Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Problem. It’s a catchy title. The trailer is the funniest book trailer I’ve ever watched. (Admittedly, I could count the number of book trailers I’ve ever watched on one hand.) Better still, it’s a book by Kevin DeYoung (plus one) with practical wisdom about a relevant issue (plus two).
Busyness can be a big problem for our spiritual lives, DeYoung explains. It can “ruin our joy” (26), “rob our hearts” (28), and “cover up the rot in our souls” (30). One of the quotes that stuck with me most was from the section about robbing our hearts: “How many moments of pain are wasted because we never sat still enough to learn from them?” (30) DeYoung wants us to realise that busyness can cause real problems for our Christian lives.
It makes sense, really. I know that feeling busy can make me feel stressed–or rather, that I can use busyness as an excuse for feeling stressed. Being stressed doesn’t naturally coincide with being peaceful or joyful or thankful and considering that those are qualities Christians are meant to possess, that certainly poses a problem.
So why do we have this problem of busyness? That’s what the bulk of the book is about. (As DeYoung explains at the end, it’s certainly possible to be busy for legitimate reasons. But he deals with the wrong reasons first.) He has seven reasons. I’ll just mention some of them here.
We’re busy because we’re proud (chapter 3). DeYoung creatively comes up with a list of many “p” words that all have pride at their root, such as wanting “pats on the back” or “pity”. We can’t always figure out our motives for what we do, he admits, but he suggests this question as a good beginning: “Am I trying to do good or to make myself look good?” (39)
We’re busy because we don’t set priorities (chapter 5). DeYoung explains that doing some things well means saying “no” to other things. Jesus is a good example of this. “He understood that all the good things he could do were not necessarily the things he ought to do” (55).
Chapter 7 “suggest[s] three ways in which the digital revolution is an accomplice to our experience of being crazy busy” (80). Perhaps, DeYoung suggests, you’re repeatedly sucked in to your digital devices, perhaps pointlessly surfing the net is making you listless, or perhaps the constant hum of things always calling for your attention, the apparent impossibility of every being truly alone, is distracting you. If these are problems for you (and I know they are for me) then this chapter has some suggestions for you.
The last of the seven reasons flips the coin: maybe, DeYoung suggests, we’re busy because we’re meant to be. Not because we’ve sinned or been unwise in the ways he’s suggested in the previous chapters, but because we’re doing what God has called us to do even when it’s hard and overwhelming.
That’s ok. Busyness isn’t a problem in and of itself, he says. “The busyness that’s bad is not the busyness of work, but the busyness that works hard at the wrong things” (102). Busyness is also an attitude issue. “It’s possible to live your days in a flurry of hard work, serving, and bearing burdens, and to do so with the right character and a right dependence on God so that it doesn’t feel crazy busy. By the same token, it’s possible to feel amazingly stressed and frenzied while actually accomplishing very little” (102).
While there is much practical wisdom throughout the book, in his final chapter DeYoung narrows in on what he sees as the most important thing of all: that whatever else we do or don’t do with our time, we must make time with Jesus a priority.
“It’s not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos. What is wrong—and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable—is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need” (118).
Crazy Busy is a short, easy read. A lot of what’s in there is common sense (whether spiritual or practical), but if you’re anything like me, just because something is common sense doesn’t mean that you’re actually putting it into practice. It’s not a highbrow book, but it’s extremely practical, it’s grace-infused, and unless you have this busyness thing down to a fine art, it should give you something to think about.