Living with rejection
Why we don’t have to live with rejection – a lesson from Leah
By Sheila Jacobs
Rejection – I guess we’ve all been there… The feeling of our self-esteem crashing to the ground; not being ‘good enough’, however hard we try; perhaps being replaced by ‘A N Other’. Rejection is something we have all had to deal with in one form or another. Maybe it stems from childhood; maybe from a relationship that went bad, or at least, did not turn out as we had hoped. But one thing we can be sure of. When we come to him, Jesus will not reject us.
There’s a story in the Bible about a man called Jacob. He falls in love with a beautiful young girl called Rachel. He comes to an agreement with her father, Laban, so that he will work for seven years for her hand in marriage. Because he loves her so much, the time flies and soon the seven years are up. But after the wedding, instead of Rachel, Jacob wakes up to find himself with Leah – Rachel’s older and more unattractive sister.
It’s worth reading through this whole rather sad story – you can find it in the book of Genesis. Of course, Laban gives Rachel to Jacob as well, in return for another seven years’ service, but the deception causes much misery in this household of one man and two competing sisters who are his wives. He clearly loves Rachel ‘more than Leah’ (Genesis 29:30); Leah ‘was not loved’ (verse 31). Seeing this, the Lord blesses her with the ability to conceive, but it seems that as she bore each of her first three sons, she was desperate to gain her husband’s love; for example: ‘Surely my husband will love me now (verse 32); ‘Now at last my husband will become attached to me’ (verse 34). However, after the fourth – a son she would call Judah, which means ‘praise’ – her view changed and she praised the Lord.
The story goes on with the barren Rachel becoming jealous of her sister, and then both women vying for supremacy by giving Jacob their maidservants to sleep with. He didn’t say no…
In the end, God blessed Rachel and she had two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Sadly, she died giving birth to the younger son.
So Leah outlived Rachel, but I wonder if she was truly ever happy. Interestingly, Jacob highly favours the sons of his beloved Rachel in later life; Joseph, you may remember, was the one who had the coat of many colours. But also interestingly, Rachel is buried by the roadside – Leah finishes up in the family tomb. Talking about this place, Jacob says: ‘There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah’ (Genesis 49:31). (It seems he cannot allude to her here as his ‘wife’, which seems odd.) In a way it seems that God compensated Leah – it was her son Judah who was the ancestor of Jesus, not Benjamin or Joseph.
Not a ‘Laban father’
Think for a moment, though, about Leah’s anguish. I am not sure what kind of a father could think of giving his eldest daughter to a man who clearly did not want her. She must have known this; but she seems to believe she can win his love. And what about Rachel? How must she have felt in all of this, having to share her soul-mate with her sister?
Really, this is a story of what our lives can be like when we seek to work relationships out for ourselves. We may struggle and stress about ‘Mr or Miss Right’. We can all be like Leah – male or female. We can find ourselves in a relationship which is simply not from God. God is a good Father; he is not a ‘Laban father’. As a woman, if you are praying for a husband, remember the man from God for you will not be a man you have to compete ‘to get’; you will not have to work hard to attain his favour. There need be no jealousy. God will hardly give his beloved daughter to someone who will not love her. That is why we need to seek God and trust him to bring the right person into our lives. If we find ourselves struggling to make someone love us, I think we have to ask whether or not God is really in it. If we feel we are not good enough, or are trying to change ourselves to get someone to accept us, we need to take a step back and truly pray: Is this what you want, Jesus, or is it what I want? What I want is not always helpful or right. Feelings can lie. God does not.
Likewise, for men: The lady you are currently seeing… is it fitting together, or is it a struggle? Are you having to prove yourself, or trying too hard to win her love? Or perhaps you have a Leah in your life. Someone who loves you, but you know in your heart she isn’t your ‘Rachel’. If you aren’t married, for her sake, let her go and find someone who will love her as she deserves to be loved. Don’t let her suffer years of trying and getting nowhere.
Leah, of course, probably had no choice in the matter. We do. If we are women involved with a man we know is not ‘Mr Right’ but someone we are seeing until ‘Mr Right’ turns up, then as friends, this may be OK. But in my opinion, men and women are rarely able to be good friends unless one or other party is romantically attracted in some way. Let’s be careful not to break anyone’s heart on our journey to find the right one.
Loved and valued
Rejection is a horrible thing to have to live with. But we don’t have to. What do I mean by that? We can choose. If we know Christ, we have the ability in the power of the Spirit to live above our circumstances and to choose to see ourselves as Jesus sees us; and to live as he wants us to live.
If you are currently seeing someone – or have been involved with someone – and are feeling rejected in any sense, find some time alone with God. Really get into the Gospels and see the love of Jesus for individuals. He met people where they were. No one who came to him was ever turned away. He loves us. He died for us. He wants the best for us. He isn’t into second best; but he is into second chances. He is a good God.
Ground yourself securely in who you are in Jesus. Read the first few chapters of Ephesians, and know that you are lavishly loved and accepted. If you are in a relationship that is going nowhere, either because you are trying desperately to get love, or someone is loving you that you know is not the one you ultimately wish to marry, then ask the Holy Spirit to intervene; to cut off any tie that is not of God; to set you free. And thereby set the other person free too.
If we are earnest about finding the right person to spend the rest of our lives with, let’s make sure it is God’s choice. And if we have to wait a while, then God has other plans for us in the meantime. Let’s use this time to get closer to Jesus, and serve him, as we fix our eyes on him and accomplish the Great Commission he has given us; let’s lead people to Jesus, baptise them, make disciples of them, heal the sick and cast out the darkness. Let’s be people of God, living in reverent awe of the one who made us; getting a right view of him who loves us and redeemed us at such a great cost; how can we feel rejected when we are so loved and valued?
One last thing. Once you know you are accepted, not rejected, and are looking forward to the good things that your Father God has planned for you – put aside any bitterness. If you’ve been rejected in the past, forgive and move on. Forgiveness is for our own sakes; not forgiving locks us into the past with whatever and whoever hurt us. We can’t move on when we’re looking back; we hurt ourselves, not them, if we won’t forgive. Tell Jesus about it and ask the Spirit to enable you to let go. If you need to, ask a trusted Christian friend or minister to pray with you. Unforgiveness blocks our relationship with God. If you want Jesus and you want his best, leave old hurts with him and replace them with the loving thoughts your Saviour has for you. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then move forward, boldly, into your future.
Sheila Jacobs © 2016
Sheila Jacobs is a freelance writer and editor, speaker, and award-winning author. Single, she lives in rural north Essex, and is currently serving as a deacon in her church, Elim Braintree.