God’s people are a wandering people. We see countless examples throughout the Bible of God’s people wandering. This theme of wandering is also present in our lives. These Biblical examples are traveling off-road. One popular Biblical example is the Prodigal Son who left home to enter a world of sin, among others. Their brokenness caused them to wander – wandering away from God –but through their stories we learn some important lessons, particularly about the complete presence of God.
As a follower of Jesus, you will wander. But it’s not so much a question of whether you will wander but when. In A.J. Swoboda’s book “The Dusty Ones: Why Wandering Deepens Your Faith” he explores some of God’s most important truths that are revealed to those whose feet are dusty from the road. It deals with those of us who are looking to enter the Promised Land who are also still trying to find a sense of contentment in an uncertain present. Cultivating the art of wandering is great not only for Christian faith and practice; it is a holy discipline that can revolutionize a person’s experience of God.
There is a common misconception that those who wander are lost but that isn't always the case. If you’re restless, doubtful or even questioning your faith, you can learn through this journey that not all who wander are lost and there’s a hope and peace for those who travel the winding path seeking to experience God. Wandering is part of the path of discipleship, and in that journey there's grace and truth. There are many lost narratives, not only throughout the Bible, but in life. Some of these stories are about being physically lost. Other lost narratives are about being emotionally and spiritually lost. This type of lost narrative can show up when you’re on the brink of, or experiencing major life changes. During these periods, we can find ourselves stumbling, fearful and unsure of God’s presence. At these moments we question our faith, and wonder why we aren’t seeking God, but turning away. In these moments, we may wander, but God is still with us. The Bible tells us “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” God isn’t talking about seeking the perfect. He is saving those who are lost so that they can return home. When we are empty and lost God is present seeking to save us. We know that we can overcome the world because Jesus overcame it. God can help us through this lost period.
We also know from Scripture that we have nothing to fear, even in our period of wandering: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” Before we were even born, God placed in us a piece of himself as a reminder that we are not alone. When we wander, we long for God, though we may not even realize it. We are told in the book of Psalms that the soul languishes for God’s salvation, waiting for His word. (Psalm 119:81). Our soul thirsts for God, for he living God. (Psalm 42:2). We thirst for God. Though we may not be seeking God, wandering towards God is like being metal in the presence of a magnet. We are drawn to God, even when we don’t know we’re giving ourselves.
Throughout the book, Swoboda talks about the mysterious, but multifaceted ways humans grow in their relationship with God. Sometimes we find God in the desert. Other times we find God in the silence. We may even find God through the ministry of others. These are times where we may not have been distinctly looking for God, but God still finds us. These are the moments where we really see the Holy Spirit working. The Bible tells us “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit is alive and active, and through these experiences truth is revealed. We also discover that wandering is a requirement of those who are called to follow. Abraham left his homeland to journey wherever God called him. Even Jesus was a wanderer, who called 12 men to live a nomadic life of wandering, healing and preaching the Gospel.
Sometimes what we perceive as fruitless wandering may in fact be God guiding you to follow Him. Wandering can bring us out of darkness, into the light of life. Wandering may occur as a result of you being lost, but it may not mean you are truly lost. These experiences of wandering can deepen your faith and revolutionize your experience of God.