Crazy Busy

Kevin DeYoung. Crazy Busy! A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013. 128 pp. $11.99.

I wasn’t planning to read Kevin DeYoung’s Crazy Busy. DeYoung’s books are consistently wise and his prose flows. This one is no exception. Yet the topic is not a “felt need” for me.

Still, a friend asked me what I thought of it. And I wanted to give him a good answer. So, let’s see, if I rearrange my schedule here, push back those commitments there, yeah, maybe I can read it.

There. Got it done.

First off, DeYoung does a good job in chapter 1 identifying with the reader. I’ve known a number of godly men whose humility demonstrated itself not by hiding in the crowd, but by putting themselves forward as examples, even though ridicule will come. Jesus did that. And I believe this same humility characterizes DeYoung.

Chapter 2 sets the cultural context. Our world is increasingly complex and bombards us with good opportunities. The danger, DeYoung says, is that our busyness will rob our joy, rob our hearts, and cover up the rot in our soul. If there’s no time to reflect, there’s no time to see beyond the surface of things.

Real Heart Work

The real heart work begins in chapter 3: why are you so busy, friend?

There are good forms of busyness, to be sure, but have you asked yourself how much of your activity roots in your pride and the “killer-Ps” that grow out of it: people pleasing, proving yourself, performance evaluation, possessions, poor planning, perfectionism, and so on.

Hold on.

A friend asked me what I think of the book. I wanted to answer him because, now that I think about it, I wanted him to think well of me. So, yes, I rearranged my schedule to read it, even though I have a number of other things to do. Uh, was I being people pleasing? I think this was a trap.

Chapter 4 considers our tendency to demand more of ourselves than God does. Hello, there I am again.

Chapter 6—I’ll come back to 5—is especially helpful for modern Christian parents who are “freaking out” about their kids, convinced their children’s success depends on perfect parenting. Okay, both my wife and I need this book, and four more names just popped into my head.

Chapter 7 diagnoses our addiction to email, social media, and anything with a screen. I said “our addiction.” Okay, I mean “my.” DeYoung describes the impulse to constantly pick up the smartphone and check the email or the Twitter feed. Just this week I was sitting in the back row of a meeting at church next to a fellow elder. I noticed he and I kept looking down at our phones, as if anything urgent was going to drop into our inboxes Sunday night at 9 p.m. Pathetic. DeYoung doesn’t condemn technology like a Luddite. He’s on the grid. But he rightly offers a healthy watchfulness. And 23 more names who need this book just popped into my head.

Chapter 8 raises the issue of rest. You can’t steal time, DeYoung says, you can only borrow it. If you don’t give your body the rest you need, you’ll have to pay it back somewhere. Ironically, I got four hours of sleep last night because I worked untill 1:30 a.m., rose at 5:30 a.m. to meet with my accountability group, and now—true story—I’m writing this review with extremely heavy eyes . . . hold on . . .

Okay, I just got a can of Coke Zero and a cup of coffee. For real. Maybe I can catch up on rest later. Put a show on for the kids when I’m home? No, that’s just the point. By failing to rest, you will cheat someone who deserves more from you. The bottom line is, we’re not God. Only he doesn’t need sleep.

Chapter 9 takes an unexpected turn. The typically wise DeYoung looks at the other side of the matter: we’re busy because we’re supposed to be busy. He italicized those words like I just did. They’re important. God calls us to labor while it is still day, for night is coming when no one can work. We are to take up crosses and follow. Yes, let’s pour ourselves out as we follow him.

Consider Him

That brings me back to the most exquisite moment in the book. In chapter 5, DeYoung asks us to consider him. You know whom I mean.

Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but he had no place to rest his head. If ever there was a driven and busy man . . .

Constant travelling. Crowds clamoring. Pharisees accosting. Sick people interrupting. Disciples squabbling. The prince of the power of the air luring.

But still. He snuck away to pray. He was utterly focused. How? DeYoung answers:

Jesus understood his mission. He was not driven by the needs of others, though he often stopped to help hurting people. He was not driven by the approval of others, though he cared deeply for the lost and the broken. Ultimately, Jesus was driven by the Spirit. He was driven by his God-given mission. He knew his priorities and did not let the many temptations of a busy life deter him from his task. For Jesus that meant itinerant preaching, with devoted times of prayer, on his way to the cross. (56)

Ah, my Savior and my God. How beautiful you are! To see more of you is the answer to my business and distraction. To watch you. To seek first your kingdom and righteousness.

DeYoung, wise shepherd that he is, therefore concludes the book—chapter 10—by inviting me to be like Mary and spend more time sitting at Jesus' feet. “One thing is necessary,” Jesus said to the busy and distracted Martha. Yes, one thing, indeed. “Starting each day with eternity,” this undershepherd says, “makes our petty problems and long to-do lists seem pretty insignificant” (116).

Stick a copy of Crazy Busy into your Christian Discipleship 101 file. We all need it, whether you’re a fledgling in the faith or an old pro. I have no cautions or qualifications to give.

But I do have a couple minutes to squeeze in a few emails, check the Twitter feed—wait, what time is SportsCenter on, again? No, maybe I’ll do the godly thing and take a nap. Thanks, Kevin.