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James and Betty Robison: Life Today…and Yesterday

Julie Blim


Share This article Forty years. Thats longer than many couples make it these days. For James and Betty Robison, its also been 40 years of ministry--crusades, television, and worldwide missions work. How have they done it? How have they blown it? You might be surprised, as I was, by their honesty.

SCOTT ROSS: Is it Row-bi-son or Rah-bi-son?

JAMES ROBISON: Its Robison, like Robinson, but we were too poor to have the middle n, so its just Robison. Its just another way God ensures that we have to walk in humility.

SCOTT ROSS: Forty years? Forty years married to one man?

JAMES ROBISON: In a row, yeah, no down time. Shes given me a one-year extension, no pay, but an extension on her contract.

SCOTT ROSS: The husband of your youth. Wow!

BETTY ROBISON: Its been great. Not to say we havent had our ups and downs, as all couples do. Weve had challenges, but --

JAMES ROBISON: Mainly me being the challenge!

BETTY ROBISON: No, I wouldnt say that. We have both grown up together.

SCOTT ROSS: Where did you meet?

BETTY ROBISON: We met at Vacation Bible School.


BETTY ROBISON: We really did.

SCOTT ROSS: James, going back to your earlier days of your life as a young man, your beginnings were rather difficult, werent they?

JAMES ROBISON: A product of rape. My mother was a practical nurse and was raped by the alcoholic son of the elderly man she cared for. It was a forced--I don't think we would call it violent--but he forced his affections on her, and at age 40 she conceived me.

SCOTT ROSS: What age were you when you found that out?

James and Betty RobisonJAMES ROBISON: She told me when I was a teenager, but she had also told this to a pastor and his wife who tried to adopt me when I was a baby. They kept me for five years. I thought they were my parents, but I understood that I also had a mother who came to see me occasionally, so it was confusing to a child, but I didnt need to understand. She took me from them when I was five. The next 10 years I lived in absolute poverty. We really had a rough life, and when I was 15, the alcoholic father came back in our home and nearly killed my mother. In self-defense I nearly killed him, which certainly would have jeopardized my future. But he was arrested. I left that home, went back to the pastor and his wife, met Betty at VBS while I was visiting them. By the way, they led me to Christ. I could have a father who was pleased with me in my commitment to His son Jesus. It was the first time I ever felt like a man was pleased with me, and it was God.

SCOTT ROSS: In your book, Free to be Me, that title has obvious significance

BETTY ROBISON: It made quite an impact in my life.

SCOTT ROSS: You couldnt be you?

BETTY ROBISON: I was afraid that if people really knew the real me inside, they wouldnt like me. I thought I was supposed to be somebody better than what I felt like I was.

SCOTT ROSS: There has to be, somewhere down the road here, 40 years of life together, but there are bumps in the road.


SCOTT ROSS: The journey has been difficult at times for both of you?

JAMES ROBISON: Yeah, I think I actually burned out spiritually for speaking an average of seven to eight times a day for nearly 20 years. Six citywide crusades, and they were eight days in duration. But in midst of it, Scott, I was experiencing tremendous defeat. I couldnt control my actions, attitudes, thoughts. I had incredible anger that would rise up in me. I would be impulsive, impatient, and, quite frankly, began to burn with lust. I realized that barring some kind of a miracle that occurred in my life, I was going to be dominated by those out of control drives that were no longer under the control of the Spirit of God, who had given me this incredible gifting. I still had the gift, but I did not have the walk.

SCOTT ROSS: Betty, did you feel like you were competing with ministry for your man?

BETTY ROBISON: Well, he did get awfully caught up in it. It wasnt that so much as I felt like maybe he had chosen the wrong mate. In my own mind, I was tormented by these suggestions that I wasnt gifted, couldnt play piano, couldnt sing, couldnt teach, couldn't get in front and speak, looked pretty plain as far as I was concerned. I thought, 'Hes just got the wrong woman.' He would ask me to stand up, introduce me, and I would be so embarrassed because I thought all these people were thinking, 'That poor guy. Look what he got.'

SCOTT ROSS: You mention in passing, James, that you wanted to die. In fact, those thoughts became suicidal, that you almost acted that out?

JAMES ROBISON: Yeah, it's hard to believe that. It is hard to believe that I actually wanted to die in my sleep, but I tried to find a convenient way to do it. I actually pushed the nose of an airplane down one night

SCOTT ROSS: You were flying the plane?

JAMES ROBISON: Yeah. Im telling you there are forces of evil that do attack believers. The enemy focuses some of his fiercest, if not his fiercest attacks, against the believer. We need understand that.

SCOTT ROSS: Isn't it true of you as well that you had suicidal thoughts?

BETTY ROBISON: He came in one day, and we got into a discussion, we like to call it. It was actually an argument. We had a disagreement and it got kind of heated, so he left to try to cool off for a while, and I did have thoughts of 'Ill just end it all because Im the wrong person for him anyway.' God just stopped me. He came back shortly, and I told him about the thoughts Id had. He just held me and said, 'No, I love you. You are the one God gave me.'

JAMES ROBISON: The Lord told me after the brokenness in my life that if I really wanted to be effective in the kingdom, I needed to learn that I was going to be a servant.

BETTY ROBISON: When I opened that door to Him, He began to show me other areas, the fear in my life, and He began to deal with me in that. Its been such a new way for me to know that I can have the relationship with God like James does. It has taken a great burden off of him trying to be my joy, my peace, everything that I didnt feel like I had. And God is all of that now, and we have a better relationship because of it.

SCOTT ROSS: I hear you all the time saying you have given time to your ministry, to you wife, to God. What about the parenting side? As a dad, where you there for them?

JAMES ROBISON: I believe if there was any positive thing in my life that might have contributed to some of the good qualities in our children, it would have been that I really did love the Lord and I really loved them and I knew that when I failed I needed to admit it and I wanted to be teachable. I know Betty did. I think theyd say, as I would, that Betty is the finest person we have ever known.

SCOTT ROSS: Youre the mom.

BETTY ROBISON: I am the mom.

SCOTT ROSS: When he was out doing work of the Lord, you were at home raising children.

BETTY ROBISON: But at the same time, even though he wasnt there, I knew as parents that we had one heart. Even though our children would try to play one against the other, he always showed respect for me and stood up for me as a parent and never let our kids play that game with us.

SCOTT ROSS: Guys like you, preachers, are ministry junkies. Did you have a tough time adjusting to not being with the crowds of people?

JAMES ROBISON: People who gloried in the apparent success, I dont miss it. I want to sit by Betty, I want to talk to someone like you, I want to be an encouragement, I want to help a missionary, I want to encourage someone, and I want to show people what the heart of God the Father is like because in the home were missing the father. Wheres dad? Weve lost the real concept of God as Father. Thats why I wrote the book The Absolutes: Freedoms Only Hope. If we dont return to the absolute principles upon which all sane societies safely and securely stand, if we dont turn back to them, we dont have a future.

SCOTT ROSS: Betty, in your book Free to be Me, you talk about some of your suffering: waiting for a second child, your mother with Alzheimers. What has suffering taught you?

BETTY ROBISON: To know Him better and be a better example for Him and to grow. Its hard to put into words what it does with your relationship with God and let Him show you how much He truly does love us.

SCOTT ROSS: The future for you two as you look down the road for the next 40 years, what do you see?

JAMES ROBISON: Betty would probably say I want to go off and hide! I hope I can grow to love Jesus more. I would like to see Jesus revealed through His body. I believe He will be very clearly as He really is before we see Him as He is.

SCOTT ROSS: And your visions, dreams, hopes, mom, wife?

Robison familyBETTY ROBISON: You got it. The Lord has allowed us through our television program Life Today to really sit there as a couple and show people what its like to have communication, showing people that a family can work. Its not perfect, but with God as the center of it, it can work.

JAMES ROBISON: Betty and I have been married 40 yearsalmost sounds like a miracle todayand we still like each other. We are not just hanging in there letting the rough end drag; we really like each other! So here I sit as a product of rape, but I had an encounter with God. The principles came into my life, not to make me perfect, but to got me in the pursuit of applying the principles. Look at the offspring: 11 grandchildren, three children, their spouses, and theyre happy. It works! The world needs to see something that works.

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About The Author

Julie Blim

Julie produced and assigned a variety of features for The 700 Club since 1996, meeting a host of interesting people across America. Now she produces guest materials, reading a whole lot of inspiring books. A native of Joliet, IL, Julie is grateful for her church, friends, nieces, nephews, dogs, and enjoys tennis, ballroom dancing, and travel.