Commentary by Walter Albritton


October 21, 2007


God Gives Us Grace to Handle Life’s Disappointments


Genesis 29


Key Verse: So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. – Genesis 29:20


Questions flood my mind when I read the account of Jacob’s first night as a married man. How in the world did Laban manage to substitute Leah for Rachel so that Jacob did not know the woman he had married until the next morning? How drunk do you have to be for that to happen?

I understand that there were no electric lights back then. But surely somebody would have rubbed some sticks together and lit up a lightwood knot or an oil lamp. Was there not even a little moonlight? How veiled would a woman have to be in order for her husband not to know who was behind the veil?

What looks must have been on the faces of Jacob and Leah when they awoke the next morning! Jacob must have stared at Leah with unbelievable shock and disappointment. But what pain the look on Jacob’s face must have caused Leah. She must have remembered that look for the rest of her life. Rejection can sear our souls like a knife.

Thus began the struggle of Jacob and Leah with devastating disappointment. It lasted a lifetime. There is no indication that Jacob ever felt any remorse for his refusal to love Leah. Even the sons she bore him did not evoke from Jacob the milk of human kindness for Leah. All her days Leah had to settle for being her husband’s property rather than the precious and beloved mother of his children.

Of course Rachel also suffered the disappointment of being treated like a pawn by her father. No doubt she had looked forward to becoming Jacob’s wife, only to have Laban make her wait while he used her for his own benefit.

Our lesson uses this story as a springboard to discuss one of life’s major challenges – how to handle our disappointments. This we must all learn to do if we are to live healthy lives. Disappointments come to us all. Some are mild; others are shattering. To live well we must find ways to handle our own disappointments and to help others manage theirs.

When we are young most of us have great expectations. Our hopes and dreams inspire us to think big. Then along the way bubbles burst, one after another. Realism sets in. Adjustments have to be made. Life is filled with tragedy and misfortune. Some setbacks result from our own misdoing. Others occur because of accidents or the misdeeds of persons we may not even know.

A woman struggles for years with infertility. Finally unable to have a child of her own, she decides to adopt a child. She spurns feelings of bitterness and embraces an alternative route to the joy of motherhood.

A young man dreamed of going to college. Then his father died. His mother was an invalid, unable to work. Being the oldest child, he got a job to support the family. He skipped college and kept working so his three siblings could attend college. Years later he is taking college courses online, hoping one day to finally earn his college degree.

Two men pooled their resources and started a business. All went well until one man learned his partner had swindled him of his share of the business. He had to start over from scratch. Wisely he cast off the burden of resentment and forgave his former partner. He has revised his vision of the future.

In facing our disappointments we discover that we are not alone. God is with us! His very Name is Emmanuel. This is why the gospel is such good news. While God allows us to suffer disappointments, he does not forsake us. He walks with us, encouraging us to learn and grow and become better people.

God offers us help through the Bible. In the throes of disappointment we may turn to a Bible verse like Proverbs 13:12 and let God “restore our souls” with words like these:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Crushed and depressed by some disappointment, we turn to the Psalms and our hope is renewed as the Spirit speaks to our need. New resolve springs up in our hearts as we read: "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:5-6).

But the greatest help available to us is Jesus! He is a Specialist in mending broken dreams. He is willing to stand in the ashes of defeat with us and show us the way to a new day. No matter how great our disappointments may be, we can affirm with Saint Paul that NOTHING “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). Sure of that, we can arise and make a new beginning!    

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