I noticed something deflating the other day. I was playing around on Google doing some research for my blog. I typed “Why did God. . .” and then I stopped. I noticed a question that appeared: Why did God make me ugly?
And then I sighed.
I almost never feel sympathetic for things like this, but for some reason, this time I did. I felt hurt for the people who felt the need to ask Google such a disheartening question.
But who can you blame?
Our world doesn’t help.
In the day of Instagram filters and abandoned homes and pressure from friends and family, it’s easy to feel deflated, to feel self-conscious. Comparisons robs us of confidence and most of us are always comparing our lives to others – especially in the beauty department.
For me, I’ve always found comfort from Psalm 139:13: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
Who created you, designed you, made you? God.
When I wish I wasn’t born with a heart defect, I remember this verse.
When I wish I were a little taller or my tendons a little stronger, I remember God was the One who designed me.
But this realization isn’t always easy. It sure wasn’t for one woman in the Bible.
A Tale of Two Sisters
There’s a story in Genesis that shows how too much emphasis on personal appearance, or an unhealthy desire for love, can bring harm. The story involves two sisters: Rachel and Leah.
The Bible tells us that Rachel was beautiful:
“Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance” (Genesis 29:16-17).
Literally, in the original language, it says that Rachel had both a beautiful appearance and a great figure.
But Leah was different.
“. . . Leah’s eyes were weak.”
Does this mean that Leah had poor vision?
Tim Keller says:
“Leah is the oldest daughter, and the narrator gives us but one important detail about her. The text says that she had ‘weak or poor eyes.’ Some have assumed that she had bad eyesight. But the passage does not say, ‘Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel could see very well.’ It says Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was beautiful. So ‘weakness’ probably meant that she was cross-eyed or literally unsightly in some way. The point is clear. Leah was particularly unattractive, and she had to live all of her life in the shadow of her sister, who was absolutely stunning.”
Rachel was the girl who every guy wanted. But Leah was the girl who nobody wanted.
The story gets better. But only after it gets worse.
The Lord is Near to The Brokenhearted
We must not forget Jacob, the husband of both Rachel and Leah. He had his own set of issues, most of which stemmed from his childhood. That’s because Jacob’s father, Isaac, favored his brother Esau over him. As a result, Jacob grew up angry and bitter. And desperate for love.
Jacob didn’t know his father’s love. He didn’t know his mother’s love. And he certainly didn’t know the love of God. So when he merely noticed Rachel, he was willing to do insane things to get her — like work for seven years for her tyrant father Laban (nearly four times the ordinary price of a bride).
Jacob eventually marries Rachel. But only after he’s tricked into marrying Leah, and only after seven additional years of work.
So now Jacob is married to both Rachel and Leah.
Jacob is empty. Rachel is proud. And Leah’s heart is broken, but that’s good news because the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.
“When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 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.’ 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. Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, ‘Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.’ Therefore his name was called Levi. 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 29:31-35).
Tim Keller adds:
“When Leah gave birth to her last son, Judah, she said, ‘This time, I will praise the LORD’ . . . We shouldn’t just look at what God did in her. We have to also look at what God did for her. . . This child was Judah, and in Genesis 49 we are told that it is through him that the true King, the Messiah, will someday come. God had come to the girl that nobody wanted, the unloved, and made her the ancestral mother of Jesus. Salvation came into the world, not through beautiful Rachel, but through the unwanted one, the unloved one.”
The Man With No Beauty
One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Isaiah 53:
“For he grew up before him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:1-3).
This passage speaks of Jesus Christ. The is the man that was born in a manger. His parents were poor. Isaiah tells us that he had no beauty that we should desire him; John tells us that his own didn’t receive him (John 1:11). The Gospels tells us that his friends deserted him. And Mark tells us that his family and neighbors doubted him.
Yet, this is the Son of God.
And this was the man who lived the perfect life, died the sinner’s death, and rose from the grave. Salvation came through the man with no beauty.
To those who receive Christ as Savior by trusting in his finished work get his righteousness or, as some theologians note, his imputed righteousness. Martin Luther called this “the great exchange.” For the Christian, God takes your ugliness (sin) and gives you his beauty (righteousness). Because of our righteousness, then, every Christian is beautiful. For our sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west.
It can be hard to get this theology from our minds to our hearts. But one day, the struggle will be over. Heaven will grant a new body, and all sorrow and sin and sadness will end. No longer will we wonder about any sort of ugliness, but only be amazed forever at Christ’s beautiful glory.
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