Book Review: Crazy Busy February 11, 2014

This new book is by a pastor named Kevin DeYoung who has become one of my favorite authors.  The full title of the book is Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem.  The book is true to its title with just over 100 pages.  It makes sense that a book which confronts the potential problem of being too busy (or busy for the wrong reasons) would not bog us down with hundreds of pages to read.  Even busy people (perhaps especially busy people) have time to read this book!

As the title implies, DeYoung’s book focuses on what has become a very real issue in American culture: busyness.  The problem often is not busyness itself, but the fact that we think being busy is a virtue without examining why we are so busy with various things.  DeYoung put it well on pg. 32 when he stated, “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.”  DeYoung spends some of book diagnosing the problem of unwise busyness in general.  He shows how often our busyness is connected with sinful motives like pride, and pride can manifest itself in numerous ways as we busy ourselves with various things (people pleasing, materialism, perfectionism, poor planning, etc.).   In short, DeYoung encourages not just to ask ourselves if we are busy, but why.  He put it well on pg. 39 as he evaluates his own personal motivations in his busyness, “I try to keep in mind this simple question: Am I trying to do good or to make myself look good?

After looking at the problem of busyness in general, the author looks at some of the specific things in our modern world that keep us so busy.  3 specific issues he tackles are parenting, technology, and rest.  There is a lot of good and wise advice in these chapters.  One of the keys, however, to enjoying this book, and especially these chapters, is understanding that wise advice is different than a biblical mandate or command.  Many of the practical things DeYoung suggests to the reader are not specific commands found in the Bible.  In fact, the author himself wants to make this clear at the beginning of his book on pg. 16, “I trust you will distinguish in these pages between practical application (which may differ across cultures) and biblical principles and diagnoses (which do not).”  As I read this book, I failed to keep this in mind once or twice, and found myself thinking as I read some of his practical advice, “The Bible does not command me to do this.”  There is, of course, nothing wrong with wise advice, but not all of it will translate into everyone’s specific circumstances in their lives.  The reader will have a much more fruitful time with this book if he/she keeps in mind the distinction between practical advice and biblical command.

One final thing that I was thankful for in this book was DeYoung’s acknowledgment that busyness is not in and of itself a bad thing.  Rest is good in the Bible, but work is good too, and we need to keep both of these truths in mind.  There is a sense in which it is true that we are supposed to be busy; busy loving others, working with integrity, loving our families, and serving in our churches.  It is not necessarily bad to be busy.  DeYoung put it well when he stated on pg. 102, “It’s not a sin to be busy…The busyness that’s bad is not the busyness of work, but the busyness that works hard at the wrong things.  It’s being busy trying to please people, busy trying to control others, busy trying to do things we haven’t been called to do.  So please don’t hear from me that work is bad or that bearing burdens is bad.  That’s part of life.  That’s part of being a Christian.”  This is a very helpful reminder in a book on busyness because we can be tempted to reject busyness and embrace laziness.  I do wish DeYoung had moved this to the forefront of his book rather than save it for the end as he does.  I think it would help clarify the reader’s thinking as he/she works through the material, rather than just throwing it in at the end of the book.

Overall, Crazy Busy is a very helpful book that deals with what is a very real problem in many of our lives.  While there may be some of the practical advice that doesn’t quite apply to you as an individual (or that you may even slightly disagree with), as a whole the book can prove to be a helpful starting point for readers to think through the motives behind their busyness.

– Pastor Nathan Hogan