We have all had those moments when we wanted something very badly. It could have been a job, a relationship, a raise, a car, or a number of other things. Then when we got what we wanted, we discovered that it wasn’t what we needed.

I recall one romantic relationship that I had, and I was certain that she was the one I was going to marry. When we broke up I was deeply heartbroken. I pleaded with God to allow us to get back together, and yet nothing happened.

When I met Jenny and began to fall in love with her, God opened my eyes to this previous relationship, the one I thought was so perfect, and I realized what a disaster it would have been if we had gotten married. By God’s grace I was able to marry the perfect woman for me. If I had married the girl who, for a time, I thought was “the one”, then I would have missed out on the love, joy, encouragement, and support I have with Jenny.

Because of our limited perspective we don’t understand all the consequences of our actions, and so what we think we want in one moment can lead to dreadful circumstances in the next. Often, the desires of our hearts lead us into addiction, abuse, and abandonment from which we cannot escape.


Why is getting your heart’s deepest desire so often a disaster? In the book of Romans, Saint Paul wrote that one of the worst things God can do to someone is to ‘give them over to the desires of their hearts’ (Romans 1:24). Why would the greatest punishment imaginable be to allow someone to achieve their fondest dream? It is because our hearts fashion these desires into idols. In that same chapter, Paul summarized the history of the human race in one sentence: ‘They worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator’ (Romans 1:25). Every human being must live for something. Something must capture our imaginations, our heart’s most fundamental allegiance and hope. But, the Bible tells us, without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that object will never be God himself. (Emphasis added)

Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p. 3

The essence of Hell is getting exactly what we want based on our limited understanding of God and eternity. (Tweet this)

The more information that we have, the better choice we are able to make. If our perspective is limited to the small part of space and time that we occupy, then there is a lot happening around us that we don’t understand. This reality leads us to make poor choices, because what seems valuable to us with our limited perspective quickly loses its value when we have a better understand of eternity and God’s will.

Since humans have a limited perspective, we will constantly make poor choices based on what seems good in the moment. We may think something is exactly what we need, and we can be sincere in our desire to have it, but in the end it doesn’t bring life because it doesn’t come from God.

This is why the Holy Spirit is essential in helping us break free from our idolatry. The Holy Spirit opens the eyes of our hearts so we can have a bigger picture of where our lives fit in regards to eternity. He guides us to make better choices, based on God’s will, rather than our feeling in the moment. Without the Holy Spirit’s intervention we are destined to get exactly what we want, which will end with our enslavement to sin. Only the Holy Spirit can lead us away from our puny idols, and into God’s will for our lives.

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