I'm too busy. We've all heard it, we've all said it. Sometimes being busy seems like the theme of our lives. Yet this frenetic pace poses a serious threat to our physical, social, and even spiritual well-being. In this mercifully short book about a really big problem, best-selling author Kevin DeYoung rejects the "busyness as usual" mindset, arguing that a life of constant chaos is far from what God intends. DeYoung helps us figure out a better way forward as he strikes a mature and well-reasoned balance between doing nothing and doing everything. With his usual warmth, humor, and honesty, DeYoung deftly attacks the widespread "crazy busy" epidemic and offers up the restful cure we've all been too busy to find.
DeYoung’s advice is not all that original, but at least he cites his sources. For example, he recommends that readers set priorities and "posteriorities" (Peter Drucker’s term for “things not to do”) and avoid wasting hours on social media. I appreciate his pointing out (as have others) that human beings truly cannot “multitask”—the best we can do is “switch task”, or move rapidly from one thing to another and back again.
Some of DeYoung's thinking seems only half-baked, however. In his chapter on parenting, he writes that most children are going to turn out okay anyway, so there is no need for parents to be overanxious about doing everything right. Then he admits that his children are still young and he may not know everything there is to know about parenting yet. Interestingly, given the neo-Calvinists' obsession with marriage and gender roles, there is no chapter on how to write your dissertation and be an attentive spouse at the same time.
I won't give away DeYoung's solution to the problem of "crazy-busyness", but here's a hint: it is something most of his readers are probably already doing.
At just 118 pages of actual text (not counting the index etc.), this book is short but still padded. DeYoung’s habits of listing more examples than necessary and of saying something, rephrasing it, then saying it again make me wonder if this book got its start as a sermon series. I started reading the book in the evening and finished it the following morning. It’s not an essential book by any means, even though it was named the “Christian Book of the Year” by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. I enjoyed reading it, but, I found just a week later that I don't remember it very well at all.
DeYoung tackles the problem of busyness head on, not as an outside critic, but as one enmeshed in all of the mess that our modern world’s busyness brings. The book covers all angles of its topic from a Christian perspective. DeYoung opens up and shares a look at his own hectic life throughout the book. He shows the dangers of being “crazy busy” and tries to get to the heart of the issue. Why do we allow ourselves to get so busy? It could be pride or panic, a desire to protect our kids or an over-distraction by our electronic devices. Whatever it is, it detracts us from the one thing we must do — make time for Jesus. And while busyness can be bad, it is also something we should expect as followers of Christ. There are things we should be doing — but in proper perspective, priority and order.
“For too many of us, the hustle and bustle of electronic activity is a sad expression of a deeper acedia [or sloth]. We feel busy, but not with a hobby or recreation or play. We are busy with busyness. Rather than figure out what to do with our spare minutes and hours, we are content to swim in the shallows and pass our time with passing the time. How many of us, growing too accustomed to the acedia of our age, feel this strange mix of busyness and lifelessness? We are always engaged with our thumbs, but rarely engaged with our thoughts. We keep downloading information, but rarely get down into the depths of our hearts. That’s acedia—purposelessness disguised as constant commotion.” (p. 82)
DeYoung’s analysis is helpful and hopeful. He doesn’t promise ten simple steps to cure busyness, but he has done his homework. There are loads of practical pointers and a lot of sane advice. But as a pastor, he takes us beneath the surface problem of busyness to where the real problems lie. As a soul-physician, he cuts with a sharp point — more often than not hitting too close for my comfort. His writing style is engaging and open, humorous and insightful, yet simple and direct. The audiobook I listened to was clear and non-distracting. The format servers for a great use of my commute time, and the nature of the book lent itself well to listening in bite-size chunks to and from work each day.
This book is a necessary balm for the ills of modern culture. If you find yourself “crazy busy” you really owe it to yourself to carve some time out for this book. If you’re as busy as me, you’ll appreciate the audio version. The book will not wow you with inaccessible and profound wisdom, but it may slap you in the face with common sense realism and a dose of healthy spiritual advice. I highly recommend this book and think it will make a great addition to any New Year’s “to read” list.
This book was provided by christianaudio.com. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review.
DeYoung warns the reader from the beginning that he is not speaking as an expert on how to be not busy, but rather as a fellow pilgrim struggling through this particular issue. Crazy Busy is a short, simple and clear presentation on a very practical issue. DeYoung outlines his book as 3,7,1; three dangers to avoid in chapter 2, seven diagnoses to consider in chapters 3-9, and one thing you must do in chapter 10.
DeYoung cites many culprits in the struggle against chronic busyness including people pleasing, pats on the back, poor planning--all rooted in pride. One of the greatest, for me at least, is when the believer attempts to do what God doesn't expect them to do. DeYoung argues that the believer needs to understand that they are not the Savior. They do not have to do everything because, quite frankly, they cannot do everything. "Along with the Apostle's Creed and the Belgic Confession and the Westminster Confession, make sure you confess John the Baptist's creed: I am not the Christ."
Just because a cause is worthy does not mean that God expects you to engage in it. Just because there is a need, does not mean that God expects you to meet it. Learning the difference between "care" and "do" is crucial for a believer to maintain their joy. Apathy is not an option, but I am still not God and not capable to fix every problem, right every wrong, and cure every woe. As DeYoung puts it, "Not giving a rip about sex slaves is not an option for the Christian. Not doing something directly to combat this particular evil is an option."
This is where it is important to remember that the Christian does not walk this road alone. He is a part, a member, of something greater. The church definitely has to care and do in regards to sex slaves(and all injustices), but that doesn't mean that each individual Christian is bound to do for each individual woe. We are a whole made up of parts with different passions and giftings and remembering that will allow each of us to operate in our passion and with our giftings without feeling the condemnation for not doing everything. We are finite, created beings. We cannot do it all.
DeYoung takes the point that all of us are finite creatures and applies it most strikingly, for me at least, to the role of parents. His point is clear. Parents need to chill out. Good, loving, caring, Christian parents need to acknowledge their finitude in reference to their children. Do I need to love my children? Yes. Do I need to teach the Bible to my children? Yes. Am I responsible for my children? Yes, but not ultimately. I need to recognize that my children belong ultimately to God and relieve myself of a burden I am incapable of bearing and a responsibility that is inappropriate for me to take as my own anyway. Parents, especially Christian parents, have a tendency to overemphasize their impact on their children. We have to discard the determinism that drives so much of our time, focus and effort because, while we may influence, we do not have the power to determine our child's future. Good or bad. "(E)ven the kid hooked on Angry Birds who just downed a pack of Fun Dip and is now watching his fifth Pixar movie of the week still has a decent shot at not being a sociopath." The fact that my child belongs to God drives me to be attentive and loving and a good parent, but with a freedom and peace in knowing that one much greater, much more attentive, much more loving, is ultimately responsible for them.
DeYoung begins to end his book with a good reminder as he deals with the topic of busyness. The book's main focus is on why and how a believer should avoid sinful busyness. But he includes a chapter that is necessary to keep everything in proper perspective Sometimes, we are meant to be busy. Busyness is a way that we suffer and we need to be ready to suffer well in it. That means not being caught up in busyness that is sinful, but it also means not idolizing a clear schedule. There are times where we need to be put upon, times where we need to drop everything and help someone, times where our schedule needs to be blown up by an urgent, or not so urgent, request, so we can love people and serve people and suffer for people for the sake of the Gospel. It is not wrong to be busy, it is wrong to be busy for wrong reasons.
So what is the one thing that DeYoung wants the reader to do? His suggestion is simple, choose the greater portion. DeYoung concludes the book with a look at Mary and Martha and leads the believer to a simple conclusion, Mary chose the greater portion. She chose to spend time with Jesus. He encourages the reader to do the same. He suggests setting aside time each day to sit at the feet of the Teacher, to choose the greater portion. DeYoung concludes the book with a simple call to simple obedience for us to simply spend time with the One who is worth it all. Groundbreaking? Probably not. Soul-stirring? Probably so.
A daily quiet time is the solution?!?! Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe your life will still be as frantic and busy and you will have to do something more drastic and radical and extreme. But no one will be sorry that they spent time with the Lord, so why not sit at His feet and see what He has for you everyday?
I received this book from Crossway for review purposes through Netgalley.com
Reviewed originally at beforedawnwiththeson.blogspot.com
I had heard about this book from a friend, and seen some of the reviews on how useful it is. But, it's full of common sense.
If you really need to read a book to "de-busy" your life, you might just as well set aside some time to take a walk, set aside the electronics, and spend some quality time with your loved ones.
First, he warns of the dangers of busyness: it can ruin enjoyment of life, rob the heart, and conceal spiritual decay. Busyness is often motivated by pride. This can be people pleasing, pity or another word beginning with “p’. But just to stop doesn’t necessarily help. Motives need examining. So DeYoung helpfully asks, “Am I doing this to do good or to make myself look good?”
Second, DeYoung observes that he is not the answer to the problems of the world, so he doesn’t have to respond to every need.
Third, serving others requires choosing priorities to live by. What we could busy ourselves with is not the same as what we ought to do.
Fourth, parents don’t obsess about bringing up perfect children. Keeping children busy with sports, music or other activities doesn’t necessarily help them or their parents. There are basics parents can work on: teaching children about God, disciplining them, being thankful for them, and not exasperating them. Trying to always do more can just add stress.
Fifth, while social media can be useful, it deceives the user to believe they are all capable. Instead recognizing that we are limited helps to turn away from frantic busyness.
Sixth, remember to take a day off a week and don’t skimp on sleep. We were created for a weekly day of rest and each night’s sleep. Trying to work all hours, even for ministry, is foolishly working against the created order.
Seventh, we were created to work. We should expect and accept times of busyness.
Finally, there is one thing needful: to be, like Mary, with Jesus, and not like Martha, distracted elsewhere (Luke 10). DeYoung therefore suggests that our devotional life, consistent time with the Word of God and prayer, sustains us through times of busyness.
This book was particularly helpful in reminding me that I am limited. To be busy is not wrong, but trying to do everything helps no one, and certainly not my godliness. I commend this book to all who struggle with busyness.
Received from and reviewed for the Churchman
In the realm of Christian books, many authors press their points with the emphasis of an atomic bomb. Their issue is the issue - the only real issue - which should grab the hearts, prayers, and dollars of good church folk. Whether the issue is orphan care, sex trafficking, or clean water in Africa - they pelt their readers (myself included) with statistics and guilt. Thankfully, DeYoung speaks against such tactics: "We need Christians who don't make others feel guilty (and don't feel guilty themselves) when one of us follows a different passion than another. . . . We have to be okay with other Christians doing certain good things better and more often than we do" (50-51).
DeYoung leaves few stones unturned. Everything from parenting to technology is challenged. He cautions Western Believers to not think themselves about suffering and for us to return to Sabbath rest. And he does so in a brief, readable, thoughtful way. I highly recommend Crazy Busy. It is one of my favorite reads of 2016 so far!
Should be required reading for everyone.