A lot of us Christians believe the wilderness is that part of your walk with God where your faith gets seriously tested. Judging from the story of the Children of Israel, it is not funny in any way. Then comes Jesus also, spending forty days in the wilderness, gets tempted, overcomes and launches into His Ministry.
I think the wilderness is rather a character development boot camp for every Christian. It is not necessarily given a particular duration. How fast you leave or how long you stay depends on you and how fast you are willing to learn. The whole idea is to make you come out as gold. Proverbs 17:3, “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts”. This period of God trying your heart is compared to the process of refining gold or silver, by putting it in the fire. One thing I know for sure is that it doesn’t last forever and the heat is just what you can bear. Not too low, then you won’t come out better, purified and not too hot because you would melt in the heat.
1 Peter 1:7, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ”.
Another thing about the wilderness is that when successfully completed, you launch out into what God has had held up for you. When He commands that “Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount”, it means it is time to claim the promised land like the Children of Israel, begin the ministry like Jesus and for you, well, do what God has had planned for you. He trained you up not to hide you under a bushel but rather to put you on your lamp stand.
Also, the wilderness requires that you enjoy your stay there. Not because it is not terrible but because of your faith. Praise and joy keeps your faith up there and helps you concentrate on important things like pleasing Him, obeying His instructions. You see the children of Israel complained a lot during their own training and got 40 years just going in circles round about a mountain until God commanded it was enough. Your attitude is directly proportional to your assimilation during the training and the faster you learn the faster you get to leave the training and move on to the real deal, completing that assignment or maybe claiming that prize.
Is it a one time only experience? I believe it is more like a journey with lots of turns here and there. “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day”. I believe that God has a plan for each and every one of us. So depending on the plan and the desired end for each of us, it could be a wilderness or wildernesses as the case may be.