'I Can Only Imagine' Star Was Depressed and About to Quit...Then 'God Blew the Door Wide Open'


Veteran Hollywood actress Madeline Carroll — who stars in the recently released hit Christian film “I Can Only Imagine” — was on the verge of leaving Hollywood a little over a year ago, but she says God had different plans.

“I was completely broken. I was so depressed,” Carroll told an audience at Liberty University in Virginia earlier this month. “I was just seeing all this opposition, all the time. And these dirty parts, and these things I don’t even want to do. I was devastated.”

The 22-year-old recounted having an Abraham offering Isaac on the altar-like moment regarding her acting career the day before God opened a door wide open for her.

“I love this. This is what I love to do,” Carroll told God with tears streaming down her face. “But if you’re no longer calling me here, I love you more than I love this.”

“I laid it before God and I let it die,” she said.

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Acting was all she had known since being discovered by a talent agent in Los Angeles at the age of 3. Roles in television and film followed.

Her first big break came playing opposite Kevin Costner in the 2008 film “Swing Vote” when she was 11. Shortly thereafter, director Rob Reiner cast her in “Flipped” (2010), a nostalgia tale about young love.

Then other opportunities began rolling in, including the chance to star in what she described as a Marvel-type superhero movie.

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Do you plan to go see "I Can Only Imagine"?

It was a two-movie deal, and the payout and the chance for a major leap forward in her career were great. The way it had all just fallen together led the young star to believe it had to be God. Carroll accepted the part, but soon became uncomfortable with the script’s profanity and the film’s overall dark nature. She described it as “really dirty.”

In a surprising move, the production company listened to her concerns and agreed to remove the parts of her role she found objectionable; however, that still left what was going on in the rest of the film.

A clarifying moment came for Carroll while she was attending a worship/healing service at her church in the Los Angles area one evening.

The pastor called the young teen out of the audience and asked her to pray for a little boy to receive his hearing.

When she came back to her seat afterward, Carroll turned to her mom and said she was pulling out of the movie. Her mother was visibly relieved, but asked why.

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“It’s not going to line up with who I’m called to be in God,” the daughter replied. “It’s not going to line up with what he wants of me.”

A dry period in her career followed not long thereafter as the childhood star hit her mid-teens. She turned down many roles that she felt just did not squared with her faith.

Which brought Carroll to her moment of desperation last year when she prayed, “God if I’m still meant to be here, send me something Lord. Better yet, send me something that would edify you.”

The Lord answered her prayer the next day, when a director called her out of the blue about a project she felt good about. A few months later, she was on a commercial shoot, when the woman paired as her mother, asked Carroll about her faith, having heard she was a believer.

The woman told Carroll about the Christian film “I Can Only Imagine,” which was in the midst of casting.

The actress contacted her agent, who reached out and discovered the film’s producers had been trying to get in touch with her client. Carroll got the part playing Bart Millard’s girlfriend Shannon in the movie.

“It was a God thing,” she said.

“God just blew the door wide open and let me know that you are still called to be here. And so for me, this was more than just a fun creative thing, it was God putting fresh air in my lungs to continue,” the actress elaborated in an interview with CBN News.

She said staring in a film with Dennis Quaid had been one of her childhood dreams, having become a huge fan after seeing him in Disney’s “The Parent Trap” (1998).

Further, working on a Christian movie shoot was a first for her. “Just being encouraged constantly and being fed the Word daily on a set was so bizarre and different,” Carroll recounted. “A beautiful experience.”

She has drawn a few key conclusions from her faith walk in Hollywood.

“I don’t believe God would give you something that you wouldn’t be able to use for his glory,” Carroll said. “I don’t believe you have to compromise who you are as a person in order to do what God has called you to do.”

The star encouraged the students at Liberty University, “Whatever you’re called to do. Whatever it is, the thing that sets you apart, everyone in this room, God has put himself inside of you and is calling it out.”

Carroll added, “Isaiah 54:17 is one of my favorite verses and it says ‘The heritage of the servants of the Lord is triumph over opposition.’”

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Randy DeSoto has written more than 3,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Graduated dean's list from West Point
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment, Faith