Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem, by Kevin DeYoung


These days, it seems that 'Busy' has replaced 'Fine' as the stock answer to casual 'How are you?' inquiries. Everyone we know is busy busy busy, and we ourselves are no exception. But how should we as Christians think about our hectic and sometimes over-scheduled lives? Is our frantic pace a good thing--an indicator of our dedication to Kingdom Matters? Or is it a bad thing--a failure to 'Be still and know that I am God'? What of the spiritual reality behind our perpetual busyness? What's really going on when we're so all-fired busy all the time?

Pastor and author Kevin DeYoung takes on these questions, and many more, in his new book Crazy Busy. As the longish subtitle indicates, the book is no tome: it clocks in at around 120 pages in paperback format, or right around 3 hours if you opt for the audiobook version, as I did. In other words, you should have time to read (or listen to) this book, even if it's only in short increments while running errands, exercising, or while on the throne. DeYoung writes concisely and clearly, and the audiobook narration makes it easy to listen to and absorb. (DeYoung's voice is not quite as universally familiar as, say, John Piper or Mark Driscoll or even David Platt or Matt Chandler, so the shock of hearing his words read by someone else is much less jarring here.) However, as with any audiobook, retention can be a problem--you can't just underline particularly convicting or helpful passages (of which there are many) for future reference.

But what of the substance? Well, it boils down to this: DeYoung starts off by trying to convince us that he knows from being busy. This is easily the weakest part of the book, as there is no way to establish 'I'm super busy, you guys' without it sounding ... kind of braggy. DeYoung admits this, and I believe him when he says that's not his motivation in sharing about his 'busyness' credentials, but it's still kind of awkward to read.

If you push on through the 'I'm so busy!' bit, you find yourself presented, straight away, with three dangers inherent in busyness--that is, three reasons why we should care about the whole 'am I too busy?' situation. Per DeYoung, these dangers are: All that busyness (and the stress and anxiety that travel with it) can ruin our joy; it robs our hearts (this is a little unclear, but it seems to indicate that it sort of sucks up all our emotional energy); and it hides the rot in our souls (that is, we're too busy to notice and assess our spiritual well-being).

Having established the risks of busyness, DeYoung embarks on a quest to diagnose the underlying reasons behind our busyness. He offers 7 diagnoses:
1) You are proud. (This chapter includes an (unnecessarily) alliterative list of the various and most common iterations of pride in the busyness context, including: People-pleasing; a hunger for recognition; an over-inflated sense of our own importance; ambition; a desire for possessions, prestige, or power; a fondness for self-aggrandizement over social media; perfectionism; an unwillingness to plan well or to ask for help when we need it; perfectionism; pride in our position and the expectations that come with it; and an enjoyment of the pity we receive from others because of our 'busyness.')
2) You are trying to do things God isn't asking you to do.
3) You haven't established good priorities.
4) You're stressing out way too much about your kids.
5) You're addicted to your smartphone (or other technology or social media).
6) You're ignoring your innate human need for rest.
7) You expect a busyness-free life.
All of these are excellent observations about the most common sinful roots of busyness. And although DeYoung, in his discussion of the 7th diagnosis, arguably gives his readers permission to be busy, his reflections are still very helpful. After all, sometimes there really is nothing you can do to clear your schedule. I understand this is particularly true of young moms: As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is reputed to have said that everyone has time for daily devotions, except moms of young kids. So this 7th diagnosis is a helpful encouragement for those who simple cannot remove the busyness from their lives. Busyness does not necessarily mean you are sinning. It is also sometimes just a reality of living in a fallen world. In such situations, the best you can do is endure it faithfully.

But! For the majority of us, there are sinful heart attitudes behind our busyness. For us, a careful (and prayerful) consideration of the first 6 diagnoses is paramount. Particularly the first diagnosis--pride--which is likely the root sin behind all the other diagnoses. After all, why do I think I need to do not just what God asks me to do, but everything else as well? Most likely, pride. Why haven't I bothered to make good priorities? Pride. Why do I think my kids' physical, emotion, and spiritual well-being all depends on me? Pride. Why am I addicted to social media or other technology at the expense of other things? Selfish pride. Why do I think I am somehow exempt from the physical limitations shared by all other human beings? Pride.

To hear someone flat out label much of our busy culture as prideful is quite refreshing. Because once we see the sins involved, we are no longer 'powerless' over our busyness. Sin is something we know. We know how to fight it. This is where the final chapter is so helpful: DeYoung points us to Christ. He reminds us to be Marys in a Martha world--not because activity is bad, but because Christ is better. We are fight our sin by dwelling with Him, marinating ourselves in His word, and prioritizing time spent in His presence--not by sheer willpower, but by a steady, regular preaching to ourselves of the truths we claim to know: that one day in His courts is better than a thousand elsewhere, that He is sovereign over our schedules, that He can order our lives without our help, and, most of all, that the one thing we never have to be busy about is earning His approval. That work is complete; it was finished by Christ on the cross. He paid for our sins--even the sins connected to our nonstop busyness. Now, even in our busiest times, we can rest in Christ.

If you (like, well, everyone else in the Western world) struggle with being busy, or feeling busy, or feeling overwhelmed by being busy, I heartily commend this book to you.

I received this audiobook for free from in connection with their Reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review.

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