Isaac Turns to His Faith to Lead Efforts of Unity

Jonathan Isaac
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO -- Jonathan Isaac heavily relies on his faith.

He’s quick to give praise during moments of success and triumph and leans on his beliefs during difficult moments in his life.

Now amidst the divisive times of a pandemic, an election and social unrest, Isaac is turning to his faith once again hoping to use it to unify others.

Isaac, in partnership with Project Life, hosted a peaceful prayer walk on Saturday in downtown Orlando. Hundreds of supporters showed up and joined the first annual “Hold Up the Lights” march from the Lake Eola Bandshell to the Dr. Phillips Center.

“There’s racial tension, there’s the presidency, there are so many things that are negative in society right now, this march was providing an answer, a Christian answer, for the problems,” the Orlando Magic forward said. “It’s really (about) prayer. As Christians, we believe that prayer changes things and we are knocking on God’s door, saying 'God come and help us and heal our land.’”

Participants carried signs in support of their faith, chanted prayers during the walk and upon reaching the Dr. Phillips Center watched performances of song and dance as well as motivational speeches from Isaac and others.

“We’re glad that (everyone) is here,” Isaac said. “Even though there are differences and there are a lot of things going on, we can still walk together.”

Faith has long been an essential element of Isaac’s life. A year ago, Isaac donated the $25,000 he earned from being named a co-winner of the Rich & Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award to Project Life. He has taken part in many of their events, including 2019’s Global Food Festival in Trinidad, which celebrated culture, heritage, diversity and unification while assisting those in need with food, clothes, children’s toys and other supplies.

He’s also used it to overcome a number of hurdles in his NBA career, including several injuries which could easily shake someone’s confidence and faith.

The 6-foot-11 forward was in the running for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award through the first half of the 2019-20 season before he injured his left knee against the Washington Wizards on New Year’s Day. The injury sidelined him for the Magic’s last 31 games before the NBA halted the season due to the pandemic.

During that span, Isaac worked relentlessly to get back to full strength so he could participate in the league’s restart at Walt Disney World. After achieving that goal and getting off to a sensational start, adversity struck Isaac once again, as he suffered a torn ACL in Orlando’s game against the Sacramento Kings. While that could demoralize most 23-year-olds, Isaac has once again worked tirelessly and attacked his rehab with the same vigor that mounted his first comeback effort. He attributes much of that dedication to his faith.

“I’ve experienced what it is to walk with God, to have my heart transformed by God, to know that God loves me, that God loves everybody out here, and God really desires to help us walk through life with changes for the better and for us to be in relationship with him,” Isaac said. “So, I’ve experienced that, and it bleeds into every part of my life. It’s who I am.”

Isaac has been off crutches for several weeks now and it was evident during the “Hold Up the Lights” walk that he’s making tremendous progress. Outside of the protective knee brace that he wore on his left leg, there was seemingly no evidence of the effects from his injury, as he strolled down the streets of Orlando with the same long stride that’s made him such an impact player on the NBA court.

“It’s a mind thing. They say sports is ninety percent mental, ten percent physical – whatever percentage you want to give it but it’s more mental than physical – so my mind is still there in terms of how I was playing,” Isaac recently told reporters. “My body just has to catch up now with this recent injury. I’ll get better. I’ll get back on the court. I’ll be expecting and knowing that I’m going to play better than I did when I left because my mind is continuing to get better off of it. That’s what it’s been my entire career so far. I have been out for quite a bit of time battling these injuries but every time I’ve come back, I’ve come back better. Not just because my body has gotten better, but because my mind is in a better place.”

And his faith is certainly a part of that, as it is in all aspects of his life.

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