It was World Mental Health Day last week and lots of different celebrities talked in public about their own mental health struggles, including Dame Kelly Holmes, hip hop artist Stormzy, retired goal keeper Chris Kirkland and actor Ryan Reynolds. I’ve had my own difficulties with it too. Princes William and Harry have spoken movingly about their struggles after their mother died work to end stigma around mental health. With famous people talking openly about mental health, hopefully the stigma around mental health problems will stop. Everyone has mental health and sometimes it’s good and other times it’s not and we need help. Going to the doctor is the first step to getting better.
One of the hardest things about having a mental health illness, and indeed physical problems too, is that we can feel alone and scared.
Charlotte Elliott was a Christian woman in the Georgian era of the nineteenth century who was struck down by illness in her thirties and spent the rest of her fifty years in a wheelchair struggling with depression. Her brothers were busy vicars doing lots of good works and she felt useless. And yet, on a day of frenzied activity for fundraising for a new local school, Charlotte sat down and wrote one of the most influential hymns of all time. It’s called ‘Just as I am’ and my favourite verse is this one:
Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears, within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come.
She was writing honestly about how she felt. She had fightings and fears from inside her and from the world outside and she doubted that she was good enough for God. This honesty makes it such a refreshing and helpful hymn because we all feel like that. I have conflicts, doubts, fightings and fears like everyone else. But I also hold on to the fact that God loves us more than we can imagine and never thinks that we’re ‘not good enough.’ To him, we are his beloved children and his beautiful creation.
So I offer this verse of the hymn, with the story of Charlotte Elliott to you, especially if you are struggling with mental or physical illness. You are not alone, God is near and He loves you just as you are.
Reverend Laura Baker
Curate of King’s Lynn Minster