Sometimes when we pray, we get an answer immediately and it’s the answer we want. Other times, we have to wait for an answer—often to the point where we wonder if we’ll ever get one. And sometimes even then, God reveals that He has a different plan in store.
When Christian singer Jeremy Camp’s soon-to-be wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, everyone around her prayed for her to be healed—and that prayer was answered. Melissa was miraculously cured. They got married and were excited to share their story with the masses and bring glory to God.
But God hadn’t finished revealing His plan for them. On their honeymoon, Melissa’s cancer returned. Sadly, there wasn’t a miraculous cure this time around.
But Melissa continued to believe that God was going to use her. She told Jeremy that if only one person’s life was changed by her story, “it [would] be worth it.” I Still Believe tells Melissa and Jeremy’s story. And it tells not only of their incredible love and the tragic loss they faced, but how the young couple maintained their faith in God through all of it.
Jeremy and Melissa’s love for one another is palpable, and the first act of their story on the big screen is a faith-infused romance as they face various obstacles in their relationship—including some that seem as if they’ll end that relationship before it even starts.
When Melissa is first diagnosed with cancer, Jeremy ends his Christmas vacation with his family early to be with her, rekindling their relationship after a rocky patch. He takes a semester off school in order to take care of her and keeps her company during doctors’ appointments. He reassures her that she’s beautiful and will be well again. She, in turn, encourages him to pursue his budding music career and reminds him that God has a plan for their lives.
Melissa and Jeremy are both very close to their families, sharing lots of hugs and telling them that they love them. Jeremy pays special attention to his younger brother, Josh, who has Down syndrome, and he gives Josh a cell phone so he can call Jeremy at school. Melissa’s sister is grateful to Jeremy for putting Melissa’s needs first and offers to take turns with him staying with Melissa in the hospital.
Jeremy’s parents are very hesitant about Jeremy getting engaged to Melissa, since they’re so young and she’s so sick. But his mother still gives Jeremy her engagement ring to give to Melissa when he proposes.
Many emotionally wrenching scenes throughout the film depict the difficulty of trying to come to terms with such a tragic loss. At different points, we see her crying from the pain and doctors talking about how the disease has spread, her treatment options and the odds of her survival. And after Melissa discovers her cancer has returned, she locks herself alone in a bathroom so that she can cry in private.
Melissa is visibly upset when her hair begins to fall out and she has to shave it. We see the pieces fall to the ground as she does so. She is also devastated when a doctor tells her that she needs a hysterectomy and won’t be able to have children.
After Melissa dies, Jeremy briefly goes into a catatonic state. His dad picks him up off the floor so he can receive Melissa’s death certificate, and he is carried out of the hospital by his dad and Jean-Luc. He is seen crying at Melissa’s funeral, during a thunderstorm and after reading Melissa’s journal. These poignant scenes are hard to watch, but they paint a realistic picture of what grief looks like, even for someone who’s comforted by faith.
Jeremy meets and becomes good friends with another musician named Jean-Luc, the lead singer of his favorite band and a mutual friend of Melissa’s. Jean-Luc mentors Jeremy, giving him advice about writing music and even helping to launch Jeremy’s music career and supporting Jeremy and Melissa when she gets sick.
The key message of this film (and the key message of Jeremy Camp’s song “I Still Believe,” from which it gets its title) is to continue trusting God even when we are broken and don’t understand what His plan is for us.
Early on, Melissa takes Jeremy to a planetarium and speaks in awe that the God of a trillion stars knows her name and has a destiny for her. When she gets sick, she admits to being scared, but surrenders to God’s plan. She knows that even though she wouldn’t have chosen this path for herself, He can use her illness to change the lives of others. And after she realizes that the cancer is going to cut her life short, she clings to her conviction that her suffering is a blessing. She says that suffering doesn’t destroy faith, it refines it. She is calmed by the knowledge that when she passes, she will be safe in God’s arms and have a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Jeremy fervently believes that God will heal Melissa. He uses his platform as a musician to ask people to pray for her at a concert and during radio interviews. He compares her belief to the woman from the books of Luke and Mark whose faith was so strong that she was healed just by reaching out to touch Jesus’ garment. And when Melissa is healed just before a major surgery, he exults in the fact that miracles still happen, and that God still heals.
After Melissa dies, Jeremy talks to his dad (who is a pastor) about how to handle his grief and disappointment at her loss. Jeremy says he prayed for his younger brother, Josh, to be born healthy and prayed for his dad’s ministry to be successful, both of which prayers weren’t answered (from his perspective). His dad responds by saying that his life is full not in spite of those disappointments but because of them. He tells Jeremy that he would walk through fire for his wife and sons because of how much he loves them. And he tells Jeremy that because of Melissa’s illness, he had the privilege of watching his son demonstrate that same love for another person, adding to the fullness of his own life.
When it comes to their relationship, Jeremy and Melissa constantly refer to God. They pray for each other and about whether or not they should date and (eventually) get married. Jeremy admits that he first realized he loved Melissa while watching her worship God, and Melissa tells Jeremy that she first realized she loved him while praying for his future wife.
Jean-Luc is a Christian artist and encourages Jeremy to write songs for “the day with no more tears.”
Two years after Melissa’s passing, a fellow musician tells Jeremy that his and Melissa’s story saved her. She was at a point in her life where she needed to see how God was real and meaningful to someone going through real suffering—and she says that she saw that in Melissa when Jeremy compared her to the woman who touched Jesus’ robe.
Several worship songs are played, and we see people singing along and raising their hands in worship. A cross is seen on a mountaintop as well as the steeple of a building at Jeremy and Melissa’s college. There is also a cross on the wall of the hospital chapel.
Jeremy and Melissa share several kisses, including a passionate one after he proposes to her. We see them lying in bed together (clothed) after their wedding. Jeremy also kisses her on her cheek and forehead a few times and lays on a hospital bed with her. Melissa kisses the top of his head when he lays in her lap and blows a kiss to him at a concert. They also hug, hold hands, dance closely together and sit with their arms wrapped around each other. Melissa wears a couple of different tank tops.
We eventually learn that Jean-Luc has romantic feelings for Melissa that she doesn’t reciprocate, a reality she has tried to deny. (We see Jean-Luc flirting with and hugging her.) Because of that awkward situation, Jeremy and Melissa initially keep their relationship secret to keep Jean-Luc’s feelings from getting hurt. It’s a well-intended attempt to protect him that ultimately ends up wounding him more when he discovers the two embracing. Eventually, however, Jean-Luc is able to graciously support their relationship.
Weakened by her cancer, Melissa struggles and fails to open a glass jar. She hurls it in frustration and grief against the kitchen counter, tossing a few more dishes to the ground as well. Also struggling with rage and loss, Jeremy repeatedly smashes his guitar against his dresser, breaking the instrument into multiple pieces.
We hear Melissa retching and a moment later see that she has thrown up blood. In a later scene, her body goes into shock and doctors rush to save her, but we hear a flatline as she dies.
Someone says, “Shut up.”
None (save Melissa’s IV medications).
A man sneaks backstage at a concert by lying to the bouncer about being a part of the crew.
I Still Believe is an incredibly powerful story about faith, but it’s also an incredibly sad story. It shows that even when we lay it all down at the feet of the Lord, we still might not get the answer we expect or hope for.
Melissa chooses joy in the face of cancer; and Jeremy, inspired by her faith, chooses to walk with her. Their journey is heart-wrenchingly difficult, and in the end, things still don’t turn out how they hoped.
Jeremy asks a lot of hard questions about faith and obedience when Melissa dies, but he ultimately concludes that what’s happened is God’s will—even if he’ll never fully understand. Like Melissa, he chooses joy in the face of hardship, allowing him to spread the message of God’s faithfulness and truth.
I Still Believe is a poignant portrait of faith and doubt, love and grief, heartbreak and hope. And it’s a story with the power to prompt deeper conversations about all of those themes—once you’re done weeping, that is.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.