Bob Bjerkaas Interview

  • Feb. 18, 2008
  • #6731

Joni does the first segment of an interview with Pastor Bob Bjerkaas and he shares how he has learned to look at God through his difficulties.

JONI:  My husband, Ken, and I attend a little PCA Presbyterian Church of America.  A little congregation not far from where we live and we're pretty excited because we have a new pastor.  Welcome, Bob Bjerkaas!  Thanks for coming today and sitting yourself in front of this microphone.

BOB:  Thank you.  It's good to be here.

JONI:  Bob, I love your preaching, I love your grasp of God's word, but I love your perspective on a certain limitation in your life.  Just describe that for us, would you?

BOB:  Yes, I'd be happy to.  In my family there is a disease called retinitis pigmentosa which is a degenerative eye disease and it is a dominant gene so half of us have it and I'm one of the half that do.  What it means for me at this point in my life, and I'm fast approaching 40, is that I am legally blind because I have tunnel vision.  I have 10 degrees of vision is technically what it's called, a little less than that, and it basically means I see as well as you might if you did like my small children and took two toilet paper rolls and made binoculars.  Now, imagine living your whole day looking through them.  It can be comical to sad.

JONI:  Well, I know you haven't seen me sometimes and I've been right next to you.

BOB:  That happens to me quite a bit.

JONI:  You've got to look down and say, "Oh, there you are Joni!"

BOB:  Or people want to shake my hand and I don't see their hand because a couple folks have figured the best way to say I want to shake the pastor's hand is to literally wave their hand in front of my face and drop it down and I have the cue.

JONI:  Okay, I'll remember that next time.  Bob, you had to have had some struggles when you first learned about retinitis pigmentosa as a young man.  What was that like?

BOB:  Oh, I did.  I struggled terribly.  I was 17 and a senior in high school and I tried to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.  I was diagnosed by an Air Force doctor at the Walter Reed Army Hospital and told, "Well, you're going to lose your vision."  I was really devastated.

JONI:  Wow!  How did God's word grip your heart though because I know your father is a pastor.  What happened?

BOB:  Well, my dad would preach a lot, but he's really a scientist.  He is on the faculty at Johns Hopkins.  But the thing that got me is I can remember in my freshman year at college thinking I was so angry at God and I was kind of lifting up my accusations to God:  How could you do this to me?  What's going on?  How could you let this happen?  All these sorts of things.  And it crossed my mind on one occasion that I had not actually read the entire Bible and maybe God had actually answered my question and I didn't know.  So I still have this Bible, where I put a dot next to every book I never read and I said, "Well, I'm going to give God a chance to prove himself to me."  This is a very arrogant and dangerous thing to do with your life.  And I can remember when I got to Laminations the words of Jeremiah the prophet just really melted me.  God used that to show me that who can speak and have it happen if the mouth of the most high had not decreed it - both good things and bad things come from God.  And you know, I was thinking to myself, 'Now Romans 8 makes sense.  Now God didn't just let this happen to me.' He's not just laissez faire with my life; there is some positive, proactive reason.  Just like when God was putting His people, Israel, through a tough time as a way of perfecting them and making them the people he would have, He was doing the same thing to me.  Let me put it this way, I had just recently been reading J. Wilbur Chapman's book, The Problem With the Work, that was written in 1910.  You might know him because he wrote the hymn "Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners". 

JONI:  I love that hymn.

BOB:  I love it too!  J. Wilbur Chapman said that too often we look at God through our difficulties instead of looking at our difficulties through God and for me I experienced one of those of theological, devotional Copernican revolutions where all of a sudden God was first, and the fact that I might not see like other people the rest of my life, that was a distant, distant second.

JONI:  Wow!  Well, Bob, I've got to have you come back.

BOB:  I would love to do that.

©  Joni and Friends

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