Years ago, I prayed God would send me wherever I was needed. I thought my willingness to answer the call would be enough. It would take an arduous journey through a tangled bureaucracy and complicated family dynamics to show me I was also being called to surrender.

I believe when it comes to caregiving, family should take care of family. I felt called to meet the needs of my 73-year-old cousin, who was facing a string of crises on top of a history of mental illness. She was entrenched in a dysfunctional bureaucracy, struggling to receive necessary care and benefits. As a relative and a practicing attorney, I was a natural fit to get involved and advocate for my cousin.

I answered the call but felt burdened with too much responsibility. It wasn’t long before I was completely out of balance. My cousin’s needs usurped my time, attention, and energy. I needed relief and help, and it was nowhere to be found. I complained a lot. I felt angry with my cousin for not being able to help me help her and resentful toward relatives who did not step up to share the load. My cousin’s mental illness and ignorance of the legal process made my job hard. Her refusal to accept she could no longer live independently made my job impossible.

Grit and Grace

Several agencies were failing my cousin by denying services to which she was entitled. Worse, I became aware of abusive behavior by her caregivers. I appealed to regulatory agencies to intervene. They acknowledged violations yet took no action. Through it all, I tried to exert my will and power through, even though I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

I prayed for guidance. I needed help knowing what was mine to do and how to do it. I turned to a plaque in my workspace bearing the words from Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” This scripture reminded me of what I can accomplish when focused on the right things.

Systemic agency failures continued to mount. I got firsthand experience with a system so broken I’m surprised it ever works. But I no longer felt alone. I prayed for direction. I was so drained all I could do was let go and let God.

Spiritual Surrender Opens Doors

Once I accepted I was where I was called to be, I released my blame, anger, and frustration. I stopped fighting against what was, even while working for a satisfactory result. I accepted what I believed was God’s will, which allowed me to better feel the divine presence in the midst of my struggles. The fight that had lasted for months was about to end in days.

Within moments of my surrender, I received a call from one of my cousin’s medical providers from whom I had requested her records. I picked them up without difficulty or delay. The remaining issues resolved almost as quickly. The next day, I had a conversation with the attorney representing the agency that was denying benefits. He requested the records I received the day before. Emails followed, one containing the judge’s signed order granting my cousin’s benefits. A few months later, my cousin moved into a personal care home, a much better situation.

I have always had an understanding and practice of listening for God and following divine guidance. My experience showed me I was missing a crucial piece: surrender.

A New Understanding

After months of conflict and delay, everything came together when I made peace with my role. I even developed a better relationship with my cousin. I saw her as more than her condition—as a person with likes and dislikes, desires and dreams, and character and personality. After I stopped resisting my involvement in her care, I found myself more compassionate, understanding, and loving. I had more time and energy to share stories, laughter, and gifts with her. I became more intentional about holding a vision for her just as I would want someone to hold a vision for me if I was dependent and needing care.

I have always had an understanding and practice of listening for God and following divine guidance. My experience showed me I was missing a crucial piece: surrender.

I may not always know what to do. Now, my daily prayer contains a request for help knowing what is mine to do and the will to do it. I listen for my guidance and follow it when it comes. I learned how surrendering means making peace with what is so the goodness of God can flow abundantly with grace and ease.

About the Author

Carol L. Stokes is a lawyer, life coach, author, and presenter, who helps people build peace from the pieces of their lives. She loves nature, animals, cooking, and holistic living. Learn more at

Carol L. Stokes


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