Finding Mercy in Chaos

August 31, 2016

Paris. Dallas. Turkey. Baton Rouge. Nice. San Bernardino. Brussels. Orlando. Milwaukee.

The last few months have been a raging ocean of breaking news headlines, politically charged social media posts, and an undeniable sense of insecurity and uncertainty. Each one of the headlines has been characterized by its own unique pain. As a young American Catholic who hasn’t experienced such consistent unrest before, I can’t help but cry out, “Where are you, Lord?”

My home is Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the last few days there have been extreme riots and violence in our local community. I’m not directly affected, nor do I feel endangered, and I don’t even have a legitimate thought as to a solution. “Where are you, Lord?” remains the cry of my heart once again, but this time it’s different because this trail of turmoil has come close.

In all of these weak moments of humanity, I know the correct answer: God is good, present, and merciful; the Lord will not forget us or abandon us. It’s easy to see this in the way communities come together in wake of their tragedies. Milwaukee is no different. There is always a hopeful light. These lights shine brighter than the despairing darkness, regardless of what our 24-hour news stations decide to broadcast.

It’s easier for me to believe that the Lord is present in these headlined issues when they are farther away from me: a notification on my phone or one of the litany of social media posts. The unrest in my city has made the question of “Where are you, Lord?” even heavier. It hits closer to home, literally. My heart bleeds for these people.

These recent events of pain have also led me to consider one even nearer: my own. We all have inner experiences of woundedness. These can sometimes be so present that we can almost taste or feel them. Whenever I encounter this tension¬—whether I’ve placed myself in it, or something decides to dance near it, or someone even tramples upon it—I can’t help by cry out again, “Where are you, Lord?”

Intellectually, I know that I know that I know that He is near, unchanging, unwavering, and good. However, these moments of confronting my own pain have lead me to question, forget His faithfulness, and doubt that He ever cares for the lowly man I am. It is here, where the wound is most tender, where He shows up and meets me, generously offering His mercy.

You see, He really is good and merciful. As communities rally together around these tragedies with prayer, hope, and tears, so too does the Lord rally around our own hurt, giving His misericordia, His mercy. This is where He wants to find us and extend His outstretched hand. He aches to bring peace to the chaos of our world, but He also aches to bring peace to the mess that is often inside our own hearts.

This sounds a little funny, but the Year of Mercy really is a Year of Mercy. It is a call to wake up every day and throw one’s self into the arms of the Father. To wake up and let the Good Shepherd find what is lost in us. To wake up and, with the Holy Spirit, dive into the places where we feel—because of our pain—that God’s mercy cannot reach. It is in this place of hurt where He is mercy: healing us, freeing us, and welcoming us into His heart.

“The LORD’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; they are renewed each morning—great is your faithfulness!”

~ Lamentations 3:22–23

This is not an invitation to mere melancholic introspection! That would be without the invitation of the presence of God. With Him at the reins, this daily encounter of misericordia will move us to be His healing hands and feet. Meeting Him in our own mess, where we let Him heal and free us, will propel us to bring His love and mercy into the non-headlined chaos that often surrounds our streets: our poor, our marginalized, our sick, our workplaces, our neighbors, and our families. It frees us to stand shoulder to shoulder with our local communities in solidarity: to smile at them, speak with them, and perhaps, even pray with them. Not because we agree on everything politically, philosophically, or theologically, but simply because we have the same common ground: the amazing gift of being a human being who is loved by God and in need of His mercy. In this Year of Mercy, I urge you to daily open your heart to the Surgeon’s healing hands. Your neighborhood needs it.

Peter Burds

Peter graduated from Franciscan University and is Director of College Campus Ministry for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. He also serves as the director of Evangelization for Arise Missions, a parish mission-based evangelization effort.  more...