This man was struck with a malady that he termed a "thorn in the flesh." It troubled him deeply. So deeply in fact he prayed specifically three times for God to remove this thorn from him. God's answer to him was a very blunt - NO. God said that His grace would have to be sufficient for Paul. This very important man who at times selflessly and sacrificially served humanity was told that God would not heal him of this thorn.
As we look at this story with a Biblical viewpoint we learn somethings about the grace of God.
By God’s grace he gives us what we need.
Perhaps Paul heard those words - NO - he remembered the Psalmist when he said, "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." (Psa 84:11) God is a good God that wants us to live abundantly in this world. God blesses his children with all they need live that abundant life.
By God’s grace he withholds what we do not need.
Most of us in America have far more than we need. Most of us in America are trying to get even more than we got! Most of us in America have so much that it weighs us down and keeps us from being used of the Lord they way He would like us to be used. I am reminded of that verse in 2 Tim 2:4 - "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." Too much stuff tangles us up to the point that we are not ready soldiers.
By God’s grace he withholds that which is not good for us.
We often see things that we really would love to have. Often these things are not necessarily "immoral" or "bad" things. These things can be good things in and of themselves but not be good for us. You see, God has a purpose and a plan for each of us. He sees the big picture while our perspective is limited by time and vantage point. We are here on the earth while God is high above the earth. We are finite (limited in time) while God is infinite. A college professor of mine once made this statement that has stuck with ever since. He said, "To God history is an eternal present." God sees all of eternity at the same time. He knows what we need. He know what we do not need. He knows that if he gave us something (even a good thing) it would adversely affect us and thereby denies that thing to us.
You see, God answers our prayers with a NO because of His grace. God wants the very best for us and by denying our requests he lines things up so that we can receive that very best. So the next time we receive an answer of NO from God - be thankful for His grace in your life.