That which does not kill you…

Photo by Catalin Pop
Photo by Catalin Pop

Frustration.  It’s one of our most basic emotions.  You can see it even in babies who can’t get what they need: they scrunch up their little faces and flail their arms and legs.  As adults, we’re in better control of our limbs.  But that whole face-scrunching thing?  Seems we never quite outgrow it.

On April 1st, I received a phone call from someone in my cardiologist’s office.  I had been looking forward to the appointment I had later that afternoon, especially given the long and winding path it took to get there.

Months ago, he had recommended a treatment for my atrial fibrillation, and submitted the request to my insurance.  But the doctor and the medical group couldn’t agree.  Yes, said the medical group, we’ll approve the procedure at this hospital.  No, said the doctor, it can’t be done there, because they don’t have the proper scanning equipment.

Back and forth it went, until it reached a stalemate with me in the middle.  My only recourse was to change medical groups, which meant finding and visiting a new primary care doctor and getting a referral back to the cardiologist, etc., etc., etc.  Finally, the day of the appointment came.  I was looking forward to getting the whole matter resolved and scheduling the treatment.

Then a woman from the doctor’s office called: “We’ve checked your insurance and see that you’re with a new medical group.  We don’t have an authorization from them, so we’ll need to reschedule your appointment.”

It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.  My gut reaction, to quote the well-loved philosopher and social critic Charlie Brown, was AAAARGHH…  (Not sure I spelled that correctly, but my spell-checker didn’t have a clue.)

“But I have a copy of the authorization in my hand,” I protested.  “I assumed they would have sent you a copy too.”   I gave her the information, and she checked it out.  Somehow, the referral request had mistakenly gone through the old medical group, and they had mistakenly approved it, even though I was no longer supposed to be on their rolls.

“So we won’t be able to see you today.  We need to reschedule your appointment,” the woman repeated.  But when I kept asking questions instead of hanging up in defeat, she offered to email the correct medical group to see if she could get a quick response.  “I would really appreciate that,” I said gratefully.  She made good on her promise, the authorization came through, I was able to keep my appointment, and a date for the procedure has now been set.

Frustrations, hassles.  As Nietzsche famously said: “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”  True enough — though we might worry a bit about what a person who is stronger in Nietzsche’s way might do with that strength.  Better, perhaps, to do as my wife suggested in the midst of it all: to trust in the goodness and providence of God.

Not that I expect God to work out all the problems with the medical insurance merry-go-round anytime soon, nor even to guarantee the outcome of my surgery.  Instead, I remind myself of my resurrection hope, knowing that everything from an annoying daily hassle to a catastrophic trauma is part of the brokenness that will one day be transcended in new life.

Because even that which does kill you can’t take away your hope.