“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
I’ve observed a principle: The pathway to leadership almost always takes us through the valley of adversity. We see this principle not only in the story of Joseph, who endured thirteen years of adversity, but also in the lives of many other leaders in both the Old and New Testament.
Moses was raised in the royal splendor of Pharaoh’s household in Egypt, but he was forced to flee and spend 40 years in desert exile before God spoke from a burning bush and called him to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery. Joshua spent the years of his youth as a slave in Egypt and his middle-aged years wandering in the desert at Moses’ side. He was well acquainted with adversity when God called him to lead Israel’s armies in the conquest of Canaan. The prophet Daniel was thrown into a den of hungry lions before he could reach a place of power and influence in the Babylonian courts. And we see this same pattern played out in the lives of David, Isaiah, Amos, Hosea and other Old Testament leaders.
Turning to the New Testament, we see that even Jesus had to face adversity in the desert, suffering hunger, thirst, temptation and opposition from Satan. Only then could He begin His public ministry. The Lord’s disciples had to endure the loss of their Master, the failure of their own faith and character, and the dark days of despair between the cross and the empty tomb before they could become the founding leaders of the Lord’s church.
It’s hard to find anyone in Christian history who became a great leader without earning an advanced degree at the “University of Adversity.”