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Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Crazy Busy" (Kevin DeYoung)

TITLE: Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem
AUTHOR: Kevin DeYoung
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2013, (128 pages).

It is one of the most commonly used phrases in our culture. It is also a primary way in which we assert our sense of self-importance, self-worth, and self-accomplishment. If there is any one widely accepted answer to the question, "How are you doing?" this is it.  "Busy."
  • How are you doing? Busy
  • How are you getting along? Busy.
  • How's life? Busy.
  • What's next? Busier still.
If you are an alien from outer space coming to earth for the first time, you will probably be forgiven if you then start to presume that "Busy" is the first or last names of earth people. So crazy is this phenomenon that Kevin DeYoung has titled this book "Crazy Busy." The main purpose of this book is to help people not only to manage their crazy spiral of non-stop busyness, but to pause our engines and to ponder on the words of Jesus to Martha:

Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42)

Hoping to garner wider acceptance and attention, his subtitles play into the mood of wanting things fast and having everything as brief and to the point as possible. DeYoung has designed this book to play along the frantic moods of a busy reader. Using the numbers 3-7-1 as a framework, readers will look at three dangers to avoid; seven diagnoses to consider; and one thing we all must do. The book comes across with clear outlines, point by point lists, as well as short snappy quips. Even the length of the book has been shortened.

A) Three Dangers to Avoid
Beginning with a story in 1 Kings 20 about Ahab who lets his priorities get messed up through busyness and inattentiveness to God's will, DeYoung points out how similar our modern society has become: Distracted; Preoccupied; Inattentive; No Follow Through; No Commitments. According to the author, the first danger is the ruination of joy. Busyness is the anti-thesis of joy. He writes: "When our lives are frantic and frenzied, we are more prone to anxiety, resentment, impatience, and irritability." He also makes a plea for us to expand our margins between loads and limits. Margins essentially help us breathe, and to cultivate a more restful disposition that avoids the traps and temptations of frantic busyness.

The second danger is that busyness is a thief that can rob us of the Word and the Will of God. Without making sense of our busyness or why we are so busy, we can easily become the seeds of unfruitfulness. Only in a Christ-centered environment of "rest, quiet, and calm" can we get a better sense of God's guidance.

The third danger is that busyness can smother something more dangerous: our rotting selves. It is like letting cancer grow unabated as we try to do things to forget that it exists. Extreme busyness may even point to a much deeper problem: Loneliness, purposelessness, and meaninglessness.

B) Seven Diagnoses to Consider

Then comes the main body of this book. Seven diagnoses in seven chapters.
  1. Is your busyness a manifestation of pride?
    Like many people in the past, DeYoung calls pride the source of all the other sins.
    How is busyness a problem that is related to pride? Well, when we seek to be people pleasers, we easily embark on doing many things to all people, that we become more sensitive to people's demands and expectations. As a result, we become less sensitive to God and His demands. We then look for praises from men. We evaluate our performance not according to God's standards but according to man's. Possessiveness, prestige, power, perfectionism, and more. All of these are manifestations of pride. Chances are, we become busy so that we can look good, feel good, and assure ourselves that busyness makes us good. Is that not pride?
  2. Are you trying to do things that God does not expect you to do?
    Total obligation is bad. Under the pretext of doing more for God, we buy into the mistake of letting the quantitative number determine our worth. Like the Bible student who shows off his knowledge of all 66 books of the Bible, or the Church leader who boasts about 1001 things he has done for the ministry. Key to distancing ourselves from this obligatory trap is to remind ourselves we are not God. We are not perfect. We do not need to do so many things in order to be accepted or appreciated. Grace is not about how many things we do for God. It is plainly a gift of God that we receive as undeserved sinners.
  3. Are you becoming too busy at the expense of setting priorities?
    How can we serve others better if we ourselves do not set priorities? We are reminded that Jesus himself is a busy man. The difference is, he does not become a slave to busyness. He sets prioritize to put in place the work of God to be done in the will of God. If any of us think that we can outdo Jesus, out-think Jesus, or out-perform Jesus, we are greatly mistaken. DeYoung follows up with three "unassailable truths."
  4. Are you freaked out about your kids?
    This chapter is written with the parents in mind. I have known many parents who literally freak themselves out over anything affecting their kids. The myth of a perfect parent is bathed in legalistic demands, using kids to parade parents' agendas instead of God's agenda for them. Many parents worry and fear over the future of their children. The problem lies in the parents lack of faith and trust in God for the future of their kids.
  5. Are you letting online activities strangle your soul?
    Social media is the current fad. While it may be relatively new to some, addictions to it are not. Why are people so attracted and addicted to social media, technological gadgets, and that insatiable thirst to tell the world about their whole lives? For all we know, the new media is another way to make our busy lives even busier! DeYoung urges readers to have "healthy suspicions" of new technologies; be more thoughtful in online interactions; to deliberately embrace older technologies; and to establish boundaries on the use of online activities.
  6. Are you getting sufficient rest lest you wreck your own body?
    We are now creatures capable of working ourselves to death. Sleep and Sabbath have one thing in common. They are gifts from God. The plain reason why many of us struggle to rest is because we have not made time to rest. 
  7. Are you suffering more because you assume you aren't suppose to suffer?
    This diagnosis is a wake-up call for those of us wearing an erroneous mindset that assumes suffering is not God's will for us. Such an assumption makes us assume that pain is bad and suffering is worse. DeYoung contends that: "The busyness that’s bad is not the busyness of work, but the busyness that works hard at the wrong things." Well said. Serving God entails a fair amount of suffering.

C) One Thing To Do

If there is only one thing we must do, it is this: Get close to Jesus. What Martha has done is good. What she is planning to do more and more is better. Yet, that is not the best. The best is what Mary herself has chosen. For the choices Martha has made only increase the worries and anxieties. What Mary has chosen is not only restful for her, it will not be taken away from her. How are our devotions to Christ? We cannot simply define a healthy devotional life by saying: "We spend more time with Jesus." For the spiritual life is about a relationship, not a laundry list of do's and don'ts. Bible reading, Prayer, Meditation, Spirituality, are all essentials of the spiritual life. For six days, we busy ourselves with the matters of work. On the Seventh day, rest. Throughout the day, reflect on God and seek His priorities. 

So What?

This book is not a theological treatise, nor a scientific document of empirical data. Neither is it an artistic rendition of the Sabbatical moments. It is simply a concise witty way to communicate the dangers of busyness and how it can seduce the soul. It attempts to help readers diagnose accurately the temptations and the critical need to move away from mad busyness to glad restfulness. I am surprised how much ground a small book like this can cover. It proves to me again that less is often more. Our lives are not designed to be spinning wheels of busyness, constantly in motion to accomplish things or to please people. Our lives are created to be blessings of good works, done in God's time, that brings forth God's fruit in God's season. Busyness is not a medal that we can wear to prove our worth. It is doing what is necessary, what is important to the Kingdom of God that matters. One ounce of work rightly measured and implemented in God's perfect will and timing will far outweigh the many tonnes of purposeless activities that appear busy after all the wrong things. It is indeed very true that the biggest tragedy in life is not failing to succeed, succeeding in things that will ultimately fail.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Crossway Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

1 comment:

  1. I found your blog from your review of the book Insourcing. I have recently written a similar book about discipleship and was wondering if you would consider reviewing it?
    My name is Robby Gallaty and the title of my book is: Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples. After surrendering my life to Christ in 2002, I was presented with the opportunity to be discipled by David Platt, New York Times best selling author of Radical and Follow Me. He describes our time together in the Foreword of the book. Here’s an excerpt:

    So what do you do when a 6’6” 290-pound thieving drug-dealing pill addict trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is standing next to you on a Sunday morning in a church gathering? My thought is that you become that guy’s friend as soon as possible! So one Sunday, years ago, I had the God-ordained, God-orchestrated privilege of meeting Robby Gallaty.
    Simply put, the Lord’s hand on this brother was evident from the moment I met him. Robby had just become a follower of Christ, and his zeal for Christ was not just clear; it was contagious. Before long, I had the privilege of baptizing him, which is quite a story in and of itself (just imagine this 6’6” 290-pound man slipping on his way down into the baptistery and falling straight toward you, causing water to splash over onto the choir like a wave pool out of control). Every week, Robby and I would meet for Chinese food over lunch. We would walk together through God’s Word and pray together for one another. I can still remember sitting over General Tso’s chicken watching Robby write down every single truth I shared with him on the napkins at Mr. Wang’s. Then he would take that truth and not only apply it in his life, but also teach it in others’ lives. I visibly watched this brother soak in the gospel as he spread the gospel on a weekly basis.

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    Many people have graciously endorsed the book already: Kay Arthur, Robert Coleman, Jerry Vines, Eric Geiger, Ed Stetzer, Tim Brister, John Ankerberg, J.D. Greear, Bill Hull, Greg Ogden, Johnny Hunt, Larry Osborne, Derwin Gray, Chris Adsit, Russell Moore, Danny Akin, Sam Rainer, Bobby Harrington, Tony Merida, and Clayton King.
    I can provide it to you as a digital file immediately. If you would like a paperback copy after reading it, I will be happy to mail you one as soon as I receive the printed copies.
    Of course, I understand that you are under zero obligation to review my book, and if you do review it, you can leave a good or a bad review. I am simply asking for you to prayerfully consider it. Thank you in advance. I look forward to your response.
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    Many Blessings,
    Robby Gallaty