Some of the most beautiful and memorable love stories I have ever read have come from the Bible. Unlikely unions, tragedies, uncommon twists and turns and the ultimate feel-good moment when it all works out in the end. They have all the makings of a Netflix limited series. There are elements of every great love story that reverberates with us. The underdog who gets the girl. The nobody who marries a prince. The love-at-first-sight encounter and the one who got away. There is one, however, that none of us wants to re-live or remember. Unrequited love – the dreadful dilemma of loving someone, who loves someone else. In God’s word we find a woman, filled with unrequited love, who ultimately finds the greatest love of all when she sees the loving hand of God. 


Genesis 29 gives us front-row seats to the life of Jacob who has travelled a great distance and finds himself in his uncle Laban’s territory. Jacob falls for Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel, and manages to secure her hand in marriage. However, it was customary for the eldest daughter to be married first, so Laban tricks Jacob into marrying his older daughter. 

Instead of Rachel entering the marriage tent, Leah is sent in, and Jacob consummates a relationship with her. She is used by her father to double-cross Jacob (Genesis 29:23-25). A desperate Jacob agrees to work to earn the right to still marry Rachel. A week after his first marriage, Jacob takes Rachel as his wife. Leah is unwanted. Leah is rejected. 

In Genesis 29:17, Leah is described as having weak eyes, while Rachel is described as beautiful in form and appearance. We are told nothing about their character. 

But the Lord Sees 

Genesis 29:31 tells us that the Lord saw that Leah was not loved. “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.”

Whatever God saw caused Him to deal generously with Leah. While Leah longs for her husband’s affection and doesn’t receive it, her arms are filled with the blessings of children. Children were considered a sign of God’s blessings upon you. His word confirms this in Psalm 127:3 “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Leah was unloved by Jacob but loved by her heavenly Father.

When She Can’t See the Loving Hand of God 

Yet, Leah’s shattered heart could not recognise God’s goodness and love in the blessing of children. Her response after the birth of each son gives us insight into the intrinsic longing and rejection that was a part of her life. 

With the birth of Reuben, she is expectant of Jacob’s love. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me” (Genesis 29:32). Reuben means ‘behold, a son!’ 

Is our longing for someone or something else, even while we are experiencing God’s providence and goodness in our lives?

In Genesis 29:33 she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon” which means ‘to be heard’.

Still nothing changes and we see her renewed hope with the birth of her third child. Each time she bears a new son, her longing is still for Jacob. Her love story is not quite complete, and she cannot see the loving hand of God.

Are We God’s Unrequited Love?

Does this sound familiar? Is our longing for someone or something else, even while we are experiencing God’s providence and goodness in our lives? Do we turn towards something that leaves us feeling incomplete and searching for something more? Is God yearning for our hearts while we yearn for something else? 

When She Finally Surrenders

Suddenly, there is a shift in Leah between the birth of her third and fourth sons. It’s almost as if the gloom that shrouded her is lifted. The pain of rejection has been replaced with something new. The longing is now fulfilled. “And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing” (Genesis 29:35). Judah means ‘praise!’

Leah finally sees God’s mercy and goodness towards her. Nothing about her circumstances has changed but the heart that was filled with unrequited love is now overflowing with praise for God. This time, her heart is turned towards the One who is filled with great, unconditional love for his children. 

A Great Plan Weaved Into a Story of Rejection 

God’s purpose was still fulfilled despite Leah’s circumstances being tragic and dire. From Leah came six of the sons who formed the tribes of Israel. The rejected bride gives birth to Levi, from whom the Levitical priesthood is established (1 Chronicles 6:1).

Unwanted, but seen by God Almighty who turned her rejection into rejoicing and carved her story into his great plan.

From Leah came Judah and several descendants later, we are told of Salmon, the father of Boaz by Rahab, whose son was Obed. From Obed came Jesse. Jesse, who fathered David, all whom are named in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5-6); Jesus Christ, the Saviour King, born to set his people free from the captivity of sin, giving eternal life to all those who believed in him. From the lineage of a rejected, unloved bride came a King who loved his people so greatly that he gave his life for them. (John 19)

Unwanted, but seen by God Almighty who turned her rejection into rejoicing and carved her story into his great plan. 

Your Story

Our great God, always fulfils His plans and purposes for our lives, even when we do not see it. This same God is ready to shower us, too, with this inexplicable love. He waits patiently for our capricious hearts to turn towards him. 

Why not resolve to let your praise flow even in the most broken circumstances? Resolve to turn your heart to him. Resolve to allow his perfect love to take your imperfect, incomplete story and use it for his glory. Will you resolve to see the loving hand of God in your life?