For more than 20 years, chart-topping singer/songwriter Jeremy Camp has performed in front of literally millions of adoring fans. With a message of faith, hope, and God’s enduring love, the five-time Dove Award winner has shared time and again how one love can change your life, but more importantly how one life can change the world.
Jeremy’s story is not an easy one. Married at the tender age of 22, he lost his wife Melissa to cancer just a few months after they said ‘I do.’ Naturally struggling to make sense of the myriad of questions he had for God, Jeremy battled mightily to hold on to his faith. But in those dark, quiet moments of grieving, he felt that God had impressed upon him to pick up his guitar and write. Putting pen to paper in the midst of his grief, he wrote what would become an anthem of hope for millions. The song? “I Still Believe”.
That song serves as the inspiration for the eponymous movie (opening nationwide March 13th) about Jeremy and Melissa’s life together. Directed by Jon and Andy Erwin, the follow-up to 2017’s faith-based juggernaut I Can Only Imagine stars Riverdale sensation K.J. Apa and Britt Robertson, with Hollywood veteran Gary Sinise and country music superstar Shania Twain in supporting roles.
I recently spoke with a very humbled Jeremy about his decision to relive some very painful moments from his life, his amazement that a song he wrote long ago still resonates with audiences today, and how he addresses an age-old question that has tormented people of faith for centuries.
It’s not every day that someone has a movie made about their lives. This must be an incredibly surreal experience for you. Your thoughts?
Honestly, what’s crazy about this whole thing is a lot of people are asking me if I am excited. Of course, I’m so excited. It blows me away that they’re actually doing this. Most people don’t get this opportunity, but it’s hard because it’s the darkest, most anguished part of my life, a trial that I went through that hurt really bad. It’s kind of like this. When you have an open wound, it’s festering and hurting constantly. Then it finally heals and then becomes a scar. Well, pretty soon you’re not feeling it and not really paying attention to it.
But every once while you look at it and can be reminded of the pain that you went through. This is really the same thing. It’s not an open wound anymore but I’ve been forced to look at this scar of my life. But there’s a very important thing in this. Seeing that God has healed me in the midst of all that. To that I say, ‘I’m here to thank you God,’ but it also hurt. And so, it’s definitely a different mix of emotions. But honestly, the Scripture in II Corinthians says that we will comfort others. We’ve always been comforted. I feel like that’s a big part of what this is going to be … that is being able to share the cover God has given me to the people.
Was it a difficult decision for you to greenlight the film knowing that you would need to relive some of the more painful moments in your life?
Yeah, absolutely. There were many times where during the filming I would be watching certain moments and scenes where I would have to walk away, and my wife (Adie Camp) would come in to see if I was alright. A couple of times I just found myself crying on her shoulder to be honest. But then I’d walk back to the filming. Here I am behind my family … my wife and three kids and I’m going, ‘Wow, Lord, but look what you’ve done. Look at how faithful you are!’ It’s just a constant reminder of that was hard, but a constant reminder of God’s faithfulness. I love in the Old Testament where they talk about Ebenezer so much … stones to remembrance. And it’s like there’s constant stones of remembrance of what God has done. It’s been beautiful to watch.
Were there certain things about Melissa and your story that were off limits? I have to believe some parts of your relationship were highly personal. Would that be the case?
Honestly, it was very authentically real of what we experienced and emotions that were present. There wasn’t anything necessarily off limits. There might be some things that they didn’t put in there, it wasn’t anything that would be off limits. You see the emotions, you see the ups and downs of a relationship, and you see the emotions of some of the stuff that we dealt with. I just kind of let it all go because if it can reach more people that way, then we want that to happen.
What are some of the key themes in this film that you think will resonate with audiences of all ages?
Everyone can resonate with love. You love somebody, whatever that is. You’re going to resonate with that and having that emotion towards somebody. The beautiful thing about this and what people are going to see is that it’s not just a love story between a man and woman. People are going to walk out of the theater having seen God’s love throughout the whole thing. Hopefully, people will experience God’s love because that’s what it is about. It was us focusing on Him and putting Him first and being the comfort through all of it that got us through it. But then of course, hope is a big theme because everyone’s going to go through trials and tribulations, but then at the end of the film you don’t go, ‘Oh man, I feel hopeless.’ You’re going to say, ‘Oh, there is hope.’ No matter what hard thing you may go through or what kind of pain you may go through there is still hope. And that is the theme of the story massively.
Are you amazed that God is using the song “I Still Believe” after all these years to minister to people?
I’m blown away that God is still using me no matter what it is. I don’t take lightly that I’m still doing this. Honestly, I always go through those ups and downs of, ‘Okay God, is there something else you want me to do? Do you want me to go somewhere and be a missionary?’ Whatever it may be, I’ve had those thoughts. God, are you done with me?’ Honestly all these things. The fact that He’s saying, ‘I’m going to actually put something out there that is going to reach more people than probably you’ve ever reached in your whole life.’ It’s really humbling. I don’t say that to try to say the Christian-ese spiritual thing. That’s really humbling. I’m just excited about the next season and we don’t know what’s going to unfold. I think we’re just saying, ‘God, obviously, you still want to use this, and we just want to be the best stewards of what you’ve given us.
Melissa and your story could be seen as a tragic one, in that some audiences may say, ‘How can a good God allow this to happen to such good people?’ As someone who has certainly lived through that question, how would you address that?
I can say this very quickly. You have to be careful because those who don’t know Christ you need to explain this in a certain way. When Melissa first found out she had cancer, you will see in the movie where she says, “If I die from this or if my life can just change one person’s life, it’s all worth it. And if one person will come to know Jesus than it’s all worth it.” For me, she knew Christ. She knew that she was going to go to Heaven no matter what. And so, she was saying, “Listen, if my life or my death can bring one person to that knowledge of Christ than it is worth it.” That was her heart.
As you’re watching this whole thing and then you watch me go through this, and she’s with Jesus, and then you watch me go through my angst, but then you can see my life now and what God has done. You will see that what she said has come true. Her sister said this during the filming. She said, “I want people to understand that she got the better end of the deal. She is with Jesus right now.” She didn’t want to come back here, yet we miss her. It’s hard for us that she’s with the person that she loves so much that one day we’re all going to be with. For us, we’re stuck here and that’s the pain we have to go through. But now that I look at what’s happening with my family and with this movie, you’ve got to say, ‘Okay.’ On the flip side, look what God has done and how He’s got the glory, how He’s been so faithful and how it has ministered to many people.
After audiences have seen the movie what is your greatest hope for I Still Believe?
I’m weary of saying these things because it sounds so Christian-ese. But I really want people to walk out of theaters that don’t know Jesus and say, ‘What is that? I want that.’ Or those who do know Christ and have been struggling with their faith would go, ‘I feel strengthened. I feel hopeful. I feel encouraged.’ That’s our heart’s desire and I think that it really will do that. To be honest, I feel like it captures those two things to reach out to the lost and to minister to those that need that touch from the Lord. And so that makes me so excited.
I Still Believe opens in theaters nationwide on March 13th.
Watch a trailer for the new movie I Still Believe: