Busy (Book Review)

In a world of being busy, Ian Carmichael helps us understand what God’s plan is for our busyness and our rest.

Busy...it could be the word to describe life in 21st-century Britain.

Initiate any conversation with a “how are you?” and often the answer back is “busy, you?” Or when people ask you how life or ministry is going, is our most used reply, “busy”?

On good days you might try and use a different, more ‘positive’ word but busy is how you feel most of the time and it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon! You may also wonder if there is anything you can do about it or if this is how life should be.

While finishing my sabbatical and thinking about re-entering ministry life, I read Busy by Ian Carmichael and found it gave a stimulating look at how I might refocus my thoughts about what it means to be busy and how I can manage what I do with my time.

God’s plan for busyness

From the outset, Ian is explicit about what this book is not. It is not a ‘how to manage your time better' book or ‘top 5 tips for being less busy’. Instead, Ian encourages us to consider that if we think we are too busy and need to cut things out, do we know what we should be filling our time with instead? Also, if we think we need more rest, do we know what God-given rest looks like?

When faced with the busyness of life, our temptation can be to think we just need to do less and have more free time. However, Ian unpacks a different approach and wants to show that by better understanding God’s purpose for how we are to live in God’s world we will be more equipped to establish good rhythms to our lives.

Ian starts by looking back to Genesis. He wants us to see that understanding we are made in God’s image is the foundation for a biblical view of busyness and rest. The first chapters of Genesis establish that we are created in God’s image to work or to be involved in purposeful activity. He writes “having things to do reflects God’s own purposefulness and is part of God’s good, created order. God’s plan was for us to work – to do stuff.’

He also shows that we are created in God’s image for rest and explores what that rest should look like.

One of Ian’s conclusions is that being busy isn’t always a bad thing. Instead, we want to ensure our busyness is directed towards God’s plan of bringing people into his kingdom: our busyness can be a blessing to others. Alongside this, we want to establish good patterns of finding rest in our relationship with God.

In the rest of the book, Ian provides a helpful framework to help us evaluate how we can be engaged in ‘well-directed busyness’. This is the activity of being involved in bringing people from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. He demonstrates that by being intentional in our relationships we can manage all the competing demands on our time without feeling overwhelmed.

Work/rest balance

I found this book challenging as I thought about how I spend my time and my feeling of being busy. Am I being busy in the thing which will help people come to know Jesus or grow to become more like him? As I considered how I rest, I found myself wondering: do I gravitate more easily to things of this world to bring me rest, rather than my relationship with God?

Busy would be an excellent book for those starting out in ministry to consider how to establish a good balance of work and rest.

I would also encourage young adults at church to read this as they start university or begin their first job to enable them to think through a good decision-making process to manage what they do with their time and to use it productively for Christ and his kingdom.

You can order a copy of Busy by Ian Carmichael from 10ofThose for £6.79 (RRP £7.99).

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