Monday, January 5, 2015

Permission to Doubt by Ann C. Sullivan

As Christians, are we to fear doubt? Doubt need not be the end of faith, Sullivan writes, but the beginning.

Sullivan began experiencing panic attacks in her late teens that developed into a full fledged panic disorder. Doctors were baffled. Because of her well-adjusted childhood and her Christian faith, she did not fit the profile.

She began to doubt God and His place in her life. That was the beginning of the exploration of her faith, discovering what was worth clinging to and what wasn't.

Thirteen years and many doctors and counselors later, she was found to have a heart condition that released uncontrolled adrenalin into her system. Even though her panic attacks had a physical cause that was corrected, she learned much about doubt and faith through the experience.

Sullivan says that dealing with doubt effectively requires understanding who we are and where we've come from, then understanding the nature of doubt and how it attaches itself to us. “When we've done that,” she writes, “we're ready to chart a course toward becoming who we were intended to be.” (27)

She does a great job of looking at the kinds of doubt: spiritual, intellectual, and emotional. I was encouraged by her exploration of how our experience and understanding of faith changes over a life time. She looks at some of the intellectual issues such as God's existence, Jesus being God, and the Bible being God's Word. She also explores emotional topics like disappointment, anxiety and depression.

Sullivan shares her experience with doubt and the lessons she has learned in a very conversational way. Her book is not so much an intellectual one but is rather a very readable exploration of doubt from a personal viewpoint. I really like the book and think it is a good choice for Christians who want to understand doubt in their lives but would not consider themselves scholars.

Sullivan has included Looking Deeper questions at the end of each chapter. The questions are somewhat personal so would better serve for journaling rather than group discussion. She also includes resources for further investigation.

Ann C. Sullivan has worked as a teacher for over fifteen years, including her role as Bible teacher, coordinator, and trainer for women's ministries at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin. She is a popular international speaker and enjoys challenging and encouraging others in their faith. Find out more at

Kregel Publications, 175 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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