5 Ways Women Leaders Can Deal with Adversity

5 Ways Women Leaders Can Deal with Adversity

5 Ways Women Leaders Can Deal with Adversity

Every woman is, in some way, a leader. Whether you’re leading a ministry in your church, your children, a Bible study group, or attempting to exert godly influence over friends and co-workers, we all are leading someone. Sometimes our roles will bring great joy; other times incredible pain. 

Leadership is one of the most difficult, humbling callings a person can occupy. It means accepting the blame when things go wrong and giving others credit for your team’s successes. It means tackling projects others drop, initiating hard conversations, and making difficult decisions based on information others might not have. And while all this is true, regardless of one’s gender, many times the challenges women face are magnified.   

Female leaders often experience additional adversity from those above them, their peers, and those they lead. When others behave condescendingly, disrespect, challenge, or misunderstand them, they may begin to question their calling, competency, and ability to persevere. 

Perhaps you can relate. Perhaps that’s where you are now. If so, consider this: The God who formed you and called you has promised to equip you. In fact, He’s likely using your greatest, most painful struggles to build you into the leader He created you to be. 

Here are 5 ways you can cooperate with God to not only endure adversity but grow through it.

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1. Hold Tight to Your Calling

1. Hold Tight to Your Calling

When challenges and injustices hit, when events or projects don’t turn out as we hoped, it’s easy to doubt our position and ourselves. We may wonder if perhaps another woman could better lead our team or that we’ve done something to forfeit the position. And while there are times God does indeed ask us to change directions, when doing so, He’s direct, clear and repetitive.

Jesus promised to guide us as attentively and faithfully as a shepherd does helpless sheep (John 10:1-15). He also said we would hear His voice. This means, as long as we’re seeking His will, unless He says otherwise, we must keep stepping, regardless of how we feel or what we encounter. When circumstances and naysayers try to confuse, distract, and defeat us, may God’s voice reign loudest, for He alone has authority to lead our hearts.

Gordon T. Smith, author of Courage and Calling, phrases it this way: “My vocation—” and by vocation he means calling. “—comes from God; it remains, and is not in the end something that I choose or that someone else can give me or take away from me. It comes from God … Am I willing to live in humble acceptance of the call of God.”

This means, if you currently hold a leadership position, God has placed you there, and you will remain there until He decides otherwise. Therefore, don’t give up!

Often, it’s easy to hold tight to our calling when all is going well and others are standing behind us and rooting us on. When we feel discouraged, defeated, or abandoned, however, our wounded hearts may tempt us to search for an exit. During those times, may we draw near to God, the One who will enable us to stand firm. 

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2. Focus on Growth

2. Focus on Growth

Throughout Scripture, we see God using adversity to train and mold His children. Joseph, the once braggart Hebrew, learned humility through slavery and spiritual dependence while falsely imprisoned (Genesis 37-41). Both qualities, and all the other character traits shaped during dark and painful periods, molded him into God’s faithful, servant leader. Moses, God’s chosen liberator to free His people from slavery learned obedience after experiencing the life-altering effects of self-reliance (Exodus 3). And David, the Hebrew shepherd boy turned king, learned trust while fearing for his life (1 Samuel 21-24, Psalm 31).

God uses all of our experiences, the most frustrating and painful especially, to transform us into the women and leaders He created us to be. Though we’ve likely heard this truth numerous times in church, when adversity hits, in our pain, we may forget. Our desire for comfort may tempt us to bypass the lesson, but this will only leave us ill-equipped for whatever’s ahead. When life hurts and we long to disengage, may we remember God’s always working out His plans. 

And His plans for us today and ten years from now are good. 

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3. Cultivate a Listening Ear 

3. Cultivate a Listening Ear 

As I’ve already mentioned, God has promised to speak to us, to guide us each day. Isaiah 30:21 says, Whether [we] turn to the right or to the left, [our] ears will hear a voice behind [us], saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (NIV). 

If we can’t hear Him, our ears may have become dull. Sin, distrust, busyness, and the noise all around us can drown out God’s voice. Clarity comes not from having all the answers but rather from connecting deeply to Christ. As we carve out time for Him, to simply sit in His presence, His Spirit expands within, bringing wisdom and insight where confusion once sat. He will show us how to respond to adversity with love and how to learn and grow through it.

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4. Practice Grace

4. Practice Grace

Leadership will challenge our patience and sanity, often. Plus, tense situations and unmanaged stress will probably cause sin such as pride and selfishness to rise up within us. There will be times when we act and speak in ways we wish we hadn’t. Our team members and those we serve with will, at times, behave similarly. 

In addition, we’ll regularly encounter a wide variety of people with varied backgrounds and levels of spiritual and emotional maturity. Some may even attack or mistreat us. When this occurs, it’s easy to view our “offenders” as enemies undeserving of grace. But God challenges us to view them through two interconnected lenses—the cross and our sin. 

Often, He’ll remind us of all the times we’ve responded to others in anger, fear, or pride, in order to grow our compassion. He’ll remind us that we’re all prideful, sinful creatures in desperate need of grace. What’s more, if we belong to Christ, Scripture says God has entrusted us with the message of reconciliation. That ministry—to make Christ known—is more important than any personality clash or office struggle we’ll experience. That doesn’t mean we ignore and accept poor behavior, but it does mean we’ll address concerns with the love, truth, and grace of Christ.

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5. Ruthlessly Deal with Personal Fear

5. Ruthlessly Deal with Personal Fear

The more chaotic or uncertain our world feels, the more likely we are to respond from fear rather than faith. This means, when adversity hits, we need to be extra diligent to remain close to Christ. He’s our power source (John 15:1-4), Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1, Matthew 28:20). He can calm the storm within us, no matter how strong the tornado is surrounding us.

Everyone struggles with anxiety and insecurity, but fear left unchecked often turns ugly. It caused the ancient Egyptians to oppress and enslave an entire people group (Exodus 1:1-22). It spurred Saul, ancient Israel’s first king, into a murderous rage (1 Samuel 18), and it kept the Israelites from fully following God’s lead into the Promised Land (Numbers 14). In short, fear—of rejection, failure, exposure, of insufficiency and insignificance—hinders our relationships, our impact, and our ability to hear from and respond to Christ. 

When we feel threatened, we’re more apt to react, to strive, compete and compare, and we’re less able to listen. When we sense anxiety rising, we can push through, attempting to overcome our emotions in our own strength. Or we can draw near to God, inviting Him to search, heal, and transform, the deep, hidden places in our hearts. He can bring us to a place of confidence and courage, where we lead from a place of victory.

As leaders, we will face adversity, but our challenges don’t have to defeat us. In fact, if we draw near to Christ, seek His guidance, and follow His lead, He will use the most difficult situations for our good. When we hold tight to our calling, listen well, focus on growth and grace, and surrender our fears to Christ, we position ourselves for eternal, unstoppable impact. In short, we become more like the leaders He created us to be.  


Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of the soon to release Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE  and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram

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