Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Don Wilton's new book, A Hope and a Future: Overcoming Discouragement, (B&H Publishing Group, 2009).

A stale marriage. A chronic health condition. A prolonged period of unemployment. Discouragement sets in when you start to feel a sense of hopelessness about your future - when it seems like the troubling circumstances you're going through won't ever improve. But if you look beyond your circumstances to God, you'll discover the real hope and better future that He promises you.

Here's how you can overcome discouragement:

Pray.  God already knows how discouraged you feel, but He wants you to talk to Him about your feelings and listen for how His Spirit guides you.  Honestly vent your frustration to God and keep in mind that He cares about what you're going through.  Ask God to open your eyes spiritually so you'll be able to see your circumstances from His perspective.  Pray for deliverance from circumstances that aren't God's will, and perseverance to empower you to endure circumstances that are His will until you learn all you're supposed to learn from them.

Remember Who God is.  Shift your focus from your discouraging circumstances to God Himself.  Remember that He is love, and also that He is all-powerful.  Trust that God will help you because that's consistent with His character.

Prepare yourself for the discouraging situations you're bound to encounter.  Every day, Satan will try to discourage you in some way, but you can guard against such attacks by keeping up with some basic spiritual disciplines daily.  Pray, read and reflect on the Bible, write in a journal, and check in with a prayer partner to give each other encouragement and accountability.

Stick to your assignment.  Think and pray about the work you're currently doing for God.  Ask Him to clarify whether or not He has truly led you to your current assignment.  Reflect on the successes and failures you've experienced so far and see if you can recognize a pattern that can help you discern if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing.  If it seems as if you're doing what God wants you to do but you just need to overcome some challenges while doing it, don't give up.  Instead, fight discouragement by writing down a fresh vision for how to continue your work in the future.

Get guidance from a Christian counselor.  If your discouragement has become so deep that you're struggling to overcome it, share your concerns with a Christian counselor who can give you biblical advice about how to move forward.

Refill your spiritual energy tank.  Identify what's causing your spiritual energy levels to run low, write down the problem, form partnerships with a few people you trust who can join you in prayer about it, develop a clear strategy for solving the problem (such as scheduling a set time and place for daily devotions, or joining a weekly discipleship group), take action, and make yourself accountable to the people who are supporting you in prayer.

Take care of your physical health.  Giving your body the care it needs will help you feel less discouraged.  Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.

Spend time with someone who isn't discouraged.  Time in that person's positive presence will naturally make you feel better yourself.