Summary: Having the desire of our hearts rightly aligned with God is critical, for God will eventual grant it; if we have prepared our hearts through constant training to receive God, we have a heavenly reward, but it we have prepared it to reject God,our payment
You know when you ask—nay, beg—God to do something or give something to you… Have you ever the request denied, and found out that what God refused, what you desired so badly, ultimately would have been harmful to you? Not everything we desire is wholly aligned with God’s perfect will; some things are contrary to it.
So when we pray with the Psalmist, “May he give you the desire of your heart” (Ps. 20:5), we must be mindful as to what our hearts desire. If our desires are in accordance with God’s will and plan—if our hearts are set on things eternal and not on things temporal—then the granting of that desire is beneficial and healthy. But if the desire is in conflict with what God wants for us—if our hearts are fixed on desires of the flesh—then the very granting of that desires is to our loss.
What’s an example of being betrayed by one’s heart? God granted Pharaoh the desire of his heart. “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go” (Ex. 4:21). When Aaron’s staff became a snake, and swallowed up the magician’s staffs, “Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said” (Ex. 7:13). After plagues 1-5, and 7, Pharaoh hardened his heart. He did not want the Israelites to go. He chose to reject the wonders, the signs, the mighty acts of God; and he chose to prefer his own plans and desires for Israel. So God granted Pharaoh the desire of his heart. God allowed him to harden his heart, and following plagues 6, 8, 9, and 10 the Lord hardened his heart, completing Pharaoh’s desire.
It may seem monstrous that God, the all-loving and merciful, would do such a thing. Jonathan Edwards describes the justice of God in doing so, allowing man his own inclination. “They are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another. As he that stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down. The reason that they are not fallen already, and don’t fall now, is only that God’s appointed time is not come. For it is said that when that due time, or appointed time comes, ‘their foot shall slide.’ Then they shall be left to fall as they are inclined by their own weight. God won’t hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then, at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands in such slippery declining ground on the edge of a pit that he can’t stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.”
Men cannot flout God. St. Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the spirit will reap eternal life” (Gal 6:7,8). There is no want of power in God to do as He promises; we cannot fool him. The covenant came to Israel with blessings and curses, a Mount Gerizim and a Mount Ebal. And the new covenant comes with blessings and curses. Blessings pour down like rain on Mount Calvary and explode out from the empty tomb. But the curse drags down from the Abyss—from darkness, that is, separation from God, the source of our very existence and life. The soul that desires not God’s presence and labors all its earthly days to refuse the invitation of God to return home, from those preparations will reap its payment. But the soul that looks for God day and night, seeking him while he may be found (Is. 55:6), that “yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord” (Ps. 84:2), from that groundwork will receive its prize. The Lord will grant each what it most desires; the harvest will be from what was sown.
Jesus teaches us in the parable of the growing seed that each action, whether we mind it or not, contributes to our heart’s development. As we go through life, every action, every deed, every thought, every desire of the heart that we allow to remain and don’t cut off or pluck out, each one of these is a seed planted in our soul. Godly desires are like wheat, fine durum, that yields 30, 60, even 100 fold increase; ungodly desires are like tares, noxious weeds, that use up the soil and water, block the sunlight, and stunt and choke out the surrounding wheat. Throughout our life we plant seeds: speaking an encouraging word to a learning child places a seed in our own heart; visiting the elderly down at the nursing home plants a seed; volunteering in the Shepherd’s shop plants a seed; not allowing that rude person who rode up the shoulder to merge plants a seed; speaking uncharitably of someone plants a seed; allowing the day to slip by without communing with God plants a seed. “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head” (Mk. 4:27,28). All of these seeds in the soul produce a crop on their own, tended or untended.