All of us want our marriages to be happy, fulfilled, and blessed. Christine and Marc, newlyweds from Australia, share how putting God first has benefitted their lives and their marriage.
Benefits of Putting God First in Marriage
When you get married as newlyweds, you have goals, right, that you want to accomplish, whether they be advancing in your career or buying a home, traveling or even starting a family. In this episode, we’re going to talk to a newlywed couple who has seen the benefits of putting God first in their marriage.
Welcome to Happy Life, a podcast brought to you by INC Media that aims to help newlyweds navigate through the first years of marriage. I’m Myrtle Alegado and I’ve been married to my husband Paul since 1999.
Inspiration to make your marriage thrive, you’re listening to Happy Life.
Myrtle Alegado: According to verywellmind.com, a top priority for newlyweds should be keeping the romance alive as mentioned in Dr. Houston’s study. Other than that, during the first year of marriage, couples need to settle many things, including how to allocate and handle money.
On lifehack.org, they said that goals will help your marriage to thrive, and a couple of things to prioritize our financial goals, goals for your relationship as well as family health goals.
The newlyweds I’d like to introduce you all to are Christine and Marc, all the way from Sydney, Australia. Christine is a friend of mine and my colleague at INC Media. Good day, Marc and Christine, how are things in the Land of Oz?
Christine Afenir: Hi, Myrtle.
Marc Afenir: Good day, Myrtle. I’m loving the Aussie accent there. Well done.
Myrtle Alegado: I’m so glad I thought you were going to cringe and say how horrible because, you know, I’m really bad at accents. But I thought I’d give it a shot.
Marc Afenir: Let’s just say that it’s good that you’re not recording video right now.
Myrtle Alegado: I cry, I cry. Well, how are you both doing? You know, down there, I think the weather is opposite from here in North America. Right?
Marc Afenir: It is actually. It’s winter here right now. So you know everything in Australia being upside down compared to the northern hemisphere. So whatever you have, we have in reverse so yeah, but we’re doing well. And we’re keeping warm during lockdown so.
Myrtle Alegado: Oh, still in lockdown. Wow. Okay. Well, glad to hear you’re doing well. For those who don’t know you, would you mind sharing a little bit about how you two met?
Christine Avenir: So, funny story. We actually met at the KADIWA formal, a Church event that was happening in London in 2008. We actually didn’t interact with each other. We were there with kind of our own friends. And yeah, Marc traveled all the way from Australia to be there as well.
Marc Afenir: Yeah, that was also a very last minute trip for me. So I was working full time at an ad agency and kind of asked my boss who was also from the UK. And I think that kind of helped me get over the line to get my leave approved. But I told her I was going to London for about a week.
And we met there, but we didn’t really talk. So that was like she said back in 2008. So, it was close to a decade later that we started talking to each other. Like we’ve heard of each other, because we’ve worked in media. So Christine’s been in INC Media since I think 2011 and I started around that time helping the bureau here in Sydney. She was in San Francisco. I’ve heard her name thrown around, be it she was a producer for some shows. But it wasn’t until, like, 2017 that we started messaging each other.
Myrtle Alegado: Did you actually meet at that formal or you just found out later that you were both there at the same time?
Marc Afenir: So for Christine, she kind of knew who were at the table. But I was, I kind of have a very long memory so…
Christine Afenir: Full disclosure, I didn’t know his name. I think I remembered later on, that somebody from Australia was there. There was only one person from Australia there. So when that was mentioned, I was like, oh, that guy. I think we only were conscious of each other’s existence afterwards.
Myrtle Alegado: And I know you kind of touched on it, Christine, but let me just explain that KADIWA is the Christian Family Organization for those 18 [years old] and up who are unmarried inside the Church Of Christ. So the formal in London was organized for that group, which is really neat that they had those kinds of events for the youth to be able to meet each other.
Marc Afenir: Yeah. And you had basically a lot of people from all over Europe. It was a European KADIWA formal but you know, I think…
Christine Afenir: We crashed.
Marc Afenir: Yeah, we crashed. There were people all over the world who found out about it and they thought, oh, cool, great opportunity to be in London and meet all these other single people in the Church, so why not? And even had one crazy Aussie there who traveled 24 hours by plane just to be there for a week.
Myrtle Alegado: That’s how long it takes to fly to London, 24 hours?
Marc Afenir: Oh yeah, a good 24 hours.
Myrtle Alegado: Wow, I had no idea. So Christine, obviously your relationship progressed, and the two of you got married in April of 2019. We heard on what some couples prioritize in their marriage. Can you tell me what it was like to plan your wedding while being across the globe from each other? You know, what was important to you both to put first?
Christine Afenir: I think we really experienced the true definition of long distance. Because usually, long distance like you’re in another state, in the United States, or, you know, a different time zone. He was in a different country, in a different hemisphere. Like it was very hard to find a common time where we were both awake, and conscious to even talk to each other. So to plan a wedding. You know, I have family in the United States, we have family in the Philippines. He has family in Germany, he has family in Australia.
So we were trying to find a place—a place to have the wedding but also, you know, the discussion came to where are we going to go, to live our life as a married couple. But it wasn’t that hard, because he knew that God comes first. And I work for the Church in INC Media. We both wanted to wait for word whether I could continue my duty in Australia. And if that was the case, then we’d move there. But if not, then Marc would move to San Francisco, where INC Media Headquarters is. I think it was a difficult conversation, but it was an easy conversation, because we both knew that God came first. I’m very happy that he didn’t make it any harder than it had to be.
Marc Afenir: I think that’s the constant in our relationship. It’s your guiding light when you come to some very, very difficult decisions. When you look at mine and Christine’s case, there’s a lot of things that we needed to decide on, you know. I had a career going on here in Sydney. So, do we move to San Francisco, or do we stay here in Sydney, or things like that. Even the wedding, at some point we even decided to have it at San Francisco or even Germany, because our family was all over the world. Like I mentioned before, when you have that guiding light, when you’re both reliant on how God steers you, it makes things easier.
Christine Afenir: Oh yeah, the answers are there.
Marc Afenir: Yeah, the answers are there for you. You really do have to trust the process. To any ordinary person, this might look difficult, but when you have God on your side, when you put God as the priority, and when you have that trust, then things fall into place. It was remarkable seeing things just fall into place.
Myrtle Alegado: So you said when you have that guiding light, everything else, you know, flows and kind of comes easily after that. So how did you put your trust in God with this experience with making your decisions and where you were going to move to and where you were even going to have the wedding?
Marc Afenir: Well, most importantly, in order to have that guidance by God, you need to ask God through prayer. Members of the Church Of Christ, we’re encouraged to pray and to have that relationship with God.
Just even at the start of our relationship, I suggested to Christine, “Okay, look, there’s just a lot of things that we need to figure out right now. How about we hold devotional prayers together?” So, basically just having those devotional prayers, it’s a challenge for us, because normally you’d be together physically and be inside the place of worship, you know, in a chapel, you’re kneeling down and you’re praying together. But for us, the challenge was that, you know, we’re like, what 7000 kilometers apart, and there’s also the time zone difference.
Myrtle Alegado: And how many hours was that time difference between Sydney and San Francisco?
Marc Afenir: So how many hours is that? Like okay so…
Christine Afenir: I think seventeen.
Marc Afenir: So Christine would be finishing up her workday, and I would be starting mine. So I’d be scrambling to get to work. So yeah, we just had to come up with a schedule that suited us. So one of us would be bleary eyed, you know, waking really early in the morning.
Christine Afenir: I lost a lot of sleep at the beginning of our relationship. I think both of us did.
Marc Afenir: Yeah, we really wanted to make it work. I think that if we didn’t have these devotional prayers, we’d just be left just trying to figure things out for ourselves, and that would have been extremely difficult.
Christine Afenir: We hear about a lot of, like, long distance relationships where they don’t last and a lot of people don’t recommend it. But I think when Marc, early on when we were talking, when he suggested the devotional prayer, I was actually surprised—pleasantly surprised. Like, “Oh, okay!” Because it’s a big commitment, especially for our time difference. But it also let me know, like, he was serious. This wasn’t just, let’s just talk and see where it goes. I think he wanted it to go somewhere. So that was nice.
Myrtle Alegado: So Marc I know when we actually chatted previously, we were talking about how similarly your childhood mimicked Christine’s. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Marc Afenir: Sure. So, our childhoods were remarkably similar. So just in terms of how our parents moved to another country, and also how our parents were officers in the Church Of Christ. So growing up, that’s always been an important, an integral, part of our families. The way that we were raised, it’s always been about putting duty first in the Church.
Remarkably, both our fathers were head deacons in the Church. So head deacons being, I suppose, leaders in their respective local [congregation], the leaders in the Church, elders in the Church who would help [in] looking after their respective locals. And even that, in itself, is incredibly similar. You know, Christine’s dad was a head deacon for a local that just started, so they were a pioneer family. It was the same as mine. From a very early age, Christine growing up in New Jersey and me in Sydney, you know half a world apart, we were experiencing pretty much the same thing, you know, at the same age.
Christine Afenir: And the more we talked, the more we got to know each other. You know, we would ask how we grew up and being in the same Church, even though we were in different countries and different hemispheres, you know, there [were] the same activities. So we would talk about choir days, where the whole entire local congregation would dress up and perform a song. And we even performed some of the same songs.
And we experienced the same things in the Church Of Christ. Like we were both Children’s Worship Service officers, or what people call Sunday school, so we were leading the children. So we had the same, I want to say passions but the same, concern.
Marc Afenir: What’s great about it is that our values were aligned. We agreed on certain things, and we knew for a fact that if we were to raise a family we would want to raise them in a very similar fashion.
Myrtle Alegado: Well, it’s so awesome that Marc did say that you had, you know, such similar values. Finding somebody who has the same values as you, that just comforts you, to find that person that, you know, I guess was meant for you. So that’s really, really awesome.
So I’m gonna go back to you, Christine. You and I knew each other when we both lived in Toronto, I’m thinking around 2005 maybe, and I remember when you were going to school there. Where did life take you, you know, after you left Canada?
Christine Afenir: When we met, I was accepted into Sheridan College’s program: Advanced Television and Film. So that was fun. That was my first long stay in Canada. I had gotten my bachelor’s in Film Studies at the Barnard College of Columbia University in New York. And I wanted to upskill so I can, you know, further my career. After Canada, after Sheridan College, I went back home looking for jobs.
And my mom and dad really supported me in my dream in this, you know, to do film, to be in the industry. And she was pulling connections. She was just like, “Oh, you know, I know someone in the Philippines whose son is a director. I think you should go there and intern.” So after Canada, I ended up in the Philippines. Yeah, I was shadowing a director, I think in one of the, one of his shows that they were shooting. But there was a lot of downtime, and I’m just not the type to just sit around. It’s different if you’re there for vacation, but I was not there for a vacation. So I kind of started feeling guilty. So I messaged Sister Aliw from, back then it was INCTV Bureau, but now INC Media, and I just asked, “Is there any way I can volunteer and help in the TV production here for the Church?” Because I was also helping in New Jersey, so I just wanted to see if I could do that in the Philippines. And so I was able to help. I interned, I volunteered and I kind of followed around the team that was filming for one of the shows.
And I just, I fell in love with it. It was just so nice to kind of merge my love for God and my passion for film and creating content. When I returned back to America, when I returned back to New Jersey, it was great timing because Brother Eduardo [V. Manalo-INC Executive Minister] was doing his first pastoral visit in the United States. And so the team from INC Media, from headquarters, was also filming. I got to meet Sister Aliw again and the team, and I asked them, “is there a way I can help here, help in the United States [in] the Church media arm?” And I thought I was going to wait for a couple years for an answer, but it came within two months. I was like, “Oh, okay, so.”
And that was a big move. I had a devotional prayer, I had to pray because that would be me picking up my life from New Jersey and moving to California. Like, I didn’t know where I was going to stay, I didn’t know, you know, where I was gonna live, I didn’t know how this was going to work—so I just prayed. And I said, “God, if this is for me, things will fall into place.” I’ll know how to get there to be able to work with INC Media there in California.
And sure enough, I was able to get an affordable ticket to go to California. One of my friends hooked me up. They called me and they were like, “Oh, you’re going to stay with this person.” So I already had a place to stay. So things were just falling into place and I was just like, “Okay!”
Myrtle Alegado: Yeah, sounds like it!
Christine Afenir: So I was like, “Okay, I guess God’s telling me to go.”
Myrtle Alegado: So, your mom’s plans for you to become the big time director kind of paved the way for God’s plans for you to work in the media arm of the Church.
Christine Afenir: She was very surprised when I came back from the Philippines and that’s what I said I was planning to do.
Myrtle Alegado: Yeah well, you know, when they say God’s plans are the best plans, so sometimes we don’t even know what the plans are. And we just kind of go along with what the journey is, right, that He lays out for us, that He’s steering us in. What an awesome story though.
But I’d like to hear more on what the Bible has to say about this topic. Just how can we benefit in our lives by putting God first? Let’s welcome back Brother Felmar Serreno, a minister of the gospel in the Church Of Christ.
Hi there, Brother Felmar, thanks for being here with us again on Happy Life.
Brother Felmar: Hello, everybody. Great to be back here on Happy Life with all of you. Let’s get right into it. So how do we benefit when we put the Lord God first in our life? Let’s read what the Bible says here in the Book of Psalms, chapter 37, verses 4 to 7, and we’ll quote it from the Good News Bible.
Seek your happiness in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desire. Give yourself to the LORD; trust in him and he will help you; he will make your righteousness shine like the noonday sun. Be patient and wait for the LORD to act; don’t be worried about those who prosper or those who succeed in their evil plans.
[Psalms 37:4-7 Good News Bible]
Brother Felmar: Praise be to the Lord God that Marc and Christine are wonderful examples of putting God first in their life. We heard earlier from their experiences that in their education, work, personal commitments, during their courtship, and even more so now that they are married, God has always been at the center of their life and God has always been their priority. The result? God has rewarded them with their “heart’s desire,” like the Bible says. Or as Christine put it earlier, everything fell into place.
However, we should understand that making God our priority does not mean that life will be without challenges. That’s why the Bible clearly taught in the verses we read, “Be patient and wait for the LORD to act.”
So what does this mean? It means that there are times we will need to be patient, and we will really need to wait for God to set things in motion for us and answer our prayers completely. Sometimes the full answer to our prayers may not be meant to take place in a week’s time, or a month’s time, or even several years. And all that waiting is very challenging! Yet, what did the Bible tell us? “Be patient and wait for the LORD to act.” Therefore, putting God first also means putting His plan above ours—waiting for Him to act for us, instead of us, because of our impatience, taking things into our own hands. Remember the Bible’s guarantee: if we remain patient God will act for us.
What else does putting God first entail? The Bible mentioned, “don’t be worried about those who prosper or those who succeed in their evil plans.” So even if all the while we are living righteously, putting God first, waiting for Him to answer our prayers, and there will be others around us who are progressing—and to them it looks as if we are not progressing—still we must maintain God as our priority. So, not giving up on our duties in the Church; continuing devotedly in worship service; in giving our generous offerings; in loving the brotherhood; continuing in unity with the Church Administration in all Church activities, especially in sharing our faith or missionary work.
We must not turn our back on these and the rest of God’s commandments that we uphold in the Church Of Christ, even when God has not yet fully answered our prayers. Why? Because then, we will have proven that God truly is our priority and happiness, no matter what. Because, it is not just the answer to our prayers that makes us happy but it is God Himself and serving Him—that is our true happiness.
When we live this way, what is the sure promise that will be fulfilled in our life? The Bible stated,
“Seek your happiness in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desire. Give yourself to the LORD; trust in him and he will help you; he will make your righteousness shine like the noonday sun.”
Myrtle Alegado: I’m not sure how many newlywed couples consciously decide to put God at the center of their lives, but this wonderful biblical advice has definitely provided clarity. We really appreciate you joining us again, Brother Felmar, here on Happy Life.
Brother Felmar: Thank you again for having me, Myrtle, and to the whole Happy Life team. God bless to all the married couples.
Myrtle Alegado: Alright, so in the last year, Marc and Christine, can you share how you have been blessed by God, especially in this time of pandemic, by putting Him first?
Marc Afenir: Well, in the past year, I think a lot of people have experienced hard times during the pandemic. We were affected ourselves. So, I just started a role at a company, and I work in the tech sector, so things can be volatile even during good times. But when it comes to tough times it compounds, you know, how volatile it is.
But with a pandemic, I just started a new role in February 2020. And, you know, things were going well. Three weeks into this new role we all went into lockdown. This is when, you know, Coronavirus hit the world hard. Yeah, I was in that role for about six months. Initially, they weren’t looking at laying anyone off, but unfortunately I found myself being let go by the company. So being one of the newer hires, unfortunately, I was one of the low hanging fruits, so I was let go. Six months later and I found myself having to find a new job. It was difficult, because in the back of my mind I thought, you know, Christine and I just got married. We were trying to get ourselves settled in, and also we didn’t have that safety net of family, because my family’s back in the local of St. George. And we moved to an area where we would be starting in a new local, and this new local needed new officers. I was one of the younger deacons or officers to look after the little local.
And funnily enough, I wasn’t expecting to follow my dad’s footsteps too soon, but I became a head deacon in that local as well. And what kind of played in the back of my mind was because, you know, a head deacon in a local is someone who is relied upon to be very involved in the local’s day-to-day dealings. And from my experience as well and not having a job, I was wondering how am I going to do this? But I didn’t fret, I wasn’t frustrated or depressed, because I knew that there’s a reason why I’m finding myself in this situation. I just didn’t think that God was going to give me more responsibilities in the Church and, you know, not be able to fulfill that. So, I knew there was something very good coming around the corner. And sure enough, like we did, you know, when we were having that long distance relationship, Christine and I once again held devotional prayers, but this is when we were still able to go to the place of worship.
And I can remember one particular afternoon, when we left the place of worship, you know. It was straight after the devotional prayer that we had. I got a call from a recruiter, and that recruiter was a little coy at first, because she was asking me all sorts of questions that would vet my qualifications, etc. When she was satisfied, she revealed to me which company it was. And I was very, very surprised, because it was a well known tech company, actually, that everyone, like, if I mentioned the name, everyone would know which company it is. And I’ve applied to this company before, and I’ve never been successful at it. So all that time, I knew that God was going to give me something, and when He did give it to me it was something pretty awesome.
Myrtle Alegado: It was something.
Marc Afenir: Yeah! It’s easy to kind of look at that situation that we were in and really fret. But when you kind of look at how God’s sort of aligning things for you, then you understand that there’s better things around the corner.
Myrtle Alegado: It’s really great that you showed that you did put your full trust and faith in Him. So, Christine, how about you? Do you have a story for us?
Christine Afenir: So this pandemic, I mean, it’s been really tough on a lot of people. Yeah we feel God’s blessings every day. It’s actually really nice to be newly married and in a pandemic, just because you just have more time with each other. It’s kind of like an extended honeymoon. That’s what we call it. I think there’s a hashtag like honeymoon lockdown or lockdown honeymoon.
Myrtle Alegado: Oh really?
Christine Afenir: Something like that. But yeah, no, I think a lot of people I guess were starting their newly married life, but in a pandemic. So, I can’t complain. I mean, we have more time together, able to get to know each other better. As you know, there’s a lot of adjusting when you’re married. And we’re also really thankful that we still get to also worship, even go to worship service even though it is a lockdown. We get to do that together and we get to help the local congregation together as well, even in this lockdown. So, I mean, I really can’t complain, to be honest. We feel very blessed, every day, even in this pandemic.
Marc Afenir: We didn’t have a proper honeymoon, Christine and I, when we got married. So, having this extended time in lockdown kind of let us just do that. And we still get to explore different things about each other, not just home life, but we occasionally, you know, go for walks. And it really does feel like you have a partner or a teammate for life. Christine and myself, being officers in the Church, we feel like, you know, we’re partners in almost every aspect of our lives, so it’s a wonderful situation to be in. And I can’t complain, either. I love being around Christine, and I wouldn’t want to spend lockdown with anyone else.
Christine Afenir: He can’t escape anyway, so. Just kidding.
Being able to perform my duties at INC Media here in Sydney, Australia, there are sacrifices. Even then, you know, God has blessed us and we have what we need. And you know, like what Marc shared, that God does find ways to provide. We really can’t complain, to be honest.
Myrtle Alegado: Definitely sounds like you are building your future together and doing it with God’s help and His blessings, and that’s really heartwarming to hear. So what would your advice be to those, you know, who are still kind of looking for “the one” or, you know, their future spouse?
Christine Afenir: I think a lot of young people, or a lot of single people, think that they have to do something to change themselves, and to make themselves more appealing to, you know, someone else. But what I’ve done, when I was ready to get married and find the one, was to have devotional prayer about it first, of course, to bring myself closer to God, because He’s the One who’s going to give you that one. So I knew that this person had to come from God. And so I just made sure to just be more active in Church Of Christ activities, to just do more of what God wanted, and to just make sure that I was pleasing to Him so that my prayers would be heard. That’s what we are taught in the worship service, right, what’s written in the Bible.
Like what Brother Felmar read from the Bible, “Seek your happiness in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desire.” And that’s what I tried to do. I tried to just involve myself in everything that God wanted me to do—and He gave me my heart’s desire, and he’s sitting right next to me.
Marc Afenir: I’m turning into mush. Yeah, look, my advice is to really trust God’s plan for you. And I’m the type of person that analyzes things and plans and sometimes even overthinks, but at the end of the day, and I’ve witnessed this time and time again, especially during these past few years that Christine and I have been figuring things out, that verse that Brother Felmar read, you know, “trust in him and he will help you”, that couldn’t be truer. For someone who puts all their faith, all their trust, in God—God’s plan is the best plan.
So, when you get that answer from God, and you trust what He’s doing for you, what He’s giving you, then you can only be successful. So, I think my advice to all those people who are looking to get married out there, or are newlyweds, just make sure that your relationship is right with God. So always consult God first through your devotional prayers, and for sure, God will lead you to the relationship that He wants for you.
Myrtle Alegado: A hundred percent, that’s such great advice, Marc. I just want to thank you both so much for sharing how your faith and your prayers have guided your lives prior to marriage and, even more so, now as husband and wife.
Christine Afenir: Thanks, Myrtle.
Marc Afenir: It’s a pleasure, Myrtle. Thank you so much.
Christine Afenir: Thanks, Happy Life team.
Myrtle Alegado: Stay warm out there in Sydney.
Marc Afenir: Take care.
Myrtle Alegado: Well, we hope that all the advice that’s been given and shared today, especially the teachings from the Bible, have really demonstrated how always putting God first—in every situation—is beneficial in our lives. If we give God first place in our lives, blessings will surely flow.
And that’s all we have for today. To learn more about Christian relationships, please visit incmedia.org. And if you’d like to say hi or send us a question, please visit our Instagram account @happylife.podcast. Please also remember to share our podcast with your family and friends and all the newlyweds that you know. Thank you from all of us here on the Happy Life team. We’re so glad you joined us today and hope we’ve all been reminded about the blessing of marriage.