Leah most likely had hopes and dreams of being happily married, just like every other woman of her day (and ours). All she wanted was for her husband, Jacob, to love her. But Jacob loved Leah’s sister, Rachel. And not only did Leah live with that hurt, but she was probably reminded daily of how she was second best to her beautiful younger sister.

Poor Leah! Her husband was tricked into marrying her in the first place, a ploy concocted by her father, who perhaps figured no man would choose his oldest daughter, Leah, on his own. So on Jacob and Rachel’s wedding night, Leah’s father made the girls switch places, and when Jacob awoke the next morning to find Leah in his bed, he was furious. I imagine it ripped a hole into Leah’s heart to hear her new husband complain that he’d gotten her instead, after giving her all to him the night before. Perhaps day after day she heard of all the reasons her husband would rather be with Rachel than with her. Leah probably carried some deep hurts in her heart, as I imagine any woman would who has to hear of her shortcomings and why her husband would prefer to be with someone else! But through all this, Leah didn’t give up. She was determined to do whatever it took to win her husband’s heart. And she believed that meant giving him a son.

We’re told in the Bible that God saw that Leah was unloved, so He allowed her to conceive a child (Genesis 29:31). When Leah bore her first son, she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” But Jacob’s love didn’t follow. So Leah had another son. And another. And after bearing that third son, she again hoped that would do the trick, saying, “Surely my husband will love me now.” But still, he didn’t.

After giving Jacob a fourth son, and seeing that her husband still favored Rachel, Leah simply said, “This time I will praise the LORD” (Genesis 29:35).

I love how Leah’s focus finally shifted. No longer did she seek after her husband’s love; instead, she looked to the Lord who loved her. (And, incidentally, it was that fourth son, named Judah, that God chose as the bloodline through whom His Son, Jesus, would eventually be born. Could it be that God’s reward followed when Leah finally gained her focus?)

A few years later, Leah bore two more sons and a daughter, and her last comment was not that her husband would love her, but that Jacob would “treat me with honor.” Maybe by then Leah knew that her husband’s love and devotion was simply out of reach. And perhaps she learned, after many attempts and no success, to quit striving after the heart of the one she would never win and to start living for the One who had always loved her.

We can safely assume that it was Leah’s desert experience of lovelessness from her husband that drove her to find an oasis of love from God and begin to look to Him as the heavenly Husband she could live for. Perhaps the love she found in God convinced her that He was real. I say that because later, when Jacob and his wives and all their children moved, it was Rachel—not Leah—who took along the family idols (Genesis 31:17-19,34). Perhaps Leah had experienced God in such a real and personal way that she didn’t seek her fulfillment anywhere else. And unlike Rachel, Leah became devoted to her God rather than the wooden objects her father had taught her to worship.

And because Leah’s son, Judah, was chosen to continue the bloodline from which Jesus came, we can assume the Almighty looked favorably on the one who loved her husband even though she received no love in return, the one who was a faithful wife in spite of how she was treated. Apparently God made up for what Leah lacked in her marriage by giving her eternal blessings instead.