I’VE BEEN FORTUNATE to visit Ukraine a few times, and one of the distinctive characteristics of that country is beautiful, intricate embroidery.
It can be seen on many things, including both men’s and women’s traditional clothing, tablecloths, towels and pillows — like the one in my living room.
The most common color combination is a white material with red and black embroidery.
My Ukrainian friend explained to me that the red represents the good things that happened in their history; the black represents the bad things.
Together, they form something beautiful.
This pattern is seen throughout the Bible.
In Genesis, the good news was that Jacob had 11 sons.
Better yet, even when Jacob was old, he had a 12th son — Joseph.
The bad news was that Jacob favored Joseph.
Consequently, Joseph’s older brothers hated him.
They ended up selling him to a caravan of guys for a few ounces of silver.
Good news for the brothers; bad news for Joseph because he ended up being sold as a slave in Egypt.
It’s a long story, occupying several chapters in Genesis.
Joseph’s life becomes an intricate piece of embroidery.
Handsome and successful — red thread.
Falsely accused and imprisoned — black thread.
“But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (Genesis 39:21 ESV) — divine red thread.
Joseph finally ended up being the pharaoh’s right-hand man. Red thread.
Pharaoh had a dream. Seven plump cows; seven skinny, ugly cows.
Black and red cows?
The skinny cows ate the plump cows.
God used Joseph to interpret the pharaoh’s dream: Seven years of plenty in Egypt, followed by seven years of famine.
Red thread today; black thread coming.
Joseph was put in charge of preparing for the famine.
The famine put Joseph’s family in a hurt — black thread.
They went to Egypt looking for food.
Yep, they ended up face to face with their little brother they had sold.
Then what? Revenge? Forgiveness? Help? Black or red thread?
Joseph ended up delivering one of the reddest punchlines in the Bible.
Joseph told his brothers, “ ‘As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them” (Genesis 50:20-21).
God’s red and black embroidery.
The same embroidery can be seen in the book of Romans: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (8:28).
Here’s the good news: God is a very good embroiderer.
He has the unique ability to stitch the black and red threads of our lives into something beautiful.
So, when you find yourself entangled in black thread, trust him. He isn’t finished.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6 NLT).
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Greg Reynolds is pastor of Joyce Bible Church. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.