How To Navigate The Unknown


How To Navigate The Unknown

Jonathan Van Horn

never miss a play

Get weekly articles on sport culture, relationships, and identity. 

Have you ever intentionally turned off all of the lights in your room, making it pitch black? Then try to walk around to see what would happen? This little exercise is not something I do regularly either, but something interesting happens when the lights go out. 

Growing up in Michigan, we would have severe thunderstorms roll through the central part of the state. I loved watching them approach our house from our back deck. The clouds, wind and rain were mesmerizing as they approached. But sometimes they would wreak havoc on our house and surrounding community. 

One night, a powerful storm rolled through and the power lines were destroyed. We lost power to our house and surrounding neighborhoods. As I peered out the window, everything was black, not a light or flicker in sight. 

As I stumbled through the family room into the kitchen to find a flashlight and candles, I hit my shin on the coffee table and stubbed my toe on the chair and the doorway. The experience was a bit surreal. I even tried to see my hand right in front of my face, but nothing, just black. No lights, no illumination, just black. 

I finally managed to weave my way through the house and find a flashlight and candles. Even though it still was not as bright as the house lights, I could see what was around me and how to navigate through the different rooms. 

Deuteronomy 31:6 (MSG)

Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you.

You might be asking, why am I sharing this story to athletes and coaches? Well, transitions are much the same as those moments when the lights go out. They are brief moments in time where you are stepping from what you have known to something unknown and different. 

Even though I had lived in my house for years and knew where the furniture was, as soon as the lights went out, I stumbled and struggled to orient myself. Transition creates these same types of experiences and emotions in our lives and sport.

Think about when a counter attack occurs in soccer or a steal on the basketball court or a fumble in football or the crack of the bat in softball; there is this brief pause in time and then action. You are going in one direction and then suddenly in a new direction. 

Few things in life are guaranteed, and change is one of them. If the past 12 months have proved anything to the athletic world it is that change, whether big or small, is part of our lives. In a time where shifting sand seems to be the norm, you need to grab hold of something and firmly grip it as you navigate the inevitability of transition and change!

Here are three essentials to create a lasting impact through transition for yourself and those you influence!


The Latin word for heart is cor, and your heart is at the center of who you are. Not surprisingly, cor is also the root word for courage. Courage comes from the inside, from the core essence of who you are and who God has created you to be and live. It’s no wonder that the author of Proverbs said, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23 New International Version). 

When Jesus was asked what is the greatest command, He replied,  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Just like your physical core is essential to your life and sport, so your cor is essential to your spiritual, emotional, mental wellbeing as you live out your faith in Christ. 

So maintain, reinforce and strengthen the foundation of your heart through Jesus, the solid rock.

strengthen the foundation of your heart through Jesus, the solid rock


One thing you do have control over is your perspective. As you experience change, your perspective can drastically affect how you navigate through the changes.

When the church was just beginning to grow in Jerusalem, the disciples were targeted and more than once thrown in jail. Acts 5:40,41(ESV) states, “… and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” 

Seems counter-intuitive to rejoice in suffering, but the perspective of the disciples was not focused on the suffering but on the One they were living for and in sharing the Good News! The change in their perspective created significant opportunities to continue speaking the name of Jesus throughout the region!


One hard reality of change is the feeling of isolation or a sense that you are alone. Here is the good news, athlete, God is near — “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 The Message).

You may also have family, friends and even coaches that are in your corner. Invite them into your present space: emotionally, mentally, spiritually, psychologically, holistically. Even when it may feel like you are alone in the transition and change, remember you are not, God is near and so is your team.

Transitions and change are natural occurrences in life and in sport. Trusting in the One who is always near is like always having a flashlight in your hand whether the lights are on or off. Trust in Him and rejoice!

Find your place here