Lack What You Withhold

The 4th line of our challenging prayer reads: I am willing to lack what You withhold.

I don’t like being in a state of not having enough of something or being without. It has been common knowledge that my greatest lack the past six months was a home of my own. Now, that need has been supplied and yet I still lack the finances I’d like to fix it up to my tastes. I lack a flesh and blood daughter. I lack time with my sons. I lack time with close friends and family. At times, I lack love from my spouse.

There have been periods in my life when my lacks have been so intense I thought I couldn’t handle another day. When I need to realign my perspective on this subject, I turn to two women in the Bible who struggled with the lack God withheld from them. In Genesis 29–30, Laban’s two daughters are introduced. Leah was the oldest daughter. She had weak eyes—perhaps she was delicate or not attractive. Rachel, the younger daughter, was beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and agreed to work seven years to win her as his wife. When Jacob woke after his wedding night, he found Leah in his bed!

Consider Leah’s predicament. I can only imagine the humiliation and hurt she must have felt that night. My heart aches for Leah as I think of the words Jacob might have said to her that night, thinking she was Rachel. Of course, we are all thinking, “How could this have happened?” We can only speculate, but the most plausible explanation I have read so far is that Jacob had probably indulged in much fine wine at his wedding reception, thus being too drunk to know who was with him. How sad!

A week later, Leah’s problems were compounded when Jacob also married Rachel. Leah was overshadowed by her younger sister because her husband loved her sister more than her. So, God gave her children. What intrigues me most about this account is what Leah said as an explanation for the name she gave each son. I think her words reveal her deep pain and desire.

When Reuben was born, she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” And with Simeon, she stated, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” And then when Levi was born, she was convinced, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Her fourth son, Judah, held the only ray of hope in this story, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Again, I feel for Leah. Her husband did not love her and so she turned to other things to make her feel loved and worthy. She hoped that by doing or being something, she could gain his affection.

Now, we turn to Rachel. She had her husband’s love but she, like Leah, was unhappy. She had no children and her sister was having babies (boys, no less) left and right. She had what her sister wanted, and her sister had what she wanted. Rachel tried to fulfill her lack by blaming Jacob, crying and whining to him “Give me children or I’ll die.” She expected him to be able to meet this need. When he could not, she took matters into her own hands and gave her servant to her husband and adopted the resultant child as her own. 

The competition heated up as Leah followed Rachel’s example and gave her servant to Jacob as well. Again, the words they spoke at the birth of each child is deeply revealing. At the birth of Dan, Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” And for Naphtali, “I have had a great struggle with my sister and I have won.” And Leah exclaimed when Gad made his entrance, “What good fortune.” And for Asher, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy!”

Both women are so consumed with their rivalry, they aren’t thinking clearly. Rachel was still not satisfied. Her attempt to satisfy her deep lack had failed. Desperate, she turned to drugs—a home remedy of  mandrake plants which were considered to give fertility. Rachel was trying drugs, if you will.

Next we see that Leah’s desires were still not met even after having six sons (counting her servant’s sons). It seems that Leah’s sexual privileges were withheld from her. Another lack. She accused her sister, “You took away my husband.” And so she “hired” Jacob in exchange for some mandrake plants. What a lovely arrangement these two women had!

This time, Leah had two more sons. Issachar, after whose birth she said, “God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband” and Zebulun, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” It strikes me as sad that after all this time, all she wanted from her husband now was some honor and respect.

Finally, God gave Rachel what she had longed, manipulated, and schemed for. Joseph was born from her own womb. “God has taken away my disgrace. May the Lord add to me another son,” were her words. Isn’t it interesting how each sister had what the other wanted and yet each was still unhappy and unsatisfied? No matter what the lack was, they were both in pain and jealous of the other. Rachel blamed her husband and Leah blamed Rachel. They both took matters into their own hands and tried various methods for fulfilling their lack. And when God was gracious and gave Rachel what she wanted, it was not enough. Desires are like that. They are insatiable. Even when we get what we lack, we want more.

We all experience some lack at some time in our life. Some lacks are small but others causes deep pain due to an unmet desire. Our soul screams, “Give me _______ or I’ll die!” And we will die inside if we do not deal with this pain in a biblical manner. We will end up bitter, unhappy, in despair or worse, convinced that God doesn’t care. So we have to change our focus from the lack to the One who withholds. We have to look at his character first and see what he says about our needs. When we accept by faith that he will supply all our needs, then we can accept by faith that we do not lack our needs today.

God says a lot about this subject in his Word:

  • The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. Psalm 23:1
  • Call on the Lord, fear him, cry to him and He will satisfy our desires. Psalm 145:16-19
  • God knows what we need before we ask him. Matthew 6:8
  • Ask and you shall receive. John 16:24
  • He will graciously give us all things. Romans 8:32
  • God will give you strength to be content in all circumstances. Philippians 4:11-13
  • God will make all grace abound so that we will have all that we need. 2 Corinthians 9:8
  • God will meet all our needs according to his riches. Philippians 4:19
  • God’s power gives us everything we need. 2 Peter 1:3

During the toughest days of waiting for my own home, I tried to remind myself that I had a bed to sleep in, food to eat, a place to bathe, access to internet, and a supportive partner at my side. My basic needs were met. Now that I have my home, I still need to practice these principles or I will be like Rachel and quickly want more.

So, what is your lack? What is being withheld from you? It might be helpful to fill in the blank “Give me ________ or I’ll die.”

How have you been trying (or tried) to deal with your lack?

How can you get your focus back on the One who lovingly cares for you?


Father God, I acknowledge that I lack things I so desperately want and feel I need. I confess that these desires have consumed My heart and mind. I also confess the wrong ways I have sought to fill my lack. Lord, today I tell my soul again that you will supply all my needs and that you will give me grace to help be able to say “I am willing to lack what you withhold.” Amen.

Next: Surrender What you Claim

One thought on “Lack What You Withhold

  1. Pingback: Release What You Take | Pondered Treasures

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