When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the
main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was
the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, "If the people are
faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." Exodus 13:17
Why the wilderness? Because God knew the Israelites would be faced with a distraction had they gone the "normal" route; the way that made "sense"; the way of the world. V18 says they would have faced battle and would have turned in fear and run back to Egypt. The only way to the P. Land was to go through the wilderness.
Me too. If I had followed my way into the P. Land I would have never reached the true Canaan. I would have been distracted by worldly things--job, money, success, prestige. But because God took me through the wilderness, I learned to look at and listen to Him. I learned how to do things His way. And I made it all the way to Canaan.
Priscilla Shriver said, "Wilderness isn't distraction; wandering the wilderness is a distraction." (See Bible study). Feel lost in the wilderness? Stop wondering. Follow God and He'll lead you through the wilderness to your place of abundance.