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Madeline Carroll Sees God's Hand in "I Can Only Imagine"

Hannah Goodwyn


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I Can Only Imagine, the new Christian movie inspired by MercyMe's hit song and lead singer Bart Millard's life, was a godsend for actress Madeline Carroll.

At 20, she was ready to quit acting. She was desperate for a role that would be a divine sign of her place and future in the movie biz. After a rather interesting audition (an hour-long chat about God with bro-directors Jon and Andrew Erwin), Carroll got her answer.

Being a part of a big film that extols forgiveness and redemption has been a life changer for Carroll and she's passionately sharing about her strong faith to anyone who will listen.

Recently, she sat down with to chat about the movie and some dark days she had to walk through prior to getting the role of Bart Millard's wife, Shannon. Here are excerpts from that conversation:

Hannah Goodwyn: Did the God moments you felt during the audition process carry through to the filming of I Can Only Imagine?

Madeline Carroll: 100 percent. Everything.

For me, it was just God resurrecting my dream, bringing it back to life, because I truly thought it was dead. I didn't think that I would act anymore. I didn't think that I was called to the industry anymore. I really didn't. But there was just something inside me that kept thinking, but God, you said, but God, you told me. So many 'but Gods.'

Then this one day last year, I literally came to my wit's end. I was massively depressed, completely heartbroken, just getting and seeing things come across my way that I really wasn't interested in doing, didn't really think were anything that would be edifying. So, I was ready to walk away.

I was so done and I said, 'God, I don't want to go one more day feeling this confusion. I'm so sick of this.' I said, 'God, I don't want to go one more day having this hole over my life and if you have still called me here then, God, you have to do something; because I can't take the way that I'm feeling.' And I said, 'Lord, if I'm still meant to be here, send me something.' And I said, 'Wait, you know what, as a matter of fact, send me something that will edify you and then I'll know that, because it edifies you, that this is something you've asked me to do.'

I've never done a faith-based film, been [acting] since I was three-and-a-half years old. Literally the next day, I get a text message – which doesn't happen – and the director said, 'Hey, it's Harold Cronk from last year,' literally a full year. He's like, 'I got your number off of your agents; and I just wanted to let you know that you're going to be getting an offer on Monday.' It was the weekend. 'And I just wanted to give you a heads up that that's coming your way.'

So, it was completely and utterly God and I was shocked. I was sitting, like, so depressed … and I picked up the phone, and I called him. I started to cry and I was like, 'I just want you to know that God is using you to answer my prayer right now.' I literally, I told him everything I prayed just yesterday and he started to cry. It ministered to him and blessed him and he was like, 'Oh my goodness. I can't believe this. This is so the Lord.' And it was just a beautiful experience that we had.

So, like that whole year, God just kind of did what He pleased with me. And I just allowed that. I was just at His mercy truly instead of things happening through my agents and managers, which things do and they're great and I love them. But God just that whole year really showed me that He is my casting director and He is my agent and He is my producer.

For so long—I don't want to cry… For so long I just, I didn't think that I would ever have it again. I didn't think that I would ever be an actress anymore. I had given up so long ago and for God to show up like that at the darkest hour, there's not much I can say other than all glory to Him.

And so now I just feel like I have to tell everybody what He did for me. I know not everybody wants to be an actress, not everybody wants to be a singer, be in the entertainment industry, but whatever it is that God has called them to do, don't give up. Just continue to pray and seek His face. That's what I did. I laid it before God. I sought His face. And I said, 'God, I love you more than I love this dream. And even though it breaks my heart that this might be the end for me, I want to follow you. I want your presence.' And God showed up and revived it again. I can't believe it. I can't believe any of it.

Goodwyn: I read somewhere that Bart Millard has become a friend of yours through this experience. What have your conversations been like?

Carroll: It's funny because just the other day, I was talking to him. We were just sharing stories back and forth, and he was telling me how… he actually said it on a panel, that five years ago he wouldn't have been emotionally ready for now. He wouldn't have been able to respect it and handle it the way that he does now. It just goes along with what I just shared is like there's a process that we have to go through. And God knows, even though at the time when he was approached for a film, he probably thought, 'Oh, that would be great.' But, God knew that he physically in his capacity wasn't able to handle it.

Now, not only can he handle it, but he's pushing it forward so much to reach and impact other people rather than cower from it. He's in the front lines pushing it forward for other people to be blessed by it. So, there's always a transformative process in anything we do.

My testimony wouldn't be half as important if I hadn't lived a little, if I hadn't gone through that five-years of pain, and drought, and sadness. If I hadn't lived through that, I wouldn't have anything to share. So, I just want to encourage anyone who's going to hear or read this that there is a transformation process. We may not see it in the moment, I sure didn't see it in the moment, but now coming up the other side of the wave, I understand it. I recognize it. I recognize God's hand in the pain, and how He just made something so beautiful from it.

Goodwyn: What's your greatest hope and dream?

Carroll: My biggest dream would be to continue to get to platforms where I can speak to people and be a blessing to people, and share what God's done for me. I feel an obligation, to be honest with you, to shout it from the rooftops what He did. I can't believe it.

And it was so not me that I just feel obligated to share it and expound on it, and try and reach people with it. I didn't realize that what I had to say would impact anybody until a few weeks ago when I got to share my testimony for the first time. I haven't been through a tragedy. I really haven't. I haven't had something horrifying happen, but God showed up for me in my world, in my own personal way so profoundly. To be able to share that with others would just be unbelievable. I just pray that God gives me more opportunities for that.

He's already made dreams of mine that I had at 10 years old come true in the past two weeks, so it has just been amazing. I'm here for whatever He has next. I'm here for whatever He wants. But truly I would love to be able to share on just more platforms that maybe I don't even expect; because that's the way it's been going, I'm like, 'OK God, whatever you want.' That's a dream that I've had for years; and I never thought that God would bring acting together with speaking for me or encouraging somebody. I just didn't think it was possible. I used to pray for it when I was little, and just to have it come true 10 years later at 21, it's just unbelievable. It's just the hand of God.

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About The Author


Hannah Goodwyn served as a Senior Producer for, managing and writing for the award-winning website. After her undergraduate studies at Christopher Newport University, Hannah went on to study Journalism at the graduate level. In 2005, she graduated summa cum laude with her Master's from Regent University and was honored with an Outstanding Student Award. From there, Hannah began work as a content producer for For ten years, she acted as the managing producer for the website's Family and Entertainment sections. A movie buff, Hannah felt right at home working as's