As much as we would like to think that our free will grants us carte blanche free reign, it does not. Proverbs 16:29 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (NIV). Proverbs 16:19 further states that, “Many are the plans of a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” (NIV). Inherent in both Proverbs is the fundamental principle that God is in control.

So what does it mean when we hear the statement: “God grants the desires of our hearts?” First, we have to define desire. We erroneously think that God’s grandeur disqualifies Him from our self-proclaimed minutia. When it comes to the desires of our heart, we seek God on large scale issues: marriage, children, and career. We seldom seek His counsel on the small desires—chocolate ice cream versus broccoli. I am sure I just lost a lot of you. God must be bigger than soft serve, right? Or, is He?

The more we embrace the fact that God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thought, the easier our lives will be. In the previous example, God sees beyond the chocolate ice cream. He sees us on the molecular/cellular level. He sees our familial/genetic history, which may include diabetes or heart disease. He sees the crystallization of our arteries by the cream. So for Him, our desire for dessert is not just about dessert. He is deeper than that. God is the author of that next level thinking.

God sees the true desires of our heart. He sees the hidden desires that trump our vocalized wants. In the case of the chocolate ice cream, He sees that our long-term desire to remain healthy trumps our momentary desire for pleasure. Our frustrations (e.g. forgotten wallet or delayed traffic) along the path to quell our chocolate craving may just be God intervening and creating an opportunity for us to exercise our free will (i.e. change our minds). Does that mean that we have to seek God’s counsel on every single detail? Probably not! In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think God cares whether we favored chocolate ice cream over vanilla. However, we must realize that the exercise of our free will is never independent of His design.

Enough about chocolate! What about our other desires. I believe that there are two, basic types of desires: desires of the flesh and desires of the spirit. Desires of the spirit are always of God, and therefore good. Desires of the flesh vary between good, bad and relative. If our desire is contrary to the Word, it is not of God, and is therefore bad. Each of us must weigh our desires against the Word and our inner, spiritual gauge in order to determine whether a desire is of/from God.

Let’s take it a step further. What about those nagging desires of the heart that fail to dissipate despite how many times we mute them? You know them—the desire to start a business, write a book or even get married. I believe that God places those desires on our heart. He allows us the opportunity to execute plans to bring our desires to fruition. However, he ordains each step by lighting or dimming our pathways. To believe that God gave us complete autonomy would infer that God has a contingency plan—If A, then B. With that said, I am sure that there are those who may argue that God is sovereign and knows when our chosen path will lead to failure. Although I do believe that God may allow temporary failure for a greater good, I do not believe that He would watch idly as we walk into utter destruction. He is bigger than that. Whatever autonomy we are granted is still within His parameters. I do not believe that our limitation in free will is because God wants to control us like robot. I believe it’s because He know the true desires of our heart—our subliminal desires that trump our expressed wants.