Have you ever read a story of a woman in the Bible and thought, “I can relate to this” or, more importantly, “I would have done the same thing”? Well, stories of Abigail, Deborah, Ruth, Hadassah and many more come to mind when I think of bravery, and I think, often, we relate to some parts and learn from the rest of the stories, but I'm not sure that we can say we would have done the same.
I remember a time in my life when I felt ineffective, unseen, and not understood. I felt justified to dislike the environment we were in, and I remember, clearly, the Holy Spirit said to me to watch what my husband did for the next month, and then do the same. It seemed easy because I knew he felt the way I felt and that he understood what I was experiencing. I watched, without fail, for a month, without telling him that I was observing his every move. When I told him about it afterwards, we were both encouraged and emotional about it. I shared how I saw him choose, daily, to love people and the environment we were in, without fail. Even though he was hoping for better, he still gave it everything, all the time. I felt seen by God, and my husband felt encouraged and strengthened to keep going. It was a tough season for us, but one I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world: we learnt how to earnestly seek and trust God. That season ended well; the people and the environment changed because God brought healing. I learnt that courage is not doing right when people see or a once-off event, but a constant choice made, even when it seems impossible or unappreciated.
I was reading the story of Rachel, Leah, and Jacob, and though I have read the story many times before, while I was reading it, my heart felt heavy for Leah, because I could relate to her in so many ways. Leah was the first wife to Jacob, and this was not because he loved her so much that he worked seven years for her, but because he was tricked into marrying her by her father (Genesis 29:25). Jacob was not happy at all when he realized what had happened, so he worked another seven years for the woman he really wanted to marry. This was the idea Laban, their father, had.
Jacob ended up working fourteen years for two wives! Leah was in a marriage where her husband loved someone else more than her and she was not chosen by Jacob. At some point, she had to barter to sleep with her own husband for the night. As I read, I thought, “Wow, Lord! I can relate to her in many ways.” I know most of us have felt the pain of not being the first choice for something we desired, not being wanted, or of even feeling unloved.
Rejection is painted all over her story, but her identity can be seen through the lens of love. Her courage is shown by her persistence to love and wanting love from her husband (even though she knew his heart belonged to Rachel) and to worship God. Genesis 29:31-35 (AMP): Now when the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He made her able to bear children, but Rachel was barren. Leah conceived and gave birth to a son and named him Reuben (See, a son!), for she said, “Because the LORD has seen my humiliation and suffering; now my husband will love me [since I have given him a son].” Then she conceived again and gave birth to a son and said, “Because the LORD heard that I am unloved, He has given me this son also.” So she named him Simeon (God hears). She conceived again and gave birth to a son and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me [as a companion], for I have given him three sons.” Therefore he was named Levi. Again she conceived and gave birth to a [fourth] son, and she said, “Now I will praise the LORD.” So she named him Judah; then [for a time] she stopped bearing [children]. She yearned to be loved, but her greatest love was God! Despite everything that happened in her marriage, she was blessed by God. He is the God who sees, hears, and answers. In the end, we see that she was buried with Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, and Jacob (who buried her there). This is significant (Genesis 49:29-32) because the land represents the promises of God. God loved Leah!
So, we move a generation further and we see that Joseph was loved by his father and was given a fancy coat with many colours; his brothers hated him for that because it showed that he was the favourite son. They came up with a plan to get rid of him and they succeeded, a painful rejection by his brothers. Fast forward to the famine that came upon the land, and we see his response:
Genesis 45:4-8 (AMP): Yes, I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. Don't worry or blame yourselves for what you did. God is the one who sent me ahead of you to save lives. There has already been a famine for two years, and for five more years no one will plow fields or harvest grain. But God sent me on ahead of you to keep your families alive and to save you in this wonderful way. After all, you weren't really the ones who sent me here—it was God. He made me the highest official in the king's court and placed me over all Egypt.
Courage is understanding that you may not get recognition or love, but choose – daily – to make the right choice, no matter how difficult it may seem.
With Love and Courage
Women of Reverence welcomes regular contributor Pinky Hlophe:
A wife to Thulani Hlophe and a mother of two amazing children. I am on the eldership team of FrontLine People Church in Brakpan, Johannesburg.
I graduated with a Bcom Degree in Financial Management through UNISA.
I home-school both my children and just love seeing kids free, be themselves and grow to be who God intended them to be. I love serving in Administration of our local church and passionate about worship ministry.