Prisoner of Hope

by Ava Pennington

A few years ago, I began the practice of choosing One Word for the year. But when the word hope kept coming to my attention in December 2016, I dismissed it. Our health and finances were in fairly good shape. Why would I need to focus on hope as a daily activity for the next twelve months?

I didn’t have to wait long to learn why hope was not only my word for 2017, it was for my husband as well. The first week in January, Russ entered the hospital with sharp abdominal pain. Tests confirmed pancreatic cancer.

While we waited in the ER for the admission paperwork to be completed, a nurse placed something in my hand and closed my fingers around it. “Here,” he said. “Hold on to this.” I opened my hand to reveal a glass stone with the word hope etched across it in gold letters.

If ever a diagnosis called for hope, it’s pancreatic cancer. In ten months, Russ experienced two surgeries, a multitude of doctor appointments, tests, chemotherapy, radiation, and more chemotherapy. Through it all, we trusted our Savior and hoped in Him.

The subject of hope came up again during a recent lunch with a friend. She asked me how to become a “prisoner of hope,” (Zechariah 9:12). How is it some people live in hope, while others—no matter how hard they fight against it—sink under waves of despair?

My experience showed me that my ability to live in hope rests in the object of my hope. All too often, I hear people say things such as:

I hope I get a raise.
I hope the weather clears.
I hope my friend is healed.

Problem is, in each of these (and similar) situations, the object of their hope is the desire they seek. And a string of unfulfilled desires can cause us to wallow in hopelessness. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of hoping in the gift instead of the Giver.

But consider what happens when our hope is placed in God, Himself. The more we understand what He has revealed about Himself, the more we realize He is always at work for His glory and our good. Regardless of the outcome—whether we receive what we want or not—it will always be for the best, even if we can’t see it now.

So the answer to the question of why some people are “prisoners of hope” while others are mired in hopelessness might be simpler than we think. If we hope in the thing we want, we’re bound to be disappointed on a regular basis. But if we hope in the Giver—the One who is our heavenly Father and Savior, we will always be satisfied.

Perhaps that’s a simplistic approach to hope. Or perhaps we try too hard to complicate the word.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13 ESV) 

© 2010 Martin Alan Grivjack Photography Martin Alan Grivjack Photography

About the authorAva Pennington is an author, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) teacher, and speaker. Her most recent book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God, is endorsed by Kay Arthur of Precepts Ministries.

Ava has also published stories in 30+ anthologies, including 25 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse.

She is a passionate speaker and delights in encouraging groups with relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winnerDaily Reflections on the Names of God - lo-res from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Ava’s devotional book,  Daily Reflections on the Names of God, please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Have unfulfilled desires ever caused you to wallow in hopelessness?


13 thoughts on “Prisoner of Hope

  1. What does “hope in the Giver” look like? I remember when we were hoping my friend’s mother would recover from the latest round of cancer surgeries, praying with tears the Lord would grant her just a little more time. He didn’t. My friend was devastated, she and her mother were very close, and my friend’s grandmother was also devastated, having lost another child to cancer.

    My friend was comforted in the knowledge her mother was now with the Lord, completely healed, in glory. But what would it have been like if her mother had not been a believer?

    I agree with you, it is a crushing life when our hopes are in the desired gifts. rather than in the Giver. But when we say “hope in the Giver” what are we really saying? That’s what I am trying to wrap my mind around.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Joanne, I’m so sorry for your friend’s (and your) loss.
      To answer your question, I believe “hope in the Giver” means placing our hope in the character of God. We know God is good all the time and all the time God is good, regardless of our circumstances. Yet all too often we allow our circumstances, especially the negative ones, to influence our perspective of God. To “hope in the Giver” is to trust that when He withholds what we ask for, He has the bigger picture in view. Yes, that can be temporarily devastating, as it was for your friend and her family. But hope in the Giver is where we find comfort, grace, and the strength to continue despite the suffering we experience in this broken, sin-sick world.
      I don’t mean to be glib or to throw Christian cliches at you. And I speak from personal experience, as my husband has recently received a terminal cancer diagnosis. But my hope is centered on my sovereign and loving heavenly Father, and I hope in Him.
      Does that clarify what I meant when I wrote “hope in the Giver”?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As I’ve spent time in Hebrews 11 I’ve thought about the difference between placing hope in my idea of how things should be and placing hope in God. Appreciate how you described the difference.


  3. Ava, I read your message several times. Yes, our powerful hope is in the Giver, Almighty God. I think of Romans 5:5. Your devotional will help lots of people. You shared how you really trusted in the Giver during a time when most people would scream out for gifts.


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