Paul asked God to remove his thorn in the flesh. We do not know what the thorn was, but we can assume it was inconvenient, to say the least. It was a physical limitation of some sort, probably associated with pain.
God didn’t take it away. Instead, God said, “My grace is sufficient.”
People throw that phrase around. Perhaps it means weird things to people. Based on how I’ve heard it used, I think it’s just another flippant phrase people say with minimal thought. Here are a couple things “My grace is sufficient” does not mean:
1) Suck it up, you can do it!
Nope, not the point at all. The point of God’s grace being sufficient is that, no, you can’t do it, that’s why you need God’s provision. This is not a humanistic, power of the human spirit rallying cry. This is a phrase God spoke to Paul to help him get his eyes on the right things. To not only acknowledge his weakness, but to rejoice in it and embrace it, so that God could work through him.
2) Physical problems are minor.
Nope, not true either. Physical problems can be very major. This is not God’s attempt to minimize or trivialize pain. Remember, His mode of showing His care for our pain was to enter it with us. Physical problems can consume a life. God’s point with this is to get you off the selfishness of suffering and into the work of God that can be done through the suffering.
3) God doesn’t care about your physical problems.
Nope, again, that’s not His point. God does care, that’s why He gave you grace! If God didn’t care about your physical problems, He would ignore your needs. Instead, God says “I know your needs more than you do, watch me meet them.”
4) Just think happy thoughts about Jesus!
Nope, it’s much more than that. Certainly joy will come, but again, this is more than “Rah, rah, you and Jesus can do it all!” More than likely, we have no clue what God can do through us and as long as we’re focused on begging for problems to go away, we will be focused on ourselves, not on Him. Jesus doesn’t just want you to be happy; He wants you to live a new life, demonstrating Christ daily. Pain helps us get there.
5) God’s grace will take the problem away!
Nope, not necessarily. Sometimes He might, and thank Him for that. Other times He will let the problem stay and drive you to Him through it. The problem may get worse. Remember, He’s the one who came up with “Tribulation works patience, patience experience, experience hope and hope makes not ashamed.” He knows what is best for us. He was a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief, don’t think for a minute that being Christ-like will result in no pain or suffering!
God’s grace is Christ. It’s all that Christ brings. Rejoice that your name is written in heaven. No matter the suffering, the pain, the torment, your name is written in heaven. He loves you. He wants you with Him. Watch Him work and give thanks in all things. His grace is sufficient.