“And Bilhah Rachel’s maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son. And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.” – Genesis 3:7-8
“The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” – Psalm 16:5-6
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” – Hebrews 13:5
As the oldest of three sisters (with one crazy brother thrown in for good measure), I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Leah and Rachel. As a teenager, boys never noticed me, but my younger sister never had that problem. And in my mind, I felt somehow cheated and struggling to catch up. It took me a long time to find the joy in God’s plan for me, and now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I hate to say it, but it’s a very real aspect of the sin nature in women to envy one another, and it doesn’t go away after high school. It’s a fool’s game to look for comfort in comparison – wanting what she has, instead of counting our own blessings – and it’s a surefire formula for failure.
In their defense, Leah and Rachel were undeniably set up for failure by their less-than-lovable father, Laban, in Genesis 29. Jacob thought he was a pretty clever schemer, until he met Uncle Laban, who used a wedding night bait-and-switch to scam an additional 7 years of free labor out of his nephew. Jacob was stuck with Leah, but Jacob was still stuck on Rachel (Genesis 29:21-29).
Once Jacob had married them both, a crazy childbearing contest would ensue, with God Himself tipping the scales in poor, unloved Leah’s direction (Genesis 29:30-31). Desperate to outdo each other, they even pulled their handmaids into the fray, offering them to Jacob as a way of upping their count of baby boys (Genesis 30:1-5, 9-13).
If you listen closely to the naming of Jacob’s sons, each boy’s name is like a well-aimed shot at the other sister (Genesis 29:32-35, 30:6-13, 17-24). It’s a sad, sick competition, and in the end, nobody wins (Job 5:2, Proverbs 14:30, Philippians 4:11-13). Rachel dies birthing Jacob’s last son, Benjamin, and although she bears more sons than her sister, Leah never wins Jacob’s love.
We shake our heads at the immaturity of Leah and Rachel, but we can be just as foolish. We tell ourselves that we’ve been through more, lost more, and have been cheated out of more than others. And we deny that we’re holding on to more, refusing to forget “what is behind”. Instead of laying aside every weight, we drag it all around with us like a ball and chain (II Corinthians 5:17, Philippians 3:13-14, Hebrews 12:1-3). And we envy those who have simply made peace with God’s plan for their lives (John 16:33).
The enemy may tell you that you want “what she has”, but I’ll tell you what she has. She has every bit as much pain and sorrow and disappointment as you. It may not take the same form as yours. She may not wear it the same way or speak of it often, but her struggles, her longings, her regrets, and her empty places are no less pronounced. In the flesh, we all have our discontent, and the only Giver of contentment is Christ (Psalm 73:25-26, Isaiah 26:3, Philippians 4:11-13, I Timothy 6:6-8).
Self-pity, anger with God, and wounded pride are snares that Satan lays out for all of us at one time or another. Those who avoid the traps are those who have set the Lord always before them (Psalm 16:8, Isaiah 26:3, Matthew 7:24-25). He is the Sovereign Truth that transcends all of our unsatisfied questions, all of our unfulfilled desires, and our flawed, human sense of fairness.
And if the object of your envy doesn’t know Christ, then you are jealous of an illusion, a fragile facade of contentment. What she has doesn’t matter (Proverbs 3:31-32, I John 2:15). What she needs is your prayer (Job 42:10, Matthew 5:44-46, Galatians 6:2, I Timothy 2:1-4, Titus 3:3-6).
You may not have everything you want, but you have more than you know in Christ (Isaiah 54:4-8, Jeremiah 31:3, I John 4:19). Trust Him. Know that He is greater than all you’ve lost or could ever hope to gain, and make your peace with His plan.
If you’ve been struggling with a sense of unfairness, take it to the cross. Confess those feelings to God, and ask Him to release you from the trap of envy and covetousness. You have more than you know in Christ.