Behind the Story of “Set My Hope”- Part 1

This past weekend we looked at Romans Chapter 8 as we talked about what it means to work in a fallen world. Our Grace Church worship team wrote a song called “Set My Hope” not too long ago inspired by Romans Chapter 8 and a personal story experienced by a family within our church.  A family that was given devastating news yet clung to hope and the powerful words from Romans Chapter 8. Part 1 of the story behind the song is below.


Singing is one of the best ways to memorize words, and for believers, that is an important tool in learning scripture and applying it to our everyday lives.  Preaching the gospel to ourselves is especially important in times of struggle when we are prone to doubt or struggle to believe God’s word.  When we face suffering or even death, our actual hopes don’t always align with the eternal hopes that God holds out to us.  Romans 8 is a rich text that embraces the brokenness of the world, and the redemption God is bringing to it.  Paul holds the “groan” and the “glory” side by side and reminds the believer of the glorious hope we have in Christ.

Though “Set My Hope” was certainly a team effort, I wrote most of the song a little over 7 years ago while wrestling with the news that my wife and I were going to lose one of our children.  The lyrics (and the text) are hopeful…more-so than I was when writing the song.  I was in a place of great despair, and writing the song was an attempt to preach to myself…to let my actions lead my heart, and to let God’s word lead my actions.


In the Fall of 2007, my wife Emily and I went through the most challenging season of our lives so far, and God used this section of scripture to “set our hope” in the eternal.  Emily was 20 weeks pregnant with our 2nd son, Cohen, and what was supposed to be a routine check-up on the progress of the pregnancy turned out to be the beginning of a journey we are still walking.  We both watched with excitement as the ultrasound technician did her work and images of our son appeared on the TV monitor.  Our excitement turned to concern as we noticed that Cohen’s arms and legs seemed to look much shorter than we remembered with our first son.  Concern turned to fear when we were asked if we could go upstairs to the maternal fetal specialists for a more thorough ultrasound.

“Incompatible with life” was the phrase we heard that is forever burned in our minds.  The 2nd ultrasound revealed that all of Cohen’s “long bones” were developing much shorter than normal, including his rib cage.  A ratio of body mass to lung capacity determines the likelihood of survival when it comes to lung development, and Cohen had less than half the lung capacity he needed to support his body.  We were devastated…shocked…numb.

The next 17 weeks were some of the most vivid and surreal times we have ever experienced.  The world felt still and quiet, and much of our time was spent making sense of our emotions and praying for God’s help.  We had amazing support from our friends, community group, and the church staff, but we felt utterly dependent on God to sustain us and give us peace.  There were times His presence felt so apparent I would have sworn I could touch Him if I closed my eyes and reached out my arm.  Other times, I struggled to find Him and to make sense of why He was allowing us to walk through this.  But through the entire pregnancy, it was apparent that He was pursuing us and sustaining us.

-Chris McGowan

Part 2 of the McGowan’s story will be posted tomorrow.