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February 3, 2018, 10:21 AM

A Matter of the Heart: Identity Crisis


Life is not about the many peripheral things we make it about. When we look at all the things around us but our God-given purpose and identity, we will constantly be disappointed in one way or another. We will be disappointed in our spouse. We will be disappointed in ourselves - our looks, our lovableness, or our skills. We will be disappointed in our jobs. We will be disappointed in our country. We will be disappointed in our church. We elevate those things to a high place where they shouldn't be and thus they fail us. If you want true happiness, there is a way to do it. And yes, it is within God's will for you to be happy. I don't say that to mean you'll feel comfortable but happiness is a reachable condition of your heart and mind. Proverbs 3:13 says, "Happy is a man who finds wisdom and who acquires understanding." The key to happiness is having the right perspective, which comes through wisdom and understanding. Let's get to the right perspective after looking at someone who had the wrong one.

 

Someone who was truly disappointed in life was Leah in Genesis 29. She was the oldest daughter and thus in her culture should have been the first to be married. The Bible says in verse 17, "Leah had delicate eyes, but Rachel was shapely and beautiful." When Jacob came to marry one of Laban's daughters, Jacob wanted the younger beautiful daughter Rachel. I'm sure he loved Rachel for other reasons besides beauty, but the Bible does depict Leah as the lesser sister in that aspect. Jacob and Rachel planned to be happy with one another, but Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah when Jacob thought he was getting Rachel. Leah was given to a man who wanted another woman - her sister. On top of that dagger,  Laban still gave Rachel to Jacob and the wife rivalry and bitterness began. These sisters who I'm sure loved each other were pitted against each other in a marriage where there was unequal love given. The favor, the twinkle, the spark in Jacob's gaze was towards Rachel of course. Leah was just a legal agreement . . . a mistake. Her future was lost and her longing for acceptance ever evaded her in light of the greater wife Rachel. 

 

Verse 31 says, "When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren." First of all, this demonstrates the loving nature of God, especially for the weaker. God acknowledged and took note of Leah's pain. He provided a comfort to redeem the disappointment of her situation. He opened her womb so she would be loved, also demonstrating His own love for her. It is not likely God thought Leah having children would cause Jacob to love her since He can foresee everything. But God in His compassion wanted her to experience a tightly bonded love, acceptance, and loyalty that is created between a mother and her children. The comfort God was providing was from something other than Jacob. Though God tried to bless Leah, she seemed to misunderstand the point. She had four children by Jacob in this chapter. After each one was born, she thought it would earn her favor with Jacob. After Reuben was born, Leah said, "The LORD has seen my affliction; surely my husband will love me now." (vs 34). After Simeon was born, she said, "The LORD heard that I am unloved and has given me this son also." (vs 33). After Levi was born, she said, "At last, my husband will become attached to me because I have borne him three sons." (vs 34). But after Judah was born, she said, "This time I will praise the LORD." (vs 35). This time. While God was trying to bless her during that time because He loved her, she was still seeking the approval and acceptance of her husband, which she couldn't attain. But finally she surrendered, accepting that what God had given her was plenty to be joyful. Instead of looking to Jacob to find happiness, she finally looked up to God. She took her eyes off of the circumstances she couldn't control and she praised God for what He did control. 

 

Later, Leah did lose focus again and her jealousy of Rachel resumed. We act according to what we actually believe. Leah still believed in her heart if she was worth something, she would be loved by Jacob. Rachel, on the other hand, thought her own worth would come from being able to have children. Really, where does this dissatisfaction come from? It comes from a lack of identity. When someone is unsure of their worth in who they are, they search for ways to feel secure - validation for being enough. Though Leah behaved as if her worthiness depended upon Jacob's favor, what God said about her worth is what was true. Many times the surrounding culture teaches us what makes us worth something - large homes, name brand clothes, a college degree, marriage, children, etc. And if we get any less than that, we feel we are being deprived of something we should have if we were worth as much as our neighbor. Though it is the wrong mindset, our worth seems less without those things sometimes.  In the spiritual realm, your worth is not based on what you have to show for yourself, how people treat you or what they say about you. It's not based even on how well you behave. Any worth we do have has been given to us by God Almighty. God has invested so much in us. Not only did He invest His energy into creating us intricately down to each tiny cell, He has thrown His own emotional and morally-fair regard aside to have relationship with us. Why would someone do that? Because the love just exists. Over and over as people within the Bible stories screw up, God desires relationship with them anyway, even while they resist Him. How valuable and precious we must be to God's eyes for Him to pursue people who behave more like enemies! He still chooses us to be His heirs. Isaiah 54:17 in the Amplified Bible says, "This [peace, righteousness, security, and triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the LORD." It's our heritage if we've been spiritually born into God's family. We should live like we have security from our Father in not only how He made us but also in how much affection He possesses for us. It's ours to simply receive and not try to make sense of it. This security of identity is our spiritual bloodline as His sons and daughters through Christ. It didn't matter if Jacob thought Leah was special or if he treated her like she was special. It didn't change the fact that she was special. She was so special in fact that God cared about her emotional pain and blessed her in a way He wasn't blessing Rachel. She was valuable but she couldn't see it even as God was pouring His love on her, because she was constantly reminding herself that the goal was to find worth from Jacob. Let's not do what Leah did. Do not believe the lie that your worth comes from anything else besides God Himself. 

 

There is an intriguing parallel between this story about Leah and other scripture in Isaiah 54. In comparison to the lack of affection Leah experienced with her husband, God makes the analogy of a spiritual husband to His people in verse 5 (NIV): "For your Maker is your husband - the LORD Almighty is his name - the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth." God is pretty clear which husband we should be deriving our worth and identity from. He is the husband. He says in verses 9-10 of the same chapter, "To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed." Now that is favor. Acceptance. Loyalty. That's someone looking at you with a twinkle in His eye. That twinkle was always there. In the beginning of creation, Genesis 3:8 indicates God routinely walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. He designed us for personal relationship with Him; as we've already seen, the relationship is comparable to the radical intimacy between husband and wife. Anything other than that is less than God's intention and design. Colossians 1:16 says, "by Him everything was created, in heaven and on earth, ....all things have been created through Him and for Him." Micah 6:7 says, "He has told you ....what it is the LORD requires of you: only to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God." Finding happiness that lasts in anything other than that divine relationship will fail.

 

If you can't muster up enough approval from others or even from your own self, take a look again at the intensity of God's love for you here in these verses. That should put a pep in your step every day. It should help you forgive others because of your own strength and security in His love. It should help you rejoice for others instead of envying them because you're already rich and secure, aware of your eternal value. It should help you let things go that are irrelevant to eternity, because they're only distractions from our Enemy, Satan.. Keeping our identity in perspective is the key to most of life's problems. You will still probably try to seek after and depend on the things around you to bring you happiness - relationships, careers, medications, physical appearances, finances. But be intentional about reminding yourself every day that God never intended for us to find our stability in those things. If you want to experience lasting happiness, you have to start each day with the wisdom and understanding of your identity in Christ. Nothing can remove that value from you.

 



Comments

06-20-2018 at 5:04 PM
Jim Schmidt
There are those who merely look AT the Word. And then there are those, like yourself, who are especially blessed and strengthened because being guided by the Spirit of God and hunger for Him that they look INTO the Word of God. I am so glad that my sweet daughter has found the fountain of life and that you drink from it!
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