Book Review: Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

Reviewed by Dr Olivia McGrath


From Luke’s Journal 2022 | Rest | Vol.27 No.1

A (mercifully) short book about a (really) big problem

It’s perhaps ironic that it took graduating medical school and being assigned this review to finally read Crazy Busy by pastor Kevin DeYoung after it was given to me by a friend over three years ago.

Maybe that’s also why it didn’t resonate as strongly as I had hoped it would. For I, like many other health professionals, have likely been busy since secondary school and learned over time to prioritise by necessity. To me, this was DeYoung’s central message: prioritise.

Nevertheless, over a few summer evenings nearing the end of my internship, I read this short book covering a biblical approach to busyness. During COVID times, when many extracurricular activities have been abruptly stopped, to me, these past two years have provided a greater insight into a hectic schedule than this book. Maybe it’s an unfair time for me to critique it.

It’s a hard topic to tackle

It’s a hard topic to tackle, I’ll give DeYoung that. He emphasises that everyone needs to come to terms at some point in their life with what’s important – to consider how many hours of the day have passed where nothing productive, nor worthwhile, nor Spirit-filled was done when mindless scrolling could’ve been swapped out for family time, reading emails for a book, housework for a walk,or, ultimately, anything for prayer, reading the Bible, and growing in our relationship with God. We’re left with the age-old question, what deserves our time?

He does well to incorporate biblical examples of work and rest. As such, most of what is written could be found from reading the Bible. But the Bible is, I’ll admit, a difficult read, so it’s helpful to have a succinct reminder. I also found it helpful to appreciate just how many times Jesus leaves his company for solitude and prayer and when He doesn’t heal just one more but knows when to move onto another town. DeYoung states what I believe many health professionals need to hear:

You are unique. Your gifts are important. But you’re not irreplaceable.” 

“You’re only indispensable until you say no.”

However, he extends his exegesis to imply that the busyness of us mere mortals is always wrong, whilst Jesus’ busyness during his three years of ministry was holy and blameless, for, well, He’s God. I didn’t quite appreciate this black and white view. It’s like when people argue that we can never be angry, but Jesus flipped tables, for well, of course He could, He’s God! 

Yes, Jesus may not have procrastinated, and His mission was directly from God, but DeYoung’s argument was too simple and lacked nuance in comparing us to Jesus. Likewise, he looks to the past with rose-coloured glasses, suggesting our modern world with its technology and multitasking is pulling us further from God, again avoiding the opposing view of the increased productivity and interaction that can arise.

A final flaw

A final flaw comes with his somewhat paradoxical ending. At the turn of the final page, this book left me feeling like I needed to do more – to join a choir, volunteer at church, and cook for my family. Anything to make my life more fulfilling and glorify God.

“At the turn of the final page, this book left me feeling like I needed to do more – to join a choir, volunteer at church, and cook for my family. Anything to make my life more fulfilling and glorify God.”

I know this wasn’t the book’s aim – DeYoung quotes author Tim Kreider with a gem, a lie with which we convince ourselves: “Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.” I’ll be honest, I’ve fooled myself into that thinking more than once. 

Again, maybe I’m aching for more in my life than just work thanks to the pandemic. I am craving variety, relaxed socialising with friends, and to be able to contribute to our globalised world. Going into 2022, this book may become more relevant, and I’ll have to reread it. Overall, though, it’s a reminder to find a Godly balance. To anyone who restlessly rests at either extreme – being too busy or too idle – I would recommend this book.

Dr Olivia McGrath
Dr Olivia McGrath is currently a resident at Eastern Health in Victoria. Whilst she would love to become a physician, she is keen to go wherever God takes her and wherever she can glorify Him the most.

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