Pastor Bob Bjerkaas Interview

  • Nov. 11, 2015
  • #8748

Pastor Bob handles his disability by realizing God has a reason for his suffering, and sufficient grace to strengthen him.

Pastor Bob Bjerkaas Interview

JONI: Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada and I want you to meet my pastor. Bob Bjerkaas, welcome to Joni and Friends.

BOB: Hi! Thank you for having me.

JONI: Absolutely! Bob, as you know, (well, our listeners need to know) my husband Ken and I have been attending our little PCA church for many years now, and we have been so blessed by your teaching and the way you preach from God's Word.

BOB: Thank you so much.

JONI: And I think we’ve been especially blessed because you have a disability. Even though you’ve been on the program before here at Joni and Friends, for those who may not know your story, would you describe for our listeners a little bit about your disability?

BOB: Yes, I have a disability. I have a degenerative eye disease called retinitas pigmentosa. I was diagnosed with it when I was 17 and it has slowly but surely been kind of eroding away at my vision from the outside in. So right now I’m legally blind with fairly narrow tunnel vision.

JONI: Well, you once described it as like holding two toilet paper rolls up to your eyes, is that it?

BOB: Yes, that’s exactly it. I remember the story is that once, oh, it must have been five years ago now, my daughter, Maggie who is now 14, was walking around the house with binoculars made out of toilet paper rolls and my wife said, “Maggie, what are you doing?” And Maggie said, “I want to see what daddy sees.”

JONI: Well, you know when I’m at church and I know that you don’t see me, I’ve got to be careful of my wheelchair because there have been plenty of times you have turned and stumbled right into me.

BOB: Yes, we have!

JONI: But what I love about you, Bob, is that you handle your disability with such grace. What’s the genesis of that?

BOB: Well, I think that a big part of it is I was blessed to be able to watch others – namely my grandmother and my father – graciously live with the same disability. It is an inherited condition. And one of the things I always encourage people to do, especially fathers and mothers, is to “suffer well” because little eyes are watching. If I, as a boy, see my father losing his vision and loving the Lord, being faithful in his work, not letting the darker days get the better of him, it sets an example for me. Despite my disability I can do just about anything. I can’t drive, but I can get a ride somewhere.

JONI: What do you hold on to from God’s Word? What story inspires you to keep persevering?

BOB: One of the stories that has always meant a lot to me is Paul’s account of his thorn in the flesh. I love the fact that that is vague enough that we don’t know exactly what the thorn in his flesh was. We know that it caused him great distress and that three times he prayed and asked the Lord to remove it, but that the Lord taught him that “My grace is sufficient for you” and that he was going to have this thorn to help him to stay humble and not give way to pride. Now, what that encourages me to know is that God has a good reason for whatever kind of suffering I’m experiencing and I can acknowledge that even while I struggle with the fact that it is a burden, but it’s something that just like when I was a young boy and we had a garden plot outside of Columbia, Maryland (you know, one of these things that a farmer would basically rent out for one growing season a 20-foot by 20-foot section) and we had a family garden plot and my father would always give us the jobs that were hard, like getting all the rocks out, going to the water source and carrying gallon jugs of water what seemed like miles, but in reality it was probably only 10 or 20 yards. But those simple but sometimes painful experiences were the things that bring the growth.

JONI: Well, Pastor Bob, I think you have really ministered to Christian leaders, men, who perhaps are struggling with physical hardships, feeling that they feel deterred or hampered by their abilities, but thanks for the reminder that it is to those very things that God's power is best displayed! Thanks for coming in.

BOB: Thank you very much for having me.

© Joni and Friends


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