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What does experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit feel like?

A friend once told me about a Christian singer he knew who rented a recording studio. After an extensive setup and sound check, she began performing her first song. The sound technician thought it sounded great, but about hallway through the first verse, she stopped abruptly, threw up her hands, and said, “It’s no use. Turn it off! He’s not here.”

The sound tech said through the studio mic, “Uh…Who’s not here?”

Him,” she said, “the Holy Spirit. His presence—it’s missing.” She called a few friends into the studio, and they commenced to laying their hands on various pieces of equipment, praying for God’s presence and dabbing the equipment with oil.

After a few minutes, she began singing again. About thirty seconds in, she again said, “Stop! He’s not here. Let’s pray again.” Another fifteen-minute session of walking about the room: anointing, shouting, muttering incantations. Again she started…and again she stopped.

And again in came the prayer posse. By this time, the sound tech was getting annoyed. His equipment was getting greasy.

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We might be surprised to find that a lot of the Psalms–most of them, in fact–are written in the midst of a terrible situation. Reading through the Psalms, it often seems like there isn’t any possible way the story will turn out well.

Nothing epitomizes that like Psalm 88. In this Psalm, we see one of the darkest and most raw expressions of despair in all of the Bible. Even a cursory look at Psalm 88 shows the depths of hopelessness the psalmist is experiencing: He is overwhelmed with troubles. His life draws near to death. He is like one without strength. He is set apart with the dead. He feels like God has remembered him no more. He finds himself in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. He has experienced personal betrayal (v. 8), chronic pain (v. 15), and unthinkable loneliness (v. 18). The final line sums up the dismal tone of the psalm as a whole: “Darkness is my closest friend.”

Even though many of the Psalms are laments, they nearly always have a turn halfway through where the psalmist has a change of heart. The mood lightens, God is seen on the throne again, and the lament is swallowed up in victory. But not Psalm 88. It actually gets worse as it goes along. How can one of the Psalms, chosen to be in God’s holy, perfect word, end like that? Why did God choose to include this Psalm in his Bible?

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Wisdom For Your Weekend: your weekly installment of things we’ve been reading around the web.

Articles of the Week

How Busy People Make Time to Read—And You Can, TooLaura Vanderkam. Last week I pointed out Aaron Armstrong’s advice to burgeoning writers: read a tonTo which many of you muttered under your breath, “Yeah, right. With all the ‘free time’ I have, I’ll just read 5 books a week.” But busyness doesn’t stop some of the most successful people from reading voraciously. So how do they do it? Vanderkam shows us how.

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