DeYoung writes this book because he has identified a problem in his life which he knows he shares with many other Christians. He’s muttered to himself, “What am I doing? How did I get myself into this mess? …How did I get so busy? …I’ve put in slipshod work because there wasn’t time for any other kind. I’ve missed too many quiet times and been too impatient with my kids. I’ve taken my wife for granted and fed important relationships with leftovers. I’ve been too busy to pursue God with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. In other words, I’ve likely been just like you” (13-14). Therefore, DeYoung desires to help his readers find a few ways to tackle their schedules, reclaim their sanity, and find more peace for their souls in the midst of their crazy busy lives.
DeYoung identifies a number of dangers Christians face when they live overly busy lives. Busyness can ruin a Christian’s joy (26). He writes, “When our lives are frantic and frenzied, we are more prone to anxiety, resentment, impatience, and irritability” (26). He also points out that busyness can lead to worries. He cites Jesus’ parable of the Sower and the Seed and makes the point that we are the seed which has taken root, but which can still be choked out by the weeds. Jesus identifies the weeds as the worries of life, some of which are brought on by our fixation on material possessions and their upkeep (30). Further, he perceives that a Christian’s busyness may be symptomatic of soul-destroying attitudes in our hearts (30). For example, “The presence of extreme busyness in our lives may point to deeper problems-a pervasive people pleasing, a restless ambition, a malaise of meaninglessness” (31).
DeYoung spends the majority of the book suggesting diagnoses for the problems of busyness. He invites readers to examine their lives for possible sources of trouble. He notes that overloaded schedules are often the result of the desire to be people pleasers and the desire to be praised by others. He draws the conclusion that “People pleasing is actually a form of pride and narcissism” (35).
The author also points out that some Christians feel guilty because they don’t feel like they are doing enough to help and serve others. Without using the terminology Lutherans may use to describe it, DeYoung gives comfort and perspective to his readers by reminding them of their vocation: “You have your own gifts and calling. We have to be okay with other Christians doing certain good things better and more often than we do…Jesus didn’t do it all…And yet, he did everything God asked him to do” (50). DeYoung then concludes, “Stewarding my time is not about selfishly pursuing only the things I like to do. It’s about effectively serving others in the ways I’m best able to serve and in the ways I am most uniquely called to serve” (61). DeYoung urges us to reevaluate our priorities in life in light of our various callings.
With an insightful wit, DeYoung invites readers to examine whether they are under the rule of a “Cruel Kindergarchy.” Kindergarchy is a term coined by author Joseph Epstein which refers to how children have ended up running so many households. Everything in the family revolves around the children and their schedules and activities. Furthermore, he feels that many Christian parents “often operate with an implicit determinism. We fear that a few wrong moves will ruin our children forever, and at the same time assume that the right combination of protection and instruction will invariably produce godly children” (61). He concludes that the best things parents can do for their children is to provide stable households where “parental sanity (is) a higher priority” (71).
Our use of technology also poses serious dangers. Our constant connectivity on i-Pads and Smartphones can create “this strange mix of busyness and lifelessness” and “purposelessness disguised as constant commotion” (82). DeYoung then asks his readers to evaluate whether or not they are making sufficient time for rest. He points out how God created “a rhythm between work life and rest life” in the Old Testament. Taking a weekly day off from work and planning time for sufficient sleep were areas which he emphasized.
While he rightfully points out all the physical and spiritual dangers of busyness, DeYoung also urges his readers to embrace the burdens of busyness. Christians have been called to live lives filled with acts of kindness and love. “Some forms of busyness are from the Lord and bring him glory. Effective love is rarely efficient. People take time. Relationships are messy. If we love others, how can we not be busy and burdened at least some of the time?” (105) DeYoung suggests some Christians end up suffering more through the busyness of loving others because they don’t expect to suffer at all in their lives.
DeYoung concludes that there is one thing to do to combat sinful busyness. “If you are sick and tired of feeling so dreadfully busy…this is the best advice I know: devote yourself to the Word of God and prayer…I can tell you that no single practice brings more peace and discipline to life than sitting at the feet of Jesus” (113).
While DeYoung certainly demonstrates a high view of Scripture, he makes a couple of biblical points with which we would take issue. On a number of occasions he contends that people still possess naturally the image of God, rather than seeing the image of God as lost in the Fall but restored through faith in Christ. He also sees the Old Testament mandate for physical rest on the Sabbath day transferred to Sunday for New Testament Christians (91). One key weakness in Crazy Busy would be a lack of gospel appropriation and application for the Christian who struggles with sinful busyness. Christ, as Savior of sinners and Perfect-time-manager-for-us, is the only one who can rejuvenate our spirits.
In spite of these drawbacks, this book is a useful tool for self-examination. Pastors, teachers, and lay people alike will benefit from evaluating their attitudes, habits, and schedules in light of DeYoung’s thought-provoking insights. Above all, readers will benefit from DeYoung’s constant emphasis on a personal devotional life to combat sinful busyness and discontentment and resentment when the busyness of Christian love enters the Christian’s life. Crazy Busy provides Christians with useful advice and encouragement to glorify God with the way they order their lives. And not to be overlooked: at 118 pages the book is mercifully short for busy Christians!
Kevin DeYoung is an award winning author, popular blogger and conference speaker, and senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. He and his wife, Trisha, have six children who keep them very busy (back cover).