According to the subtitle this book from the pen of Kevin DeYoung is A (mercifully) short book about a (really) big problem. The first part means that it’s accessible. The book is short and does not take long to read. The second part underscores the importance of it. The problem DeYoung is tackling really is a major one. Many of us are not only busy. We are too busy.
It is obvious from the word go that the author is no mere outsider looking in – identifying, analysing, and then addressing a problem he sees that others have but which he himself doesn’t. He is writing as an insider. The problem is his as much as anyone else’s: “I am writing this book to figure out things I don’t know and to work on change I have not yet seen. More than any other book I’ve worked on, this one is for me” (p.14).
Why are so many excessively busy? In large part because of “two realities of the modernized, urbanized, globalized world that most everyone else in human history could not fathom: our complexity and our opportunity” (p.24). Life is increasingly complex and presents us with endless opportunities for this, that, and the next thing. “The result…is simple but true: because we can do so much we do do so much” (p.24).
DeYoung alerts us to three dangers of busyness: it can ruin our joy (and others’ too), it can rob our hearts, and it can cover up the rot in our souls (pp.26-32). He then goes on to meditate on the “many manifestations of pride” (p.35). Why pride? “There is more of it at work in our hearts and more of it pulsing through our busyness than we realize” (p.35). Or again, “of all the possible problems contributing to our busyness, it’s a pretty good bet that one of the most pervasive is pride” (p.38). That means that the solution does not lie in mastering a set of time-management techniques. We need to deal with our hearts.
Pride, however, is only the first of seven diagnoses that we are given to consider. In the course of the rest he warns against trying to do what God does not expect us to do, serving others without setting priorities, freaking out about our kids (this chapter alone, with its advice on calm and sane parenting, is worth the price of the book), letting the screen strangle your soul (on the perils of social media), and failing to properly rest. In connection with resting he delightfully says of the Sabbath, “God gives us Sabbath as a gift; an island of get-to in a sea of have-to” (p.91).
Toward the end DeYoung helpfully balances the book by addressing the issue of unavoidable busyness and the challenges – even the suffering – that that brings. He also emphasises (this is in the final chapter) how all-important are our personal devotions: “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 that this is the best one” (p.115).