The title of this book seems to place one immediately in a catch 22 in a way reminiscent of Mortimer J. Adler’s “How to Read a Book.” In regards to Adler’s work, I often heard people say, “What if I don’t know how to read?” The point was, how can one learn to read well by reading a lengthy book that seems to require a moderately high reading ability?
In the case of DeYoung’s forthcoming book on busyness, it’s easy to anticipate any number of objections along the following line: “What if I’m too crazy busy to read ‘Crazy Busy’?” I’m sure DeYoung himself anticipated these objections, as the very title indicates that it’s a “mercifully short book.” In contrast to Adler’s tome of 426 pages, DeYoung’s work is only 128 pages. I decided to time my reading of this book in order to show that anyone, no matter how busy, can make time to read it. At a moderate pace, this book took me 2 hours and 8 minutes to read; therefore, it can easily be read on a Sabbath afternoon, or in the course of a week at 20 minutes per day.
DeYoung begins in chapter 2 by pointing out that while we shouldn’t ignore the physical dangers of busyness, we must remember that the most serious threats are spiritual. He warns of three primary spiritual dangers of being crazy busy: it can steal our joy, rob our hearts, and cover up the rot in our souls. This chapter concludes with the following, which foreshadows the last chapter of the book:
Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. And like everyone else, your joy, your heart, and your soul are in danger. We need the Word of God to set us free. We need biblical wisdom to set us straight. What we need is the Great Physician to heal our overscheduled souls.
If only we could make time for an appointment
The heart of the book consists of seven diagnostic chapters. I found the first diagnostic chapter (Chapter 3 – You Are Beset with Many Manifestations of Pride) to be particularly enlightening. Here, DeYoung writes that the problem is not just with our schedules and the complex world; the problem lies partially with us. Therefore, our understanding of busyness must start with the one sin that begets countless others – pride. Then DeYoung exposes eleven different manifestations of pride, e.g. people-pleasing, performance evaluation, etc. Our pride is a major reason why we are so busy.
The second diagnosis is that we are trying to do what God does not expect us to do. And in this chapter is one of the best quotes from the book:
Jesus didn’t do it all. Jesus didn’t meet every need. He left people waiting in line to be healed. He left one town to preach to another. He hid away to pray. He got tired. He never interacted with the vast majority of people on the planet. He spent thirty years in training and only three years in ministry. He did not try to do it all. And yet, he did everything God asked him to do (emphasis original).
DeYoung continues on to diagnose our lack of priority-setting, our succumbing to kindergarchy (rule by children), the devastating effects of constantly being connected to technology, and the need for rest. And lest we start to think we shouldn’t be busy and proceed to throw off the fetters of our commitments and responsibilities, DeYoung presents as his last diagnosis one that balances all the others: we’re busy because we’re supposed to be busy. It’s possible to live in a flurry of hard work, but to do so with a correct dependence of God so that it doesn’t feel overwhelmingly busy. Conversely, it’s possible to feel overwhelmingly busy while accomplishing very little.
The antidote to busyness of soul is not sloth and indifference. The antidote is rest, rhythm, death to pride, acceptance of our own finitude, and trust in the providence of God.
The busyness that’s bad is not the busyness of work, but the busyness that works hard at the wrong things.
This brings us to the last chapter, foreshadowed at the end of chapter two: “The One Thing You Must Do.” Here, DeYoung presents the familiar story of Mary and Martha and exhorts us to keep first things first – to devote ourselves both privately and corporately to the Word and prayer. He concludes by detailing many benefits of going after the one thing that is necessary.
This book is classic DeYoung – winsome and candid, yet it cuts to the heart and exposes sin; theologically deep yet accessible, avoiding erudite terminology. And he is balanced; at many points where there is potential for the reader to take to the extreme a point that DeYoung makes, he warns of the danger and provides a balance. To be honest, before reading this book I wasn’t really expecting to benefit from it. After all, I know I’m crazy busy. How can I be helped by reading a book that mainly tells me how busy I am and why that’s a bad thing? But even though the book is mainly diagnoses of the problem and even though we may already be aware of most of the problems, there is much helpful insight in this book. It’s not intensely practical, and nowhere near life-changing, but that wasn’t what DeYoung hoped to accomplish anyway; his hope was that the reader would find a few ways to tackle his schedule, several suggestions for reclaiming his sanity, and a lot of encouragement to remember his soul. DeYoung achieved what he had set out to accomplish, and this is a short, enjoyable book.
This book will be available starting on Monday, 9/23/13. During the launch week of 9/23-9/30, Westminster Books has a deal worked out with Crossway to offer the book at $6.00 per single copy and $5.00 per copy for five or more copies.
**I received a free advanced electronic copy of this book from Crossway Books for review. The opinions expressed here are solely my own.**