approval. [Genesis 29FF] Yes, we all know this sad story of deception that led to an unrequited love between man and wife. What we may not know, is that Leah has given us a beautiful pattern of how to be an excellent wife to an unloving husband.

Are you in a marriage of lopsided love – are you living like Leah? As we enter into February, a month filled with heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and bouquets of flowers, I want us to remember the girl who loved so much…but was nobody’s valentine. Maybe you can relate to Leah; perhaps you know the pain of being rejected by the man you love. Then this message is for you. Today, we are going to see how Leah responded to her painful circumstance with dignity. If you are living like Leah, here are 9 things you need to proclaim in the midst of your lopsided love…

Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.” – Genesis 29:32

The name Reuben means: “behold a son!”. Leah’s unloved state was no secret in the family, least of all to her. Just the same, she held out hope that her husband would eventually love her. She assumed that bearing Jacob his first son would seal the deal. After all, wouldn’t the sexual encounter that produced Reuben have meant something to Jacob? Wouldn’t Leah’s submissive act of carrying her man’s seed in her womb show Jacob that she was a help meet to treasure? Sadly, their little boy did not stir up the emotions in Jacob that Leah hoped they would. Jacob still regarded her with indifference, if not downright contempt.

Even though Jacob didn’t love Leah, she loved him. This is truly key in learning to live like Leah. She was a woman who returned love for hate. Even when Leah’s hopes were dashed, her response toward her husband was noble. She didn’t get angry, she didn’t get ugly, she didn’t get even. What did she get? She got pregnant. Again. And then she said…

Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” So she named him Simeon. – Genesis 29:33

The name Simeon means: “heard”. Leah was no dummy…though she had hoped that Reuben’s birth would have made her husband love her, she was well aware that it hadn’t done the trick. Not one to accept defeat, she bore Jacob baby boy #2. She acknowledged that she was still unloved at the time of Simeon’s birth, but considered the baby a comfort from the Lord who was sensitive to her pain.

Even though Jacob still didn’t love Leah, she still loved him. She still glorified God in the midst of her pain and counted her blessings…Reuben and Simeon. She was a woman who looked for something to be thankful for in the midst of her bleak circumstances. She didn’t complain, she didn’t mope, she didn’t throw a pity party. She honored God and then she said…

She conceived again and bore a son and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore he was named Levi. – Genesis 29:34

The name Levi means: “joined to”. At this point of Leah’s life, she had learned to lower the bar of her expectations. Instead of expecting her husband to love her, she was willing to settle for him holding a fond place for her in his heart. Leah had accepted the fact that Jacob would probably never be head over heels for her like he was for Rachel, but she hoped that he could at least build some sort of bond with her. She would rather play second fiddle than not be in the band at all, and perhaps Levi was the ticket to building a closer bond with her guy.

Even though Jacob still didn’t love Leah, she still loved him. She still believed that an element of closeness was achievable in their marriage. She didn’t let her expectations rule her, but she adjusted them to fit a more realistic goal. She didn’t act entitled, she didn’t demand, she didn’t stamp her foot. She got a different perspective and then she said…

And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing. – Genesis 29:35

The name Judah means: “praised”. Leah realized that God was still acting on her behalf through her ongoing grief. When she looked in the faces of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and now baby Judah, she saw four undeniable blessings that God had mercifully given. Though Leah had not gained the love of her husband, she had gained the love of the boys she had carried for him. In moments of spiritual strength, it was enough.

Even though Jacob still didn’t love Leah, she still loved him. She shifted her thoughts off of herself and onto her God. She chose to focus on Him and praise Him without hope of any reward beyond that which she already possessed. She didn’t cry, she didn’t beg, she didn’t try to make a deal. She gave praises to God and put everything else on pause. But then her sister started a competition Leah couldn’t resist. Leah gave her handmaid to Jacob and then she said…

When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. Then Leah said, “How fortunate!” So she named him Gad. – Genesis 30:9

The name Gad means: “fortune”. After Rachel gave her handmaid to Jacob as a form of surrogate, Leah decided to do the same with her own handmaid. Even though Rachel’s handmaid had only borne two children to Jacob, and Leah still had the upper hand with four children, Leah wasn’t about to risk losing any potential headway she had gained toward Jacob’s heart. Perhaps as much as Jacob already loved Rachel, Leah feared that he would begin loving her even more now that they had adopted two kids together. This would mean even less of a chance that Leah could ever win her husband’s affections. Right or wrong, she decided to act. She jumped headlong into the handmaid races. When Zilpah gave birth to Gad, Leah considered it a fortunate thing. She reckoned herself back in the running to win Jacob’s love.

Even though Jacob still didn’t love Leah, she still loved him. She considered any opportunity to win her husband’s heart (no matter how foolhardy) a fortunate thing. While I don’t condone polygamy, I want to focus on this important principle: Leah was a woman who wasn’t afraid to think outside the box in her marriage. She was willing to go to extreme lengths to win her man, and that is a praiseworthy trait. She didn’t cash in her chips, she didn’t throw in the towel, she didn’t say “it’s not worth it anymore”. She stayed the course, and then she said…

Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. Then Leah said, “Happy am I! For women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher. – Genesis 30:12-13

The name Asher means: “happy one”. When Zilpah gave birth to another baby boy for Jacob and Leah’s side of the family, Leah was overcome with positive emotion. With six strapping boys in the family, Leah knew that she had something many women (her sister included) could only dream of. When she looked at her life objectively, she had to admit that her life was not devoid of happiness. Leah chose to have a spirit of optimism, and we find her yet again believing that good things could be in store for her. Asher gave her a renewed sense of hope and happiness.

Even though Jacob still didn’t love Leah, she still loved him. She was happy that six young men bearing her husband’s image called her “mother”. She took an outsider’s perspective of her life, and took comfort in knowing she was living someone’s dream, if not her own. No one would desire to be an unhappy wife, but many would desire to be a happy mother. This is what Leah chose to emphasize to others. She didn’t seek for attention, she didn’t ask for pity, she didn’t bemoan her situation to her “girlfriends”. She took an objective view of her situation, and then she said…

God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. Then Leah said, “God has given me my wages because I gave my maid to my husband.” So she named him Issachar – Genesis 30:17-18

The name Issachar means: “there is recompense”. Little Issachar came about nine months after Leah and Rachel’s famous dispute over mandrakes. These mandrakes were a gift to Leah from her eldest son, Reuben, and Rachel wanted them for herself. I am told that mandrakes were considered an effective fertility stimulant, so it’s no wonder that Rachel (who at the time had no children save those born from her handmaid) would want to get her hands on some. “Please give me your mandrakes!” Rachel begged…to which Leah curtly replied, “have you not already stolen my husband? Would you steal my mandrakes also?” Not one to take no for an answer, Rachel promised Leah that she could sleep with Jacob that night in return for the plant, and Leah snatched at this opportunity for a romantic evening. The deal was struck, and in my opinion, it was struck in Leah’s favor. I can’t help but think that Leah had a much better grasp on conception…sure, Rachel got the mandrakes, but Leah got the man! I daresay the latter is the far more effective fertility stimulant. Leah’s romantic evening resulted in baby boy #7.

Even though Jacob still didn’t love Leah, she still loved him. She believed that through Issachar’s birth, God was recompensing her for giving her handmaid to Jacob. It’s hard to understand a culture where this was considered acceptable, but the bottom line remains that Leah was always looking for ways to please her man and show her love towards him. She wanted to perpetuate her husband’s lineage no matter the cost, because she was a wife who truly honored her husband. Now Leah’s handmaid took a step back from conceiving, and Leah herself was back in the baby-making business. She didn’t give up, she didn’t back down, she didn’t lose hope. She graciously accepted another gift from God, and then she said…

Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob. Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun. – Genesis 30:19-20

The name Zebulun means: “exalted”. When young and hopeful Leah had Reuben, she was asking for her husband’s love. By the time she had Levi, she had lowered her expectation a tad and was simply asking for her husband’s affection. Now, older and wiser, she asked for the humblest of requests: only that her husband would dwell with her. She longed to be exalted from her humbled state…living in separate quarters from the one she loved. How many women who are unloved still yearn to dwell with their husbands? This isn’t an attitude one sees often. In fact, the opposite is more often the case. I see many a woman seeking to dwell away from her husband…divorcing and leaving him in a cloud of dust if he doesn’t “treat her right” or live up to her expectations. Not Leah…she never stopped yearning for her love to be by her side.

Even though Jacob still didn’t love Leah, she still loved him. She still believed that they could live together like a healthy, loving, couple. The years of rejection had not deterred her adamant desire toward her husband. She would prove she was the right girl for him if she could only get close enough for him to see her value and how much she adored him. She didn’t hide away in her tent, she didn’t threaten to leave, she didn’t take on a devil-may-care attitude. She made a humble request and then she said…

Afterward she bore a daughter and named her Dinah. – Genesis 30:21

The name Dinah means: “judgment”. As far as we know, this is Jacob and Leah’s last baby: their one little girl. Not much is said about Leah’s mindset at Dinah’s birth, but I believe that the meaning of Dinah’s name gives us a hint. The “judgment” spoken of here is a vindication…an acquittal. A setting to rights. Certainly, there were a great many things that needed to be set to rights in Leah’s lonely life. Would there be any comfort for her weary heart? Or would she who had loved so genuinely and so purely be cast aside and forgotten forever? She seemed to believe that God would come through for her in the end, but was this just a fool’s hope?

While the Bible never explicitly says that “Jacob finally fell in love with Leah and they lived happily ever after”, there is good reason to believe that he may have come to love her before he breathed his last. You probably know that Rachel, Leah’s rival sister, died in childbirth while travelling with the family to Bethlehem and was buried on the side of the road. Leah, on the other hand, was buried in the family tomb in the land of Canaan. On Jacob’s deathbed, he gives his sons orders on where to bury his body. He said…

…”I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site. There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah…” – Genesis 49:29b-31 [emphasis added]

Abraham and Sarah. Isaac and Rebekah. And Jacob and Leah…mentioned right alongside two of the Bible’s greatest power couples. Could it be that Jacob had grown to care for the wife of his youth? I surely would like to believe so. Symbolically speaking at the very least, Leah was to finally be by her husband’s side forever. Not the beautiful Rachel, but humble, tender-eyed Leah was given an honor at last…she was buried among the patriarchs. Beyond this, Jesus Christ, lion of the tribe of Judah, would come into the world through the bloodline of Jacob’s and her son. In the end, Leah was exalted by God in spite of her lopsided love story.

In conclusion…

Are you in a marriage of unrequited love? if you are, then I implore you to start ”living like Leah”…

  • Say ”Reuben”: seek for your husband’s love.
  • Say ”Simeon”: believe that God hears you in your distress.
  • Say ”Levi”: seek for your husband’s attachment.
  • Say ”Judah”: praise God no matter the circumstance.
  • Say ”Gad”: consider yourself fortunate for the blessings you do have.
  • Say ”Asher”: display happiness to those around you.
  • Say ”Issachar”: know that God will reward you for the goodness you have dealt your husband.
  • Say ”Zebulun”: seek to dwell with your husband, and remember that God will exalt you in due time.
  • Say ”Dinah”: surrender your situation to God, who will judge rightly.

“For the Lord has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,” says your God. – Isaiah 54:6

If you live like Leah, eventually one of two things will happen:

  1. You will win over your husband’s heart, or…
  2. By attempting to win over your husband’s heart, you will win over God’s heart. (Maybe even both!)

In lopsided love, be a Leah. Love your husband genuinely and unendingly. Choose this as your motto:

If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.

W.H. Auden

For God’s glory,
Mrs. Dustin Bolks

Chaste Bolks is a church of Christ preacher’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.