While You Wander

wanderingWhen’s the last time you rode a roller coaster?

For me, it was four summers ago. The kids and I spent the day at Six Flags pushing the limits of gravity and our ability not to vomit. They came home hyper and happy, ready for another visit. I came home queasy and sad that my stomach no longer belonged to a twelve-year-old.

The cool thing about a roller coaster is its ups and downs and twists and turns. Climbing to the big drops spikes adrenaline and builds anticipation.

The bad thing about a roller coaster is its ups and downs and twists and turns. Just when I’m flying high, my stomach dips and punishes me for everything I’ve eaten.

Even though the adventure only lasts for minutes, I cycle through the entire scope of the tracks. Some parts I love. Some I clench my jaw to ride out.

Roller coasters mirror life. Our lives are filled with seasons. Seasons of blessings and joy. Seasons of hardship and grief. No matter who we are, whether we’re believers or not, there’s one thing that’s sure about life—the bumpy ride.

roller coaster

Most of us cling to the good seasons and fight to escape the bad. None of us like to wander the wilderness. The worst for me seems to be when the bad seasons feel like they’ve become a forever thing.

It doesn’t matter why those seasons hang on. It could be I’m not listening to God or He’s not done molding my character or even that, for whatever reason, I’ve chained myself to the wilderness. The why of wandering is another topic.

Let’s talk about the while.

I’ve had plenty of while-I’m-wandering moments. Some short. Some endless. Currently, I’m going on eighteen months. In addition to the daily drain of keeping up with two active teenagers, my oldest had to drop out of college, give up his life, and move back home to fight his second long-term battle with cancer. And I’m his primary caretaker. Three months ago, I broke my ankle in a way that’s kept me in a wheelchair. The injury has definitely crimped my caretaker-style. Some days I’m completely useless to him and to the rest of my family.

Take those three issues—teens, cancer, broken ankle—and picture them as an outline. Under each, add a lengthy list of sub-issues. One problem breeds a hundred more, until each of them sit on your chest and you can’t breathe. That’s what this wilderness feels like for me—being a chained-up claustrophobic in the dark.

I’m tired of this season of hardship and grief. I long for my season of blessing and joy. I can’t remember what it feels like to be light instead of heavy. But I’m still waiting. And I’m a lousy waiter. I want to fix myself and move on. But sometimes, I can’t. I can’t fix teen issues. I can’t cure cancer. I can’t heal my ankle.

A few sermons ago, our pastor made an interesting statement. He said, “You can deliver yourself out of your situation, but you can never deliver yourself into God’s plan.”

So what can I do while I wander? Here are three ways I’m waiting out my wilderness.


One of the hardest things for me to do when I’m in pain—mental, physical, or spiritual—is pray for myself or my situation. The words don’t come. But I can prayer for other people. My list of others who need help never runs dry.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16 NIV).

When I can’t pray for me, I pray for someone else.


After my son relapsed with leukemia, when I wasn’t trying to be his one-woman pep squad, I sunk into myself. I spent a month watching entire seasons of TV shows on Netflix. Curled on the couch with a warm blanket, hot tea, and my favorite pillow, I let TV people transport me to worlds I could deal with.

That was my escape.

But my Netflix binge didn’t help. Reality always lurked beyond my flat screen and when I clicked the remote off, my real life clicked back on.

Fasting doesn’t have to be about food. It can be about giving up the thing you run to instead of running to God.

“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning” (Joel 2:12).

When I need comfort, I can fast my earthly fix and return to God instead.


The wilderness drains me and turns me inward. I’m so wrapped up in a minute-by-minute struggle to survive it’s hard to look outside of myself.

It doesn’t make sense in any kind of non-spiritual way, but when I force myself to reach out to someone else, I’m energized.

“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).

When I’m exhausted of my wilderness, I can sit with someone else in theirs.


What we do while we wander matters. The three things I shared above made a huge impact on my attitude. If you’re in a wilderness place right now, I hope they help yours too.

Related posts:

Suffering by Default

Surviving the Storm Series



  2. So true!! We can let life be a blessing or curse, our choice. It takes faith to take even a step in our days.

  3. You mentioned, “It could be I’m not listening to God or He’s not done molding my character or even that, for whatever reason, I’ve chained myself to the wilderness.”

    There’s some truth in that, but we’re rarely looking at that in its full scope. Pain blinds us–puts us to sleep so that we’re less awake in this life than we already are. Makes it tough. But I found something very interesting a while back.

    When watching videos of after-death (near-death) experiences, it got me to really thinking about things. I wondered, “Would God send us here against our will when He’s all about free will?” These after-death experiences are all similar, for the most part. Thousands have been recorded and compared. The people go through the same things. Atheists always go through something very difficult which causes them to believe in God when they’re resuscitated by an EMT or doctor. Non-Atheists, regardless of religion or lack there of, end up with God, because they’re not in resistance to Him like Atheists are. They’re “believers,” more or less (not just Christians). When they end up with God, they go through this amazing “life review” experience. They relive, very quickly, every situation where they hurt someone else, but this time, they feel the other person’s emotions. This immediately causes them shame. They say, “That was so bad. It was so wrong.” Then God says, “No, no. Not good or bad, not right or wrong…just a lesson learned.” Immediately, at this realization that God was never judging them, they feel completely accepted (unconditionally loved). Their shame drops and their hearts mature into unconditional love for their self and others.

    Then God shows them all of the things they did in life that we would call “good.” But really, they should be called “authentic”–things we did out of our authentic, child-of-God self. Everyone says they’re things that you don’t remember doing. Little things, usually. They say it’s never the things like doing mission work or helping someone move or any of that stuff. Those things were done out of some motive, usually to suppress shame and please someone else. It was all the things they did when they were just being their self, just having fun with life, playing. Remember the verse where Jesus says, “You clothed Me when I was naked, you fed Me when I was hungry…” And the people said, “When did we do this for You?” They were unaware that they’d done anything for Jesus/God, because they were just doing their thing. That’s very telling. Much to learn in that one little parable when we dig deep into it and ourselves.

    But finally, the thing that I really wanted to highlight is that when they get to heaven, they realize they’ve been there before, and that they chose to come to this earth to learn. Which is why God is saying to people, “No, no. Not good or bad, not right or wrong…just a lesson learned.” That’s actually very similar to how the Ancient Hebrews believed (they were Eastern philosophy). They didn’t judge people or right or wrong. They saw things in terms of functional or dysfunctional, and those came with no judgment. It was Western-philosophy religious translators who came up with the ideas of right and wrong, good and evil. Imagine the lack of shame there is when we no longer judge. Good and evil are gone at that point and we see people as here to learn. We can love them, and ourselves, more fully and unconditionally. I think the verse where God says He knew us before the foundations of the Earth most likely means He actually knew us back then, not that He knew what we’d be like in the future when we’re birthed.

    And here’s one last gem I found in after-death experiences. The people say that they have a choice to stay dead and in paradise, or go back. No one ever wants to go back. So they always have to be convinced to go back. Many of them report that their future children will come to them and say, “You don’t understand. You made an agreement with me to give birth to me. If you don’t go back, I’ll never be born.” One lady had her four future children come to her and convince her to return in this way. They were ages 4, 7, 11 and 14 (I forget their actual ages during the experience). And when she had them and they grew, they looked exactly as they had in her after-death experience when they all reached those ages at the same time.

    Now, think about this for a second. If we made contracts with others, it means we chose our struggles in this life that we were going to overcome. It’s like being in school and choosing our curriculum. We can’t blame God for this or anyone else but ourselves, and we shouldn’t blame ourselves, because we’re just trying to help our self develop by giving ourselves these courses while on earth. Of course, I can’t say for sure this is how things are, because we’ll never know till we get there ourselves, but it makes a whole lot of sense with God’s character.

    So, since you’re thinking about stuff, there’s something to think about for a while. :) If you get the chance, watch some after-death videos on YouTube. They’re very intriguing. Psychologists collect these experiences. In the 80s, Dr. Moody had around 30,000 experiences recorded. They always follow a similar pattern. There’s one video on YouTube that’s around 27 minutes and it goes through the stages, allowing several people to their their experience at that stage. If you want a link to that one, let me know and I’ll find it for you. Some after-death experiences are clearly faked, and they usually involve all kinds of religious mumbo-jumbo. lol But the authentic ones are usually very similar in their structure, which tells you if they’re legitimate or not.

    Oh, and there’s a big Star Wars event online yesterday through Sunday if you’re a Star Wars person. 😀

    I know when writers aren’t feeling well, many of them don’t write. It’s sometimes a lot of fun, though, to be in the pit of darkness and write and construct a story out of that place. Those can be some of the best stories ever, and can help pull us through our own struggles. I’ve cried at times upon finishing a short story that came from my heart in a time of struggle. The crying was due to me having some major realization as I finished the story that directly related to it. Cool stuff.

    Hang in there and good luck!

  4. I think that sitting with someone in their own wilderness is so important, especially to Christians. The willingness to do so shows our love and compassion for each other.

  5. Your writings brought me to tears because it’s all true. Thanks for some practicals!!!! 😀

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