Written by Kevin DeYoung, 2013
We know we have a problem with busyness. We are busy, we are burdened by our busyness, and not being productive in it. Kevin DeYoung takes us through the sinful heart of our busyness in this insightful, punchy book, and I think it’s worth your time to read it. That, and everyone I know who has read it says that is simply amazing and “I should read it every year for the rest of my life.”
So what is going on with our busyness?
DeYoung argues there are real dangers to being busy, clear reasons why you are so busy, and only one thing you have to do – thankfully. The dangers of that busyness are that it can ruin our joy, increase our anxiety and even rob us of our faith (as in the Parable of the Sower). It helps us hide our sinfulness and sidelines our despair at the fallen world we live in. So what should we do? DeYoung takes us back to the basics – devote yourself to the word of God and to prayer. (Hopefully that is his next book!)
Why do we have this problem?
Repeated throughout the book is a throwback to the idea that at the heart of every sin is idolatry. We want to be God, or we think that we are. Our lack of trust in God as sovereign king and creator, who works for our good, has all things under control and has saved us, is at the heart of being busy – too busy working at things we should be entrusting to God. Ignoring Sabbath and our human need to rest; chasing the desire to be perfect in many spheres; seeking praise to feed our pride; keeping busy to ignore our sinfulness and the fallenness of our world; trying to do everything for God when he has done everything for us instead – these are at the heart of busyness.
The author rightly affirms busyness to some degree. Yes, you should be busy with good works, not slothful, because we were made in God’s image to ‘work the garden’ and ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:15), and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:18-20). Christians do have good things to do, but we need to do them under God.
Our Sovereign God is ruling
However, this book could have pointed more clearly to our sovereign God and his work in our world. It does this in part, but it could have been a whole chapter!
“Above all, I can lose sight of the fact that the universe is not upheld by the word of my power (Heb 1:3). That is Christ’s work, and no one else can do it. Hallelujah, he doesn’t even expect me to try” (p. 51, Crazy Busy).
I also feel like the chapter on the particular busyness of families came out of left field, but it bears helpful insights as we live in Christian community with those who have children and seek to love them. It also gives the book broader appeal, as busyness takes a different shape at different stages in life – something the author helpfully explores.
Too busy to read this?
Crazy Busy is value for money – short and accessible, and it won’t waste your time. It speaks to heart issues rather than just giving a popular answer. It points out that your devotion to God should be the priority, but couches it in grace – that we can never mandate daily ‘must dos’ without reminding ourselves and each other of what God has done already.
At our university, students seem to be particularly intent on loading their weeks with ministry and work and internships and then study to fit in, and the book speaks quite clearly to their desires and struggles with busyness. The students I do know who have read it are crazy about this book, but I wonder how this impact plays out over time. Have they made changes to their busyness and habits? Or was it a blip of resonance, and the discomfort of confronting our sin means we haven’t made it beyond the stage of mental agreement?
The heart of my busyness
For me, this book was helpful but felt introductory – perhaps because I’ve already come to realise that busyness helps me avoid confronting sin and myself, and that I need to balance hard work and rest. I feel like in the last year I’ve been growing in my capacity to make better decisions around what I say yes and no to, around protecting time for the things and people I need to prioritise. What does this look like for you? What things are you putting off by being busy? Are you avoiding the hard choice of prioritising in order to please everyone?
And yet I do feel like I’m still struggling to carve out that one priority habit in life. I have so many things I am trying to grow as habits and they all seem important for life and add to the busyness, but daily devotion to God is a habit for my spiritual health – it’s not a choice between one or the other.
As you read this book, I’d encourage you to stop and reflect on what you’ve been convicted of, and share your convictions with a friend, so that the lessons you’ve learnt aren’t lost into yet more busyness.