Did Paul actually have God speak to him personally?

When I was sick in bed and feeling rotten I thought of Paul “pleading with the Lord three times”  in 2 Corinthians 12:8 to take his sickness away, and the Lord then actually replying to Paul in verse 9 in words that Paul wrote down. So it sounds like God actually spoke to Paul, and in words that were obviously clear to him, because verse 9 is a direct quote of what God said.

Well, that stirred a thought or two, like, “Could I do the same thing with my sickness, then?” Could I plead with God to take it away, and God would answer me personally in some way, and especially if his answer was “No,” as it was in Paul’s case? And was this, in fact, what God expected me to do? Did he want me pleading with him so he could give me a personal answer, and was I denying myself a personal answer from God by not pleading? Could it be that I’d been missing out on very personal answers from God all those times I got sick through the years by not pleading until he gave me a clear reply I could write down later word for word?

But that raised further questions, like, “Why did God wait until Paul pleaded three times?” Does God wait to see if we’re really looking to him before he answers? And what does “pleading” mean? Does it mean “badgering” God until I get a clear answer out of him, or does it mean “reasoning” with him as to why I need healing? In Paul’s case his reasons for healing were probably very sound, like how on earth could he do the job God had given him when he was being tormented by “a messenger of Satan”? I could say the same thing, though: “How on earth can I be of any service to God lying in bed unable to concentrate on anything but my own misery?”

And then it dawned on me that God would only be repeating himself if he gave me an answer, because the answer he gave to Paul applies perfectly to my situation too – and to anyone else who’s ever wondered why God lets us get so sick that we’re useless to him. God’s answer to Paul was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what condition we’re in physically, because it’s not by our strength and power that his work is being done, it’s by his. So here I am lying in bed thinking I’m useless, when in fact God is still doing his work in my sickness.