Toil and rest

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The earth is not still, she reels and groans,

Her gales with which she shrieks and moans

Gust the sailors to and fro in a tempest, in a blast, in a flurry.

With tidings she waves, she pulls and pounds,

In mist and fury she pummels the grounds

Pouring out flood, fare and fire to nourish and sustain this slurry.

The sun is not slack, though he takes his time, 

With a weight of gold he scales the skies

And strains to unfurl vitality to the vast, allotted array below.

For apportioned share is unveiled a pale face,

She conducts starry hosts to dance in their place

Offering sweet lyric and lullaby to the dancers and dreamers in the glow.

This ancient form chimes with reverbs and echoes,

With many a scion and the flowers of meadows

Rising in glory and regimented harmony to their lot and stand of ages.

The ants march on from time immemorial

And the butterfly flutters, its essence ephemeral,

But this form, this life, this lump of clay—such a disparity enrages.

Entitled and proud, it clings to “forever”.

It is able and bright, yet refuses the endeavour

To strive for the noble, persistent and Heavenly design for the Earth.

It wantonly peruses the treasures of the world,

Swallowing the dazzle of riches and pearls

Through its eyes while it lies perishing and spoiling like a ship still in berth.

The earth is not still, but in patience she slows

Her mighty breath so to caress the rose,

And float its sweet, seductive scent to make a lover’s kiss more divine.

With wisdom she knows not to hasten the mounds

Of snow to melt upon the mountain surrounds,

But relishes the peaceful, jovial scene in equal measure to radiant, gleaming sunshine.

The sun is not slack, but he makes the time

To shine down upon the sprout and the vine.

That beam, that summer haze, melts the world into a syrupy decadence of honey.

In cheer of gold glow, the feline dozes,

Calm and ignorant to the cares and woes of

The hurry, the stress, the strain of the owners who chase the deception of money.

The Lord did not create man to laze, sleep and slumber,

Nor is our course to restlessly heave, hoe, and lumber,

But to grasp hold of one and not let go of the other;

That is the purpose divine. 

We all want more—more years of youth, more money, more rest, more success, more beauty, a more glamorous lifestyle, more holidays, more days in the weekend
. . . and on and on it goes . . . And to be fair, these things do sound pretty good! It would be nice to be able to afford a luxurious trip to Italy . . . or even be able to buy a house in Sydney (can anybody else relate?).

And so, in our pursuit of these things, we work harder. We hustle. We scrounge and save. We sacrifice. And for what; what are we actually trying to achieve? We often believe that having more stuff will bring us greater fulfilment and peace of mind, thinking that working harder is the key to “having it all“. But the truth is, when we hold on to these desires and chase after more, we become restless, exhausted and discontented individuals, unable to be satisfied even when we receive these things. We deceive ourselves.

This is what my poem is about—how misconceptions about work, rest and what brings satisfaction can damage our capacity for finding purpose, enrichment and enjoyment in life. It is a struggle many can resonate with: balancing work and rest.

Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 says, “And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves. Better one hand with tranquillity than two handfuls of toil and chasing after the wind.” 

While it is foolish to frantically chase after work and success like a rat in a wheel, it is equally foolish to laze around wasting our time. Mankind was designed to work. In the Garden of Eden, before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve were given the responsibility of caring for the Earth. And repeatedly throughout the Bible, God calls His people to action. Scripture informs us that the focus of our lives should not be to live an easy life of pleasure, and neither is it about tirelessly working hard to have more. But the best way to live is to find a balance of work and rest so that we can be attuned to God’s purpose for our lives . . . That is the purpose divine.

Do you know how to rest properly? A lot of “restful” behaviours encourage laziness, dulling our senses rather than refuelling our tanks. Some of the popular “rest” practices you may be familiar with include binge watching TV shows and revenge scrolling on social media into the early hours of the morning. (I personally struggle with both!) These kinds of “rest“ do not actually provide your mind and body with the physical and mental release it needs from the demands of a fast-paced, busy schedule. Instead, they are merely a distraction, providing instant and temporary gratification, but no long-lasting rejuvenation. 

God knows that we need rest and repeatedly invites us to come to Him to find proper rest. Only God can provide the true rest we need and desire, taking all our burdens upon Himself and relieving us from our worries and stress. But God also knows that a life without work or self-development is aimless, unproductive and disheartening.

Finding balance, internalising it, and practising it is important, and easier to do when we trust God with our lives.

That is the purpose divine. 

Olivia Fairfax is an Adventist Media production assistant while finishing Law and Psychology (hon) degrees at Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW.

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