Head back in your Bible to Genesis 29 and you find the story of Leah, someone who seems to have had a very tough life. She had bad eyes; she was married when her father passed her off as her more beautiful sister Rachel. As might be expected, her husband Jacob never seemed to warm up to her. Imagine life as the ugly sister with bad eyes who was married through a mean trick. It hardly sounds like a joyful existence.
Leah had one advantage over her more beautiful sister, though. She could have babies, while Rachel seemed to be infertile. Finally, something seemed to be going Leah’s way.
So she had babies. After her first baby she said, “Now my husband will love me.” It didn’t seem to work, because after the second child she said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” Again, it wasn’t enough to make Jacob love her. Enter a third baby. “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”
Poor Leah. She based her identity on the babies she produced, thinking that they would give her the acceptance she longed for. It didn’t work. She was caught in a fool’s game of trying to measure up, thinking one more would give her what she was desperately looking for.
Something seemed to have happened to Leah. She finally had a fourth child, and this time her words were different: “This time I will praise the LORD.” Finally, she stopped looking for Jacob’s approval to fill her heart. She found her identity and meaning in God.
It turns out that it was through this fourth baby, Judah, that Jesus eventually came.
I know Leah’s babies well. I often think that if my church plant is successful, then I will get the approval I need. Perhaps if I’m noticed or recognized, then I will finally be happy. There is a huge whole in my heart, and I think that one more success will bring me the satisfaction I’m looking for. “This time it’ll work,” I think. Just one more.
I want to skip all of that and get to where Leah did. “This time I will praise the LORD.” This time I will not base my happiness on the approval or recognition of others; this time I will look to God for my lasting joy.
Jacob could never give Leah what she was looking for. All the church planting success or recognition from others will never give me what I am looking for most, and what I already have: the smile and recognition that is mine through the gospel. With that I will be content.