I chose to review the book Crazy Busy (by Kevin DeYoung) because I’m an introvert that will go to great lengths to not be busy. I was hoping to find something helpful in determining if I am too busy or not busy enough and this book was a great start. I read about half the book during an hour lunch break so if the book intrigues you, I encourage you to read it (I also underlined most of the book!).
The main thing I want to apply to my life from this book is that I want to be busy for what matters. In this generation we seem unfocused with something constantly calling for our attention, especially things that make us feel important or busy: facebook, emails, texts, kids that have to be in sports or every extra activity, awareness about the needs of others constantly in front of us, a new to do list every morning. As DeYoung says, “we are so busy with a million pursuits that we don’t even notice the most important things slipping away.” This is what I fear I lean toward when I am busy: losing sight and care of what I treasure most for lesser, often even worthless, pursuits. Often we are busy simply because in this age there is more opportunities. We know almost no limits with transportation, information, and even light bulbs that give us light whenever we wish.
What is wrong with this? If we can do something, why don’t we do it? DeYoung lays out three dangers to look out for: 1. Busyness can ruin our joy. The most serious threat is your soul. A helpful way to fight for joy is to plan for margin. Margin means we plan for the unplannable, it means we “understand what’s possible for us as finite creatures and then we schedule for less than that.” This took a weight of guilt off my shoulders. I know my limits and what I do on a weekly basis. For myself I often feel overwhelmed if I have somewhere to be every night of the week. That would cause me to stress and not be fun to be around. I’m trying to no longer feel guilty for leaving room for the unexpected to happen or more often, my sanity.
2. Busyness can rob our hearts. The cares of the world and the upkeep of stuff is what is “choking our spiritual life” for most of us. What DeYoung said next really pricked my heart and revealed where my heart is, so please forgive the long quote, but it’s something I have a feeling I will need to read for the rest of my life:
Jesus says the work of the Word is swallowed up by the desire for other things. It’s not that possessions themselves are to blame. The problem is with everything we do to take care of them and everything we do to get more of them. Is it any wonder that the most stressed-out people on the planet live in the most affluent countries? Cottages, boats, campers, time-shares, investments, real estate, snowmobiles, new cars, new houses, new computers, new iStuff, new video games, new makeup, new DVDs, new downloads, new . . . –they all take time. We’ve heard countless sermons warning us about the dangers of money. But the real danger comes after you spend the money. Once you own it you need to keep it clean, keep it working, and keep up with the latest improvements. If the worries of life don’t swamp us, the upkeep will.
Jesus knows what he’s talking about. As much as we must pray against the Devil and pray for the persecuted church, in Jesus’s thinking the greatest threat to the gospel is sheer exhaustion. Busyness kills more Christians than bullets. How many sermons are stripped of their power by lavish dinner preparations and professional football? How many moments of pain are wasted because we never sat still enough to learn from them? How many times of private and family worship have been crowded out by soccer and school projects? We need to guard our hearts. The seed of God’s Word won’t grow to fruitfulness without pruning for rest, quiet, and calm.
3. Busyness can cover up the rot in our souls. Busyness can cover up dangers inside of us that we don’t have time to sit down and consider. Why are we overscheduled? Are we trying to leave no room to think or please others or feel important?
After these dangers comes what I struggle with most: a constant sense of guilt because there is so much to do and I do not do it all. I have people ask me to pray for them or their great aunt or brother George all the time. I basically live at a seminary where I hear about all the things that need to be done in the city every week. For myself, I think I can sometimes do more, but that doesn’t mean I can volunteer at every shelter or stop sex-trafficking in one fell swoop. You might identify with this too, “I think most Christians hear these urgent calls to do more and learn to live with a low-level guilt that comes from not doing enough. We know we can always pray more and give more and evangelize more, so we get used to living in a state of mild disappointment with ourselves. That’s not how the apostle Paul lived (1 Cor. 4:4), and it’s not how God wants us to live, either (Rom. 12:1-2). Either we are guilty of sin–like greed, selfishness, idolatry–and we need to repent, be forgiven, and change. Or something else is going on. … when it comes to good causes and good deeds, “do more or disobey” is not the best thing we can say.” Here are some thoughts to help us get away from the constant pressure to do more: We are not Christ. We can’t help with every cause, but we can cultivate our hearts to care and not grow cold toward suffering. And lastly, “we all have a cross to carry. But it’s a cross that kills our sins, smashes our idols, and teaches us the folly of self-reliance. It’s a cross that says I’ll do anything to follow Jesus, not a cross that says I have to do everything for Jesus.
So at this point, I started getting pretty happy. The introvert that loves to stay home started feeling pretty good that being busy was bad. But then DeYoung had to go open up my world and hit me on the head with something I will probably be learning for years and years to come: “[Jesus] was busy, but never in a way that made him frantic, anxious, irritable, proud, envious, or distracted by lesser things. When all Capernaum waited for his healing touch, he left for a desolate place to pray. And when the disciples told him to get back to work, he left for another town to preach. Jesus knew the difference between urgent and important. He understood that all the good things he could do were not necessarily the things he ought to do.” Wow, Jesus was busy! He was busy with things that mattered. And he had to say no and sleep and pray and eat because he chose to live on the earth with human limitations. He understands. Some helpful things I learned to better be busy with important things: write down your priorities (ex. from DeYoung of his: “1.To faithfully preach the Word of God. 2. To love and lead my family. 3. To be happy and holy in Jesus.”). Make a not-to-do list, “things we decide not to do for the sake of doing the things we ought to do.” Let people know your priorities up front and allow them to set their own priorities when you ask someone to do something.
Yes, I learned I am supposed to be busy. I learned I am often busy with ultimately meaningless things or that I am tired because I stayed up too late trying to put more information from the internet in my brain. But there is a good busy. DeYoung says, “If you have creativity, ambition, and love, you will be busy. We are supposed to disciple the nations. We are supposed to work with our hands. We are supposed to love God with our minds…It’s not a sin to be busy. It’s not wrong to be active.” And when life is crazy busy the cure is “rest, rhythm, death to pride, acceptance of our own finitude, and trust in the providence of God.” It is good to remember though, that being a mother will be busy and not easy, being a friend will take time, and caring for our souls and others might mean “burden-bearing, gloriously busy, and wildly inefficient work.” If we love others life will be messy, busy, and even burdensome.
To end, DeYoung (and I) will leave you with Mary and Martha, a story I’ve never quite “gotten.” Martha was worried and upset about something that didn’t truly matter. We can be the same. A lot of us “go day after day, crazy month after crazy month: worried, upset, anxious, troubled, fussing, worked up. Every stain, every school project, every dirty sink, every surprise guest, every surge of responsibility becomes a cause for great panic.” So, what is it we need to do? DeYoung’s advice: “devote yourself to the Word of God and prayer. This means public worship and private worship. I’m not telling you how much time to spend. You may start with five minutes a day or fifteen or fifty. A few unhurried minutes are better than a distracted hour, and a consistent habit is better than a sporadic burst of fits and starts.” And what really hit my heart and broke it: “We have to believe that hearing from God is our good portion. We have to believe that the most significant opportunity before us every day is the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus. We won’t rearrange our priorities unless we really believe this is the best one.” To wrap it all up, “I believe God wants us to see that if we heal the sick and cast out demons and preach the gospel and show mercy and do justice and don’t sit at the feet of Jesus, we’ve missed the one thing we truly need.” Friend, I pray you and I have what we truly need. Let’s feast on our good portion as we go through this busy life.