"Not all who wander are lost" wrote JRR Tolkien. Lost or not, the experience of wandering in an unknown place - a wilderness - is not a comfortable one. Whether it's a literal wilderness of an unknown land or the metaphorical wilderness of a life experience, for the Christian there are some recognizable landmarks and a promise of hope.
I've come to recognize that "wilderness experiences" have some common characteristics. One of these is isolation. This is the season of aloneness, a season that can leave you wondering if there is really love to be found in this life. It can make us doubt our perceptions. Another is danger. We know there are unknown (and sometimes known) pitfalls, yet, because we are alone, we can't take a break from being watchful. It's exhausting. Because of both isolation and danger, we can feel very vulnerable and subject to temptations. Things that wouldn't entice us under ordinary circumstances can pull very powerfully on us during wilderness times.
It is during these time that we realize how much we truly must depend on God for everything. In fact, in looking back over the times in my life which have felt like a wilderness, I realize that the questions being posed are always the same - "Did God say?" and "Do you trust Him?"
Another characteristic that wilderness experiences share is the one that encourages me that I'm not lost there. It is this - they are temporary, designed by God and allowed in my life to prepare me for what He has coming next. Moses, Elijah, Paul, and Jesus himself were all prepared for service in the wilderness. So even though I feel the isolation, I know I'm not alone. Many have walked this route before and found God to be always good and always faithful. They are that "great cloud of witnesses" that Hebrews 12 mentions, continually urging me on by testifying to the greatness of our God.
I don't see the end yet to this bleak landscape I'm currently in, but each day gives me the opportunity to move forward in faith. I'm wandering right now, but, thankfully, I'm not lost.