My friend has challenged me to think about “existential neurosis”, a term that the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, according to my friend, described as “the lingering doubt, fear, or thought that stalks us through the night, that says we have no real, intrinsic worth or value, and that life is meaningless”.

My friend believes that “existential neurosis” is “the major underlying factor for many forms of mental illness”; it is, he says, “a plague stalking mankind”.

I think, when we are really honest with ourselves, we can all admit to having these dark thoughts of worthlessness and meaninglessness at some point in our lives.

We are all broken and vulnerable and fragile people. That comes from being human.

And yet, we are people of God, created in God’s image, loved by God with an everlasting love. Forgiven of our sins by Jesus Christ. Called into new life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Full of worth and meaning and purpose in life. God has a purpose for each one of us.

I love these words from 1 Peter: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (2:9-10).

These words remind me that we are more than what we appear to be; more than what we are feeling at this moment; more than who the world says we are.

ONCE we lived in darkness; NOW we live in the light of God.

ONCE we felt rejected and unloved; NOW we know the joy of God’s love.

NOW we are God’s own people.

Still, sometimes, for some of us, perhaps for many of us, it’s easy to slip back into the darkness. 

We forget that Jesus prepares a dwelling place for us; that Jesus walks with us on the road; that Jesus’ words are true; that Jesus comes to bring us abundant life.

So, how can we remember? How can we stay close to the truth of who we are? How can we live in the freedom of knowing that we are God’s people? How can we remember that our real worth is from God alone?

It is hard to do this on our own. Perhaps that is why God calls us into community. Together, we are God’s people. Together, we can share the pain and sorrows and joys and blessings of life. Together, we can pay attention to the places where we are touched by God and where we become fully alive in God’s presence. Together, we can build each other up and equip each other for the work of God’s kingdom.

Together - with the Word of God to guide us and the Bread of Life to nourish us and the waters of baptism to cleanse us each day - we can remember that we are beloved people of God. That is what gives meaning to our lives. Thanks be to God!