How do you respond in the midst of unspeakable tragedy and raging uncertainty? A certified Gold singer, Jeremy Camp, believes his story can provide some peace and point people to Jesus.
This week, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the story of singer Camp and his first wife, who was diagnosed with cancer shortly before they married, arrived in theaters this week as the major motion picture I Still Believe. Camp says that while the film has been discussed for years, he believes it’s releasing now because it’s all about God’s timing.
“Years ago, we started the process, but I didn’t like the script and it didn’t feel right so we put it on the back burner,” the singer shared. “Then I met Jon Erwin after a show, and they were wrapping up I Can Only Imagine and had read our story, and said it should be a movie. After meeting with my wife Adrienne and me, and filming the conversation, they walked out, saying, ‘We have to do this.’ They had the right heart and it felt like the right time.”
“We might be releasing a film at the worst possible time,” Camp continued with a chuckle, referencing the pandemic. “But it’s the story of hope in the midst of uncertainty and running to Christ. It’s all about God’s timing. So in the midst of fear and pain for a lot of people, it’s the best time, too.”
Camp, who wrote the song “I Still Believe” just two weeks after his wife Melissa died in 2001, recognizes that the pain of losing her after three months of marriage is unbelievable, but he knows it drove him toward God in the midst of his prayer and songwriting. “Sometimes, people can say, ‘I want to write this style of song’ or ‘I want to write a song for the radio,’ but the best songs are the ones where you write things that are true to where you are. They connect with people.”
Quoting the title song’s lyrics, he continued, “‘I still believe in Your faithfulness, I still believe in Your truth, I still believe in Your holy word, Even when I don't see, I still believe’ was where I was and so that’s what I wrote about because it was on my heart.”
The straightforwardness with which Camp is willing to share comes through his words, and KJ Apa aptly plays Camp with eagerness and directness that Camp has sung and spoken for years. But the actor has also tackled the suffering Camp calls “a necessary part of life,” that he refused to ignore or dodge. Maybe some of that has to do with the way that Camp’s father (played by Gary Sinise) led his family and Indiana’s Harvest Chapel as the pastor, but it certainly has a lot to do with his life experience.
“We like to run away from the pain, but we need to rely on the Lord,” he says. “Christ’s suffering on the cross allowed for our salvation. He prays in the garden, ‘if there’s any other way, take this from me and I’ll do it, but I’ll follow through and do this if it’s your will.”
“Suffering brings life and depth to us like gold being refined in the fire or the clay being worked by the potter. If the clay says, ‘Quit pushing me,’ we’d never be like what God created us to be. And God used this to make me who I am. So I could shake my fist and run away, or I could say, ‘Jesus, you’re the only place to run to and get peace.’”
That peace is depicted in the film in a way that Camp says is exactly the way that he and Melissa experienced it, even while she lay dying in a hospital bed. At one point, Britt Robertson sits up (as Melissa) and says, ‘It’s gone, it’s gone, Jeremy!’ sharing how she’s seen God move in her. Camp admitted that the scene caused him to break down in tears because the Erwin Brothers had conveyed the scene in a way that he felt like he was reliving it.
“Experiencing it again is worth it because of how I’ve seen God using it already,” Camp explained. “To see the lives changed already is amazing. I’ve seen what God is doing in KJ’s heart, and Shania's [Twain] heart, and Gary, as well as in my life, my wife’s, and my kids.”
Talking about Adrienne Camp, the singer shares that her trust in sharing the story has allowed for it to reach many more people. Adrienne is protective of the story because it helped her even before she met Camp, but she’s the one Camp says constantly says, ‘It’s not about you, or me, or Melissa. It’s about Jesus.’
Even as a tour gets cancelled and people are concerned about going in public, Camp says he’s looking at the long view of how the movie can help people. “For me, everything is different in the light of eternity, so you see differently. I have a different perspective because I've looked into the face of eternity sitting next to my wife as she died. Sure, I have fears and ups and downs, but I realize this is all temporary. ‘For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all’ (2 Corinthians 4:17).’”
“So be wise, and wash your hands. But don’t be afraid. Fear is not from the Lord but from the enemy.”